It´s Sunday in Ny-Ålesund, and Barba is getting ready to sail out after one night in port here. Up until now, our Svalbard journey has been a rather comfortable one. We have visited the three main settlements on the island, namely Longyearbyen, Barentsburg and Ny-Ålesund. Each place has offered the comforts we usually take for granted. Internet, stores, sauna and the opportunity to meet with interesting men and women with stories to tell from the Arctic outposts.When we sail out later this evening, it will resemble a space endeavour as far as resources go. For the next month we don´t expect to make any portcalls until we are back in Hammerfest on mainland Norway around September 5th. Resource-wise, we will be limited to what we currently have onboard, as well as the odd fish we hope to catch to supplement the provisions. Fresh water will be a scarce resource and once again we will happily brush our teeth, wash our hands and do the dishes using sea water. Furthermore, we will be without internet so the blog will suffer from the photo updates we have been able to provide the last month and a half. Communications with the outside world will be with our Iridium Satellite phone, which allows us to send and receive e-mails, download weather information and ice charts and upload an occasional low-resolution photo.
This moment is what I have been longing for during half a year of planning for our Arctic expedition. Finally we will be entering the true wilderness and isolation, with only ourselves and Barba to rely on. The way I see it, this is when it truly starts getting interesting. We are here not only for the nature but also for the challenge. And as we head north we will meet the sea ice.
The lastest available ice chart. We intend to follow the blue line for the next two weeks. After downloading a new ice chart with the sat phone in about 2 weeks time, we will decide on the next step. Exciting times!
Barba is many things, but an ice breaker is not one of them. The sea ice has been a challenge since the first explorers ventured up here centuries ago, and still is. We will avoid sailing into the ice, but with shifting winds we could still end up getting trapped as the ice is transported by winds and currents. Our chances of circumnavigting Svalbard initially looked rather grim. The ice charts showed the entire east coast as blocked by dense sea-ice, which prevented access for even the larger ice-classed cruise vessels. The latest charts look more promising, however. It’s still too dense right now to circumnavigate, but the ice seems to be retracting. And with favourable weather conditions we hope to be able to navigate through it when the time comes.
The plan now is to sail to the ice-free areas up North. In two to three weeks we will download the latest ice-charts, and then make the call if we sail back to Norway back down the west coast of Svalbard, or if we go for the circumnavigation. Nature decides in the end. It´s one of the things I appreciate the most out here on our floating home. We have to live with nature, and follow her commands. The areas we end up visiting are subject to the weather and ice, and nature dictates our next steps. It´s the same rules explorers have been following since the very beginning. And tonight, we will be five excited modern polar explorers aboard Barba as she sails out into the ever-lasting midnight sun this evening.