The Steinway baby grand piano was slung and swung on board in Germany, it was lashed down in the hold and we headed north. We took in a storm off the coast of Norway where green seas were shipped over the pitching bow and portholes resembled washing machines. As the degrees of latitude rose, those of temperature dropped. When we crossed the Arctic Circle and all the time we traveled I wondered what sound would finally come out of that adventurous piano.
Ludovico joined in Longyearbyen. We took him out onto the fjords in search of ice. It wasn’t difficult to find. 28 miles from Longyearbyen is Wahlenbergbreen – a surging glacier. I approached slowly, bringing the Arctic Sunrise into Yoldiabukta Bay, looking for leads through the ice and weaving my way between aquamarine icebergs and bergy bits so striped with moraine that they resembled select candies.
In the last mile we left our satellite footprint behind. We had found the edge of the world and became unplugged from distraction. All attention became focused on the elements of the bay whilst our intention was firmly founded on Saving The Arctic. A ringed seal craned its neck from atop a block of ice and watched the Greenpeace boat glide slowly past.
I found anchorage in a depth of 60 meters of water in position 78°29’N 14°18’E just 550 meters off the ice wall. The stage was lowered to the water, set with geometric angles that reflected the arctic light. The baby-grand was set upon the stage and a piano stool passed out the pilot door. Ludovico donned a lifejacket and stepped off the boat.
When his fingers struck the first keys I was standing at the pilot door to the Arctic Sunrise. Ludovico Einaudi, rafted up beside the ship, played the first note of Elegy to the Arctic. The moment was suspended above the lapping sound of water and the crystalline chink of ice melting. My spine tingled and I wept – it was beautiful beyond words. He floated away with his grand piano towed behind a dinghy. The music drifted up, punctuated by the ice cliffs imploding, rumbling, plunging and as if in applause the collapsing ice sent waves racing out to rock us all together.
He played for the Arctic Terns, the Awks, the White Winged Gulls and the Black Legged Kittiwakes. He played for the crew of the Arctic Sunrise. He played for the 8 million who have lent their signatures to Save The Arctic. He played for those generations to come and he played for my son, Gwynfi on his 4th birthday.
Captain Mike Fincken has been sailing with Greenpeace for over 20 years.