+27 (0)82 4000 470 rob@robcaskie.com

“He is truly wise who’s travelled far and knows the ways of the world. He who has travelled can tell what spirit governs the men he meets” – A viking saying.
After the incredible past 4 days on Svalbard, most guests are somewhat weary, so a day at sea is most appreciated. Today, on a very calm ocean, we are making our way south-west towards Jan Mayen Island. On sea days the A&K enrichment lecture program is in full swing. Professor Jim McClintock from Alabama University began with his presentation on the dramatic effects of climate change in the Arctic. The increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution is indisputable, and colder oceans absorb more of this gas than warm oceans. This absorption leads to increased acidity which in turn creates all manner of issues for the ocean environment. Some organisms cope well, others do not. The Montreal Protocol banning CFC’s has had massive positive implications in reducing the size of the ozone hole over Antarctica and New Zealand. Hopefully sense will prevail too in terms of Amazon forest deforestation?

Geologist Jason Hicks gave another quite inimitable presentation entitled ‘The Greenland Time Machine’. The largest island, and second largest icecap on Earth which has been pushed downwards under the weight of the ice, is now slowly rebounding (isostatic rebound) on account of the melting. The associated geology and weather of Greenland is a most interesting subject – the western side more habitable and gentle than the eastern. Early Viking references to western Greenland being Groenland. Rather strange that Greenland is covered in ice, and Iceland is green largely?
Sadly the ice coverage this year matches the ice coverage of 2012 – the worst year in recorded history.

Polar Bear Expert Morten Joergensen, a large, calm Dane gave a splendid presentation on the ice bear’s reproductive habits/adaptations. A female Polar Bear assuming she gets to 14 years of age, will raise 5-7 cubs to maturity. The reproduction rate is very slow indeed. Linked to the threats to their environment and natural diets, the future of these magnificent creatures is somewhat uncertain. Greenland Sharks opportunistically take cubs, as do Orcas.
Cultural Lecturer Anna Lena Ekeblad spoke about the history of Svalbard and Longyearbyen. From the famous World Seed Vault, Northern Lights, avalanches and multi-cultural community of 2400, the appeal of living at 78 degrees North, in the High Arctic clearly appeals to many. Anna Lena, raised in Sweden,  has lived here for 28 years.

I sat with 8 guests from the Northern Illinois University group, and had a great evening filled with laughter and banter. Claudia told a story about a house she cleans, where there appeared to be an issue with the heating/condensation. When Claudia went to check the settings in the basement, she found a large deer doe, which had been there for some days. The response to the deer lady vs dear lady who called the Police, and the Police’s reaction to finding the deer brought the house down. Husband Mike cleaned up the mess with a spatula, which was thrown away.

It is Captain Florian Richard’s birthday today, and Le Boreal dancers/singers put on a wonderful show after dinner. All in all, a great day at sea. Jan Mayen beckons tomorrow..

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