31 July, 2001
North Pole! Tuesday, 31 July 2001
Lycklig dag! Lycklig dag! (Happy day! squared)
Life on Board
Last night, there was a new schedule posted on the message whiteboard on the main floor (called the Odenplan, which means "Oden level" or "Oden square"), and it looked like this: 6:00 Approach to North Pole 7:30 Breakfast 8:30 Ice Activities 10:30 Official Photograph 12:00 sharp Lunch for all 18:00 Depart for 89 North 20:00 Lecture - Physical Oceanography (Seismic)
I set my alarm for 5:30 am because I wanted to be on the bridge when we got to the North Pole. I grabbed my cameras and my GPS, which locks onto satellites and gives the coordinates. Apparently, everyone else had the same idea because the bridge was crowded by 6 am. There was definitely excitement in the air.
It took about an hour to maneuver the ship onto the geographic North Pole. The captain, dressed in uniform, kept going around and around, zeroing in on 90 north, while the longitude went spinning by. Finally, at 7:02 am, my GPS read N 90o00.000! Everyone cheered. The ship was anchored to the ice floe and 2 members of the Oden planted the Swedish flag while we applauded from the decks. The Oden is the first non-nuclear powered vessel to make it to the North Pole. I set my GPS to calculate the distance to Lakeside, California, where I teach at El Capitan High School.
We had a formal breakfast from 7:30-8:30 consisting of pickled herring of different types (I'm kinda' starting to get used to that!), smoked salmon, hard boiled eggs, caviar paste (I'm not getting used to that), scrambled eggs, potatoes, and Swedish meatballs. Champagne was served for toasting to the North Pole and the expedition.
After breakfast, we got to go play on the ice since the gangplank had been set up and anchored. I don't think I have ever seen this large of a group of people acting like little kids for such an extended amount of time. There were snow angels, pyramids, dancing, golfing, pictures, snowball fights, general silliness. You could take a dip (tied with a rope to the ship and 2 official divers in the water, doctor on standby), or you could go skiing around the world (this is what I chose to do). Some cut blocks of blue ice and carted them onto the ship for later use in drinks (some Scandinavians feel that this ice has special properties). Some had small ceremonies for items that they would leave at the Pole (there isn't really a "pole" there). The artist had created a small bronze horse, which he left there on a platform. There were other sculptures, as well. I saw a message in a bottle sticking out of the snow. Several flags remained behind. The Americans left a signpost with distances to our cities in the U.S. At 10:30, we had an official photograph with everyone dressed in expedition gear. I'm on the far left, with the skis. Notice the El Capitan High School banner flying, second from the left. Vaqueros at the North Pole!
Lunch was another formal affair with turkey, potatoes, gravy, brussel sprouts, chocolate cake, and more toasting. We received official congratulations from the King and Queen of Sweden and the Swedish Maritime Society. This lasted for quite some time, then people headed back to the ice, rested, or enjoyed the view from the bridge (actually, it looks pretty much the same as the ice we have been looking at for weeks.but in your heart you know you are on top of the world!). I think the ones who took a dip in the Arctic Ocean were still in the sauna trying to thaw out.
We were supposed to leave at 14:00 (2pm) for our 20-day drift station starting point. This departure was delayed to 18:00 because the divers were in the water disentangling part of the seismic team's cable that had been wrapped around the propeller. I guess that it had been there awhile but wasn't impeding the prop so they took the opportunity to remove it while we were stopped.
After dinner (which I skipped on account of still being completely stuffed from lunch), Yngve Kristofferson, leader of the seismic team, Institute of S olid Earth Physics, University of Bergen, Norway, gave a very entertaining and informative lecture on physical oceanography and the history of the exploration of the Arctic seafloor and the discovery of the Lomonosov Ridge. He also showed us overheads of a scientific ice camp he had been at where the ice cracked and a long open water lead formed right through the middle of their tents and equipment huts. People on one side of the open lead had to be helicoptered over to the cafeteria hut 3 times a day for meals. This made some of our scientists with very expensive equipment very nervous.
All in all, a spectacularly awesome day on the top of the world!
Where Are We Now?
We're at the North Pole, of course!
Scientists at Work Not today.
Vi ses! (See you later!)
From Deck 4 on the Icebreaker Oden, at the North Pole,
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