We went there on the wind. By chance.
The winds were coming from the south and as we left Fugelfjorden we let them take us north. Away from Svalbard, from land, into international waters. The crew and our guides did not tell us what they were hoping to find (just in case we were searching for something outside of our grasp), but when we woke up we were there.
The pack ice. Above 81°N, the farthest North the Antigua had ever sailed.
If this were the only place I saw during this trip, nothing else, I still would have been fulfilled. The trip would have been complete in my eyes.
No documentation can do justice to the experience of being within the floating sea ice. We were there the whole day, took zodiac tours, meandered through the sheets and slush.
The swell was calm, surprisingly so for being in the completely open ocean. The water was the richest indigo, lightening to aquamarine when approaching the floating ice. The sea was 2,000 meters deep where we were, 1.24 miles to the bottom. No matter how long you looked, how much you strained your eyes to see past the horizon, there was no land in sight.
Later in the evening, while we were anchored to a piece of ice (which we were able to walk onto!), the fog rolled in. It evaporated the horizon, leaving us in an infinity of ice.
In the time between when I was accepted as an artist-in- residence and when I left for Norway I was making plans for what I wanted to accomplish while at sea, as I am sure everyone else did as well. About a month before the trip I had an unexpected, completely sudden loss in my family. My uncle, with whom I was very close, passed away. In the aftermath of his death, the remembering and compartmentalizing, I knew I needed to add one more plan for my trip. In life, he was always so sure of himself and had an infectious confidence. He always carried himself as if he were on top of the world, how could I not physically take him there when I had that exact opportunity before me? So while in the the pack ice, at the Northernmost point in our trip, I recited a short poem which I received from a family friend just days before I boarded my plane and I let him go. I cannot express how much gratitude I have for my Arctic roommate, Ester Vonplon. She, without hesitation, helped record and document this for my family. Thank you for being there and sharing this moment with me. I wrote quite a bit during this trip and my sentiment for that evening helps me every day.
6/18/16 at 81° 5.2144N, 015° 17.1031E
I buried you today,
Not in a state of finality and decay, but of the infinite and persistent motion.
You are at the beginning of the world.
A place of constant horizon.
Standing above all others, you are where you always knew you would be.
What a humbling place to remain.
But a speck, a soul, within a timeless field of white and indigo.
Drifting, unknowingly colliding.
The swell, the ice, and you.