So today is the big day… Everything happened at once. Except polar bears, don’t get too excited… We got busy with cooking and sailing. We made bread. Apparently it needs to sit for a bit before I slice into it or it goes all stodgy (but then, I’m impatient). Somehow though, it’s fresh and actually tasted pretty good!
We ran out of Branston Pickle and there’s no more on board! That was definitely short-sighted of us…
Then we said goodbye to our electronic charts as we sailed off the edge. Luckily our paper charts, kindly loaned to us by Simon Finch who did the trip a few years ago, were there to keep us going…
Finally, we said goodbye to land as we sailed our way towards the North pole.
It was only temporary as we don’t have time to go as far as the pack ice unfortunately (although what an adventure that would be!). But we wanted to at least get as far as 80 degrees, 600 miles from the north pole. And, consequently, the furthest any Imperial College London student has travelled (to our knowledge).
So, at 16:39 on July 19, 2015, we crossed 80 degrees under full sail.
It was a beautiful close reach up from Svalbard so we sailed the whole way. Once we’d crossed the line we bore off and basically ran along 80 so we could pop the champagne!
We shared some with Neptune (along with the cork) and of course with Hal, who has brought us so far. We worked out the other day we’ve done over 3000 miles since we picked her up in Plymouth just over a year ago. She’s held on despite everything we’ve put her through – fortunately no icebergs yet!
We even had the Canadian flag up. And Captain Haddock was fishing (not that we’ve caught anything yet – someone mentioned recently that fishing in Svalbard is incredibly hard so we don’t feel so bad)
Everyone else had a drop of champagne too…
And after our brief celebration, we turned and headed back to Svalbard.
I realise this all probably seemed rather futile, but it was one of the aims of our trip. We originally wanted to go to Moffin Island, which is a protected bit of land at 80 degrees that we could sail around. Unfortunately it’s another 30 or so miles to the East and with all the tough weather we just wouldn’t have time to get back and see what we were hoping to see along the West Coast. All our spirits were lifted when we made it and we were jumping around the boat ready for anything again. So despite the fact that there was nothing there to see per se, it was still a real accomplishment for us to get that far north. Plus we have now sailed, fished and drunk champagne just 600 miles from the North Pole!
Look how excited Captain Haddock is!
Oh wait, that’s the champagne…
Coming in past the islands again – this area was known as Fair Haven, and covered all the good mooring sites used by the Whalers down as far as Danskoya and Amsterdamoya. Dr D took us back in – I think that smile is also from the champagne…
This is the North side of Svalbard; all we could see were mountains extending off into the distance. It was absolutely stunning
And as the sun was out we got the sextant out to have a little play.
Of course we had to be in just the right spot. Although I’m not sure D is going to be able to stand up again!
We all had a go as we started to make our way South again.
Past the icebergs, reflecting the sunlight as it hit the water.
And past the glaciers. I managed to get a midnight sight, watching every few minutes for the lowest point the sun reached on the horizon. And, somehow, I was only 6 minutes off!! We’d had a bit of practice by this point.
We continued sailing through the night with the aim of going past Magdalenefjorden and Kongsfjorden. Past Isfjorden where Longyearbyen is, all the way down to Bellsund. First though, we’re going on a walrus hunt. Next stop, Poolepynten.