We have officially arrived in the Arctic! After coming into Nuuk, Greenland, on Friday to pick up Arne, our ice pilot - we headed north and crossed the Arctic circle yesterday afternoon. I was incredibly excited about crossing the line as I have never done it before. Waldemar, our captain also hasn't been here. We stood together on the bridge yesterday and watched the GPS move slowly up from 66 degrees north. At the moment we crossed the line he jumped into the air and said "oh wow! Lisa! did you feel it?". Of course there's no geographical line in the ocean - no immediate change in the surroundings when you cross over. And just like a birthday when you suddenly get a year older - you don't feel any different but it's a special occasion and cause for celebration.
I felt sure there must be some kind of sailor's tradition to mark the crossing and searched for it online. Lo and behold - I discovered that the navy often initiates Arctic newbies or 'slugs' by making them run around on deck in their 'skivvies' (underwear), throw a bucket of sea water over them and then force them to stand and watch the Northern Lights. Apart from being forced to watch the Aurora Borealis - I didn't particularly fancy borrowing this tradition so I was pleased to find something a little more bearable. Sailors who haven't crossed the Arctic Circle are known as 'red noses' and once they cross into the 'Royal Kingdom of the Polar Bear' they become 'blue noses' and have their noses painted blue.
I sent this information to the captain and when he came up to the bridge later - he had a blue nose. Danielle, our 2nd mate, started painting everyone's noses blue. And then for the rest of the day - it was impossible to have a serious conversation with anyone on board because I couldn't help giggling at their nose.
When we left Nuuk, we were blessed with a beautiful sunset and pinky purple mountains in the distance. Now we're out at sea again and the fog has closed in on us. The only sign of the outside world beyond our isolated misty existence here is the fleeting visits we get from seabirds and - this morning - seals playing just off our starboard side (I missed that though).
The weather has been different every day as if we have traversed an entire year's worth of temperate seasons. And as we've sailed further north - it's been getting a little more chilly each day - although when the sun's out - I tend forget where we are and feel like jumping into the water.
Up here - on a good day when we can see the horizon clearly - I've felt that it is somehow closer and more curved than other times I have been at sea in lower latitudes. It looks as if we are sailing towards the edge of earth. I've just been talking to our Arne about this and he thinks it could be the result of the amazing visibility you get up here on a good day - meaning that the horizon stands out clearly and could be why it looks different and feels closer. I'm still convinces there is something different about it.
It's truly an amazing place we are entering. Last night we were shining the ship's search light into the depths below and noticed hundreds of jellyfish floating past us. I had no idea you could find jellyfish here. But sure enough - a quick internet search reveals that the lions mane jellyfish - are common here. Apparently they can grow so big that they are the largest species of jellyfish in the world! We only saw small ones but it still felt like a special discovery for us. There are so many species in the Arctic that are still unknown to humans.
The air is so fresh here - I reckon I could bottle it up and sell it when I get back home. Shame we don't have many bottles on board. I am just going to have to keep taking a deep breath every time I go outside and make the most of it.
Maybe it's just my blue nose - but the Arctic smells great!