Adrian Flanagan spots the first ice of his expedition
At 2.30 this afternoon, local time I was sitting at the chart table plotting position. Barrabas was under full sail taking advantage of a 4-5 hour window of favourable winds before we were due to be headed again. I glanced up at the radar screen. A strong contact registered at 2 miles, 20 degrees off my port bow. I figured a ship, probably an ice-breaker patrolling. I had been advised to expect ice at 153 degrees east by Tim Thornton, my weather adviser. I went up on deck grabbing the binoculars which are located at the top of the companionway steps. Ships loom large and square on the horizon. I couldn’t see anything. I ducked my head below the companionway to watch the sweep. There is was. I glassed to the fore with the binoculars. I hadn’t been looking for it, that’s why I missed it – a massive chunk of ice floating free. A tiny island streaked with blue and green. I played the binoculars along the line of the sea. Hummocked on the horizon more lumps carved by wind and water into strange, alien shapes. I passed one close by.
It looked like a swan the size of a family car, its head bent low on its icy neck as though being drawn irreversibly into the melt. The ice edge stretched away to the north, illuminated to phosphorescence as though intra-lit by the Arctic sun.
These are orphans, cut adrift from the southern bulge of the ice edge by the west wind which has blown strongly during the last two days. We are approaching 73 degrees north latitude. This ice will thicken to three tenths cover. I can see it in front, five miles.