Summer Term 2017

Arctic Blog

Ocean Spirit of Moray

Click here to see pictures of Ocean Spirit in the Arctic.

19-20 July 2017

Final Days
Andrew Robertson, First Mate

The first leg of Ocean Spirit’s 2017 adventure in Svalbard is almost over. Wednesday was our last day exploring this beautiful place before heading back to Longyearbyen. From Gipsvika we went to a small bay nearby called Bjonahamna where we set up a bonfire on the beach. Before having lunch around the bonfire, most of us put our courage to the test by going for a swim in the Arctic waters. I think cold is an understatement once we got in! After lunch we spent a little time hunting for fossils, finding a few fossils of shells. Soon it was time for us to leave, our last sail ended up as a challenging beat to windward in 25 knots of wind, but nothing these guys couldn’t handle after three weeks living and sailing on Ocean Spirit.

There have been many highlights from the past three weeks and I think these remote islands not far from the North Pole will hold a special place in our hearts. Before we board our plane tonight, we will all head ashore one final time as a group together for pizzas tonight in Longyearbyen, a group that we no longer call trainees, but competent crew members, a group that have bonded together through tough times and made new friends. So while we say farewell to our crew, Ocean Spirit will sit quietly for a while as though her soul has departed, before the next group of adventure-seekers arrive onboard.

18 July 2017

Arctic Ghost Town
by White Watch - Ellie C, Louis, Doug, Esme and Ragnar

After spending the night at anchor near one of the world’s top 10 ghost towns all night, we went ashore in the morning to explore. Pyramiden resembled a big empty 1970s film set and it is fair to say you could make a horror movie there. We ventured into the Cultural Centre, now being restored for tourism, and saw the sports hall, cinema and music rooms. We learned about the Soviet miners and their families and got to see how they would have lived.

We then cruised across the fjord to the Nordenskjold Glacier to get the official “Ocean Spirit in the Arctic” photo. On the way we spotted a pod of Beluga whales, using their white colour to disguise themselves as icebergs. Some of us got to go in the dinghy to take photos and get closer to some big icebergs. To finish off the day we continued back down the fjord to Gipsvika, a bay surrounded by mountains that look like temples. For dinner tonight we tried whale, which got a mixed response, but was definitely a change from beef or pasta.

17 July 2017

Meeting the Russians
by Red Watch - Ellie C-C, Jasmine. Ed. Callum and Divij

Today we visited the Russian settlement of Barentsburg, which is an active coalmine. The town consisted of various old, run-down industrial buildings mixed with apartment buildings that had been newly re-clad in vibrant colours. As we walked through the town, our guide pointing out interesting facts about the settlement, it gave off a quiet but steady working vibe. We were quite taken aback to hear that miners sign on to work here for 3 to 5 years and only get paid on completion.

Once we got back on the boat we weighed anchor to head towards our next destination. The wind allowed us one of our best sails of the voyage with speeds regularly reaching 9 or 10 knots. This allowed us to arrive at Pyramiden, another Russian coal mining town but this one abandoned since 1995, by early evening. We watched a movie, Master and Commander, and got a good night’s sleep.

16 July 2017

Back to Barentsburg
by Blue Watch - Katie, Theo, Wilf and Aidan

After spending a night taking turns at anchor watch, monitoring some large chunks of ice from a glacier in St Jonsfjord to make sure they didn’t come into the bay where we were anchored, we sailed back out of the fjord this morning with a strong breeze behind us. We spent the whole day sailing to cover the distance to Barentsburg, a Russian mining settlement, which looked rather eerie as we approached it.

White watch prepared a filling shepherd’s pie and vegetables along with an apple sponge cake for pudding, which tasted really nice and went down a treat. When we arrived in Barentsburg we anchored in the same spot Dan and Per had anchored four years ago. Once we had settled down and listened to a briefing about the coal mining settlement we planned to visit in the morning, we set up the DVD screen and watched The Hunger Games which everyone enjoyed.

15 July 2017

Hiking onshore

We had a tricky exit from our anchorage, having to avoid numerous chunks of ice that had fallen off a glacier with a noise like thunder and drifted out across the fjord early this morning. Ed gracefully steered us safely by, zig zagging until we were clear. The really useful boathoooks were extremely helpful pushing some of the nearest ice away. After tacking to windward into a fog bank we anchored at Engelsbukta (a bay used by English whalers centuries ago). We hiked up a glacier and witnessed Doug being absorbed by the glacier (he got stuck in some snow!). On the beach we saw polar bear footprints and witnessed Wilf’s impressive stone skimming skills. We are now motoring in zero visibility, dense fog - pray for us - to our anchorage in St Jonsfjorden for the night.

13 July 2017

Have an ice birthday!
by Blue Watch - Katie, Wilf, Theo and Aidan

13 July signified Doug’s Birthday which was celebrated by seeing packed sea ice at 79 52N early this morning, our furthest north, which made him potentially the only person with their birthday at that Latitude. To mark the occasion Blue Watch made doughnuts, iced of course!

After retiring a safe distance from the drift ice, we landed on an island where we did a beach clean-up in the rain. Did you know that by 2030 there is estimated to be more plastic in the sea than fish? We were horrified by the amount of plastic and fishing nets washed up on the beach. We then had a quick picnic and Wilf created a mars bar nutella wrap combo while the rest of us had wraps and sand with our frozen hands.

Afterwards we sailed round to a glacier in nearby Magdelenefjord and saw the beautiful shades of blue coming off it. Slow speed, careful steering, and a long boathook at the ready stopped us re-enacting the Titanic. We’ve seen lots of dolphins, puffins and walrus but we may have been at sea for too long.

12 July 2017

I am the Walrus
by White Watch

Having sailed from Longyearbyen on Tuesday evening, we anchored in Farmhamna, a small bay, in the early hours of this morning during White Watch’s favourite midnight to 2 watch. We slept for a bit then prepared a homely, delicious breakfast of eggs and bacon to start our day. The excitement about the day’s plans made the short sail to our next destination much easier.

When we reached Poolepynten and landed on the shore the smell from the walrus was extremely pungent and we all enjoyed watching them roll around and talk to each other as well as hit each other with their tusks. We survived some attacks by Arctic Terns and took photographs of some whale bones. Back on-board we continued on our way while being circled by puffins and unknown creatures in the sea. Red Watch made carrot cake to keep us going.

We’re heading North so looking out for Icebergs and whales but 24 hour sunlight makes that much easier !

11 July 2017

We meet Per
by Red Watch - Ellie C-C, Jasmine, Ed, Callum and Divij

This morning, Per our local guide, took us on a tour of Longyearbyen. First we visited the kennels where all the sled dogs are kept. There were also Common Eider Ducks nesting next to the kennels for protection from Polar Bears and Arctic Foxes. To get a better view of Longyearbyen, we walked up a very steep hill and the view from the top was worth it. We even got to touch some snow. Once we had made our way back down the hill, we were allowed some free time in town where we all enjoyed a lovely lunch. Some of us then headed back to the boat early for a last shower before leaving port. Once everyone was back on-board, we set off in the evening for our exploration of Svalbard. We are all very excited thinking about what’s to come.

10 July 2017

Arrival
by Ellie and Louis (White Watch)

In the early hours of Monday morning we finally reached our destination; Longyearbyen, in Svalbard, land of the Polar Bear. We were glad of a lie-in followed by some free time on shore, showers and some good food. We then did a mini deep-clean of the boat. We met Per, who is to be our guide when we go on shore. In the evening, to celebrate our arrival, we watched a DVD Pirates of the Caribbean complete with Cokes and  popcorn.

9 July 2017

Land Ho!
Report by Red Watch - Ellie C-C, Ed, Callum, Jasmine

After what has seemed like many weeks, we finally spotted land on the horizon. As we got nearer, all the mountains started to take shape. The sheer cliffs and mountains were a magnificent sight to behold. As we sailed closer, more and more of the icy landscape came into view. This boosted everyone’s spirits and motivated us to sail onwards towards our initial destination of Longyearbyen.

8 July 2017

A Swell Time
Report by Blue Watch - Wilf, Theo, Katie, Aidan and Divij.

The day began with a rather sad strength of wind, falling to 4 knots, and a peacefully flat sea. This idyllic setting was soon thrust aside in favour of looming swells and blustering winds which allowed our watch the honour of breaking the speed record for the voyage so far, reaching up to 12.6 knots. On the down side it wrought havoc in the galley where frequent, vehement language and the clattering of pans were commonplace. Meanwhile, those unfortunate on deck in such miserably cold weather felt as though they were riding on a rollercoaster. To counteract the effects of the weather some warm filling dishes were required, the watch preparing dinner used their advanced culinary skills to create a particularly magnificent meal. White watch continue to devour all in their path, they cannot be stopped, they are insatiable…!

FriYAY 7 July 2017 (... not a typo we're told!)

Report by White Watch - Louis, Ellie C, Doug, Esme and Ragnar

Despite the sea being quiet, our day was full of exciting flavours. Home-made boat bread is the best. Red Watch made our day with their brilliant hot dogs for lunch. The visibility was pretty amazing and over the last 24 hours we have seen two Orca pods, several Minke whales, some seagulls and a rainbow. Since leaving we have sailed 1000 nautical miles altogether making steady progress.

6 July 2017

A Whale of a Time
Report by Red Watch - Ellie C-C, Jasmine, Ed and Callum

On Wednesday night we crossed the Arctic Circle. We celebrated this occasion of crossing into the Realm of the Bluenose this afternoon by having a little party with balloons and a cake, and carrying out the tradition to please the sea gods by painting our noses blue!

During our watch from midnight to 0400, when we were just starting to feel tired, something in the water caught our attention. A spurt of water made us realise it was a whale resting on the surface. With reference to our whale identification sheet we decided it was a Minke whale. This was a first for some of our crew and lifted morale for the rest of the watch. Much to our surprise and delight, this evening we spotted a pod of Orcas which came within 50 metres of us. Almost everybody on board came up to have a look.

A wonderful highlight to end the day, which we decided was a sign of good blessings from the sea gods after our Bluenose ceremony.

5 July 2017

Report by Blue Watch - Katie, Theo, Wilf, Aidan and Divij

Today we had 24 hours of sunlight. In Blue watch we started and ended the day on watch. The wind has been very temperamental and we have had to swap between motoring and sailing very frequently. We put the mizzen staysail up which looked very cool and allowed us to use the Southwest wind. The rain has also been on and off all day. Red watch spotted a whale which they believed was an Orca [Skipper said it was more likely a Minke!] This made a change from the common seabird that most watches have seen along the way. Dinner tasted brilliant and so did lunch, there were many clear plates. To boost morale, Andrew baked a superb carrot cake which many of us enjoyed. The  Arctic Circle crossing is near… will it be on our watch?

Blue watch, over and out.

3 July 2017 - Heading to Uncertainty
Report by Red Watch - Ellie C-C, Jasmine, Ed and Callum

This morning we departed Lerwick, after helping move another yacht with our dinghy. We set our sails just north of Lerwick, and soon encountered a short patch of wet and windy weather, before the sun came out with a steady breeze. This was a promising outlook for the day to come. Our watch soon became pretty busy, as the wind started to ease. We had to take reefs out of the mainsail, and change headsails in order to maintain a steady pace. As the sun set in our evening watch, and the sky turned a lovely shade of lilac, we are pointing our bow in what we hope is the right direction towards Svalbard, and watching the last part of UK land slowly fall behind us.

PS: Ellie C-C is happy to report that she is no longer sea sick!

2 July 2017

Report by Ellie and Louis

After a good night of sleep, we had a lie in till 0845, when we were woken by the sound of Bohemian Rhapsody, which some of us didn’t find very pleasant. We all gathered in the galley for some bacon sandwiches, which was the only way Ed would get up. We then cleaned the boat, and Ragnar’s excitement was soon broken when he found out that the heads were not the sleeping accommodation. Afterwards, we ventured around the surprisingly big town of Lerwick on the Shetland Islands. We also managed to get a shower (our last for at least a week) and a Tesco shop, to our delight. We are all feeling clean and fresh, ready for the long voyage ahead.

30 June 2017

Report by Red Watch - Ellie C-C, Jasmine, Callum and Ed

This morning we departed on our voyage to the Arctic, leaving Inverness at the ungodly hour of 0600 with everyone in good spirits. However, once we entered the Moray Firth the waves started to test our spirits and a few people felt unwell as we got used to the motion at sea. The highlight of the day was when the Coastguard Rescue helicopter hovered close above our masts conducting a highline assessment exercise which they had asked us to take part in. While they didn't lower the winch man down to us, the experience of seeing a helicopter that close was thrilling and boosted our energy. All of us in the crew took advantage of our nap times when off watch and are looking forward to a possible stop-over at Lerwick in the Shetland Islands.


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