Bergs, Baby, Bergs
Bergs, Baby, Bergs
Thirty-one. Surrounded by icebergs, my watch-mate Dave Logan
and I surveyed the immediate waters and started counting. We both came up with
the same number. Then, we took a hard look at the radar screen, which with all
the spots dotting the display screen appeared to be infected with some sort of
electronic version of chicken pox. It was just a field of yellow freckles. But
after repeating the counting exercise, we were reassured by the figure. Give or
take a spot or two, we'd come to the same conclusion: thirty-one bergs.
seventy-two hours earlier, we'd left the small Inuit settlement of Pond Inlet
and headed south. Pond had been a revelation; for weeks during our ongoing
eastward transit of the Northwest Passage on our continuing journey around the
continents of North and South America (www.aroundtheamericas.org), the low,
bleak Arctic scenery for the most part had been most uninspiring. But the
anchorage off Pond, with its view of the glaciers and mountains on nearby Bylot
Island, had been majestic, and more than made up for the drab vistas that
sailing south from Baffin Bay into Davis Strait, the scenery was still grand,
but different and hazardous. We'd seen the first berg just hours after leaving
Pond, on a foggy night with low visibility, and it'd been a scary sight as it
materialized out of the mist. The good news was that it presented a strong
radar target, as did the dozens and dozens that followed it. By maintaining a
vigilant watch on our surroundings, as well as a close eye on that radar
screen, we'd managed to avoid any close calls.
precarious, we all had to admit that the ice was beautiful. Some of the bergs
were huge, a mile or two wide. Many were grouped in small packs, as if arranged
by a sculptor; one set looked like an icy replication of Stonehenge. Others had
clearly recognizable shapes: an old man's profile, Abe Lincoln, a billowing
spinnaker. Lots of them were colorful. The blue bergs represented old ice,
where the pressure over the years had squeezed out every last molecule of
oxygen, leaving a most arresting bluish tint. At first light, the rising sun
would coat other bergs in a gorgeous orange glow. Yes, the bergs were
dangerous, but they were also unforgettable.
a good four or five days on our 1,800-mile run to St. John's, Newfoundland,
icebergs were almost constant companions. At the change of each watch, the
first question never varied: "How much ice?" Finally, we had an ice-free watch,
and later that day, a second one. Were we done with the ice? Yes, finally, we
heard we'd see more once we made it into the Labrador Sea, icebergs from
Greenland that had spun off the giant island and were swept south on the
Labrador Current. But we never did. Once finally done with those icebergs, and
successfully through the Northwest Passage, we almost missed them.
I say, but not quite.