It has taken me some time to readjust to New York from my expedition in the Midnight Sun. Not solely because it now means I have responsibilities again, but I have left places behind that sparked something meaningful in me.
It has been a task to compile all of the images and video clips, thoughts and educational tidbits that I acquired while in Svalbard. I would like to share my trip with you in several installments. Giving you the highlights, showing you the places I have been while trying to describe the feelings and atmosphere this area of the world gave to me.
I am beginning with my days at sea. You know it is going to be an exceptional (and rather lucky) trip when 30 minutes into your travels you cross paths with a fin whale. We encountered several whales near our first landing.
It isn't everyday you sleep and wake up next to a glacier. We anchored in Ymerbukta, a bay that ends with the glacier, Esmarkbreen, and it is where we spent our first day. For our first landing we took a short hike along the edge of the glacier and up to the dead side. Glacial ice is incredibly delicious and (at least with this glacier) had a slight alkaline aftertaste. I spent the rest of the day sitting on the moraine beach painting a small watercolor study of Esmarkbreen. It is a little bit of a task to paint a space that has so much activity. In the two hours I sat, the front of the glacier was actively calving. So what I was painting was continually changing. The sound, the groans, cracks, and ultimate surge of ice into the sea still sits squarely in my chest.
The next location, Ferskvassbukta, was an unexpected space and one of my most memorable. It was a vastland and an area that I did not anticipate seeing. I knew I would stand with glaciers and icebergs, but a flat lagoon speckled with arctic flowers and whale bones was an incredible find.
With a few hands for scale, the image to the left is of a whale rib. One of our guides estimated that this bone has been around for about 400 years. Since the land is quite barren, the plants spring up around the bone, using its calcium to survive within the rock beach.
I have never been in a place that was so quiet. Pure silence. The air seemed to push in, compress my body. It was fascinating, but also on the threshold of uncomfortable. I could hear the blood pumping in my veins. When someone did speak or walk past, their sound died the moment it was released. It did not travel, simply soaked into the moss and stone.
This experience, the atmosphere of this place is something I want to recreate in my work, but I do not know if it is possible. I have not been able to construct a way to allow people to feel the way I did. I hope to figure it out, but perhaps the impossibility is the reason areas like this are so moving.
They cannot be fully shared.
We ended our second day at sea on the gravel beach of Engelskbukta. It was raining and I perched myself on a boulder on the beach and spent the afternoon looking out into the sea and did a little writing. Our group was greeted by four extremely curious harbor seals. They scanned the coast, popping up in the surf.
One seal was particularly fond of our lead guides canine companion, Nemo. The two chased each other around the beach for some time.
Time did not feel as if it were passing. When the sun never sets are days really going by? We were moving, sailing, pushing through miles, but it also never seemed like we were going anywhere.
In my mind it was still June 11th, the day I arrived in a place where time did not exist.