Written by Kristine Berg and Marta Trodahl
We’re now more than halfway through the first leg of the expedition Arctic Sense up the Norwegian coastline. It started with a bang in Stavanger (more on that later) on June 1st, and we’re currently eating nautical miles on our way to Tromsø. We have so far sailed in frankly shockingly calm conditions. Even passing the two most exposed and challenging stretches of the Norwegian coastline, Stadtlandet and Hustadvika, it felt like we were caught in tropical, yet cloudfree, doldrums rather than embarking on an Arctic expedition. (Not that we’re complaining).
The crew is a great bunch of people with varied skillsets and backgrounds. We’re all learning new things on this expedition, both from sailing and from each other. Skipper Andreas is a very patient teacher, sometimes giving us what can only be described as concise and clear instructions. (We have learned that giving him some coffee and a snack is often a wise move in those situations.)
Probably anyone who has ever been out on longer sailing voyages know that the success of the boat and the team depends on everyone doing a little bit of everything. Right now, while writing this blog, Aksel is fixing something on the wind turbine, Andreas has his head stuck down below one of our bunks with a headlamp and some tools (again), and Giulia is up on deck navigating us safely to our next waypoint. A good crew is never afraid to do something technical they’ve maybe never done before, nor are they too important to cook and do the dishes. We really do work as a family on board Barba.
Arctic Sense had a bit of a hectic start in Stavanger. On departure day, the gear wire snapped with a loud bang when Barba was out filming with the Norwegian national television for a feature story. But with some serious hustle, Andreas and Aksel fixed the wire, so despite some sweaty foreheads we set off just in time.
Giulia and Aksel navigating along the Norwegian coast. Photo by Tord Karlsen.
Not all of us are experienced offshore sailors, so learning curves have pointed up, up, up for all of us. The first night out of Stavanger we sailed into heavy fog. Having Aksel on board with his navigational skills, fresh out of the navy, has been great – giving our skipper some peace of mind, and answering all our questions about navigation along the way. Another patient teacher. He’s also on the Norwegian national spearfishing team, so whenever we anchor up we don’t really see much of him except his snorkel on the surface, with the occasional splash of fins.
Aksel at the helm. Photo by Tord Karlsen.
On board we also have Marta, who’s doing her PhD in Physical Oceanography. She is fascinated by how the ocean moves and behaves. With a strong academic love for storms (a bit unlike most sailors we know), she studies oceanic high- and low-pressure systems, similar to those in the air. There’s apparently a large ocean storm swirling around in the Lofoten basin at all times – and along the northbound currents off the Norwegian coast, storms are constantly born and dying, just like in the air. Looking at the weather forecast, our “Tropical Sense” expedition is about to end as we continue sailing north – heading into conditions more true to an arctic expedition.
Marta dreaming of ocean storms. Photo by Tord Karlsen.
Giulia is a complete whale-nerd, marine biologist, foodie and Italian. In that order. (She drinks americano with milk and has recently discovered the joy of voluntarily swimming in nordic waters). We haven’t yet seen many marine mammals, but Giulia’s pretty much a local in terms of knowing where the whales are around Lofoten, having worked as a whale guide in Andenes. So, we are all excited for her to deploy her hydrophones to see if we can find some whales! She will be leading the whale research on board for the Whale Wise team until Svalbard. If we’re ever in doubt about where to find Giulia, we just follow the smell of her cooking or listen for the sound of her laughter.
Perhaps contrary to most sailors, Kristine has gained most of her sailing experience offshore – having crossed the Pacific Ocean twice on scientific expeditions, collecting data on ocean plastics. She’s the kind of sailor that sleeps with her headlamp around her neck, and is sometimes more comfortable spending weeks without seeing land than navigating close to shore. Working with sustainability in recycling tech, she nerds out on plastics both on land and in the sea. She is also an excellent photographer with funny wits and always carrying a smile.
But now we’ve just heard that there might be whales sighted along Helgelandskysten, so we’ve got to log off and sail to see if they want to say hi! Catch you later!
Barba crew signing off.
Featured photo by Andreas B. Heide