June 18, 2016
The weather has finally improved. It was good enough for kayaking. We enjoyed a lovely outing in Faksevagen this morning. We paddled against a light headwind as we followed the coast out of the fiord. Sea birds and reindeer peppered the rocky coastline until we turned past the point.
Here we admired the caves created by water that eroded the soft cliff side. Snowmelt trickled over the cave openings and dripped into the ocean below. The farther we paddled, the more dramatic the landscape appeared. Soon we came upon a magnificent waterfall and a rowdy reindeer that ran around like a hyper puppy in the cold. It darted left, then right, made a few circles all while kicking its hind legs out. It was a hoot.
We had covered so much distance, we decided that we’d take a quick hard paddle the next point that didn’t look too far away, and we would make a landing to look at a historic fishing boat we passed on the shore. We paddled, four of us were leading together, then two of us, then it was just me. I was on a mission to get to that point, so I could walk on land again (it had been a while). With the wind, we couldn’t hear Sharon very well, so the zodiac driver, Fannie, motored up and advised me to stop paddling until the group caught up. Ok…I waited. When the group neared, I paddled feverishly toward the point. Resting had caused me to float backwards, so I had to make up ground. Once again, Fannie waved her arms and yelled, “Wait.”
I questioned, “Are we getting out here?” No response came. When everyone caught up…I stroked the water in rhythm. I was finally getting good at kayaking. Finally Fannie motored up in front of me by the point and stopped. I paddled to the zodiac and around a little more to see the glacier, but apparently we were supposed to stop completely the first time because the point was farther away than Sharon expected. Oops!
Fannie made fun of my vigorous paddling as she put her head down and motioned her arms back and forth. “I thought we were supposed to go to the point,” I said. “I wanted to get out!” I’m not sure how many people believed that, but it was true because I like hiking better than kayaking, and I wanted to look around on land! I guess I should have given up sooner, so we would have had more time to explore.
Sharon exclaimed, That was the farthest any group has ever paddled with me. Generally no one goes past the old fishing boat!” The fishing boat was at the first point, about three miles ago. The wooden fishing boat, from the 1920’s was pretty cool. David really loved it, as he inspected all the nooks and crannies. He noticed a trolley system for the fishing nets and the holders for the oars. The rivets along the boat were quite solid. It was fun to finally see the old remnants.
The weather turned from balmy conditions to windy and cool, upon our return in the zodiac. Or perhaps I had worked up such a sweat paddling to the point, I was cooling down quickly. My hands and feet were frozen, and it seemed like many others had the same issue as they wedged their fingers between their chest and life vest for warmth. A hot shower was calling my name.
To see where we were, click here (though I’m not exactly sure if this one tracked properly):
Our afternoon paddle in Palanderbukt was shorter than our morning excursion, about an hour instead of two hours or more. David and I decided to take out a double kayak instead of individuals. It was fun. He paddled while I got to take a little more time with my camera. Usually, I did my best to stay even with the guide, so when I stopped to take a photo I didn’t get too far behind. I was still always playing catch up after I removed the camera from the dry bag, focused on my subject, snapped a quick photo, and then quickly strapped it back in its spot. I hardly ever framed the exact photo I wanted. I just aimed for a memory.
This afternoon, with David keeping us up with the group and usually ahead of the group (and I paddled some), I was afforded the luxury to take a few photos at a time and to actually frame a shot! This was very exciting to me. Most of the action this afternoon centered around birds. The guillemots stood on the ice like penguins until we neared. Then they would try their hardest to fly. They usually took a running start across the water with their feet splashing fastidiously along the surface as they flapped their wings. Some just decided it was easier to swim as they ducked below the tranquil sea.
After admiring the birds, we paddled along the edge of the fast ice which is ice connected to land. In the distance, we spotted a walrus, but it wasn’t picture worthy with my lens. It looked like a brown blob. While we had hoped to see more marine mammals on the ice, the reflections in the calm bay were a lovely alternative. Frankly, they were magnificent given the cloudy skies and light sprinkles of rain. Back on board the ship, we heard the zodiac riders saw a baby ringed seal. I would have liked to see it, though it appeared wounded and unlikely to survive, so that was sad!
To see where we were, click here: http://www.trimbleoutdoors.com/ViewTrip/3249388?secretLinkKey=d0dd600c-35c3-4f4a-a69b-723768fdca56
In our debriefing this evening, we learned more about the Arctic Circle. The eight countries that border it are the most involved in its plans and funding. Each country owns the bordering land plus the 200 nautical miles surrounding the land. The open land by the pole is considered open ocean that is frozen. An Arctic Council has been formed. The eight countries; USA, Canada, Russia, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, are voting members. Other countries interested in the Arctic may join, but they cannot vote. Three other members are the UK, Japan, and India. Of the voting members, some members express more interest in the Arctic than others and provide more funding. The funding is not based on the percentage of land owned. They form specialized groups to study climate change, the people of the Arctic and economics to name a few. The Council is not responsible for sovereignty issues, trade passages, the North Pole or the international Arctic water. These issues are controlled by the United Nations. The most important aspect to the Arctic Council is the Arctic Chair. The Chair is responsible for establishing the three most important initiatives for the Arctic. The Chair position changes every two years. Currently the USA is the reigning chair.
Anyway, aside from the amazing wildlife and scenery, there always seems to be something to learn. For more on the Arctic Council, click here: http://www.arctic-council.org/index.php/en/