We wake up to clear blue skies and a huge wall of ice far off in the distance, stretching as far as the eye can see and glistening in the sun. Between the ship and the wall of ice ice is an endless expanse of calm blue waters. The occasional seabird glides by, but other than that nothing moves. The only sound is the water gently brushing against the ship. Everything looks so bright and clean, as if it is all brand new. It is breathtaking.
We are on our way to the huge ice sheet covering the north pole. The Scenic Eclipse is a class one ice breaker. We can go where no cruise ship has been before. Bring it on! This is what we have been waiting for. Enough of the barren landscape and occasional bear. Let’s do what we are supposed to do. We are told this is where we will have the best polar bear sightings. If we see them on the ice we should be able to get quite close
The occasional piece of ice is now passing by. Ahead there is more ice, but nothing the ship can’t handle. Streaks of white cloud cover the blue sky as if mirroring the ocean.
Then suddenly we are in a sea of broken ice. The polar ice sheet is melting and slowly breaking up around its perimeter and this is what we are seeing. The ship slowly, carefully keeps heading north looking for solid ice. These broken pieces offer little resistance to the huge steel bow of the ship.
The ice cracks and shatters and bangs against the side of the ship as it passes by. Then dramatically it starts closing in behind us and the open sea slowly disppears from view.
In another hour there is nothing but ice stretching endlessly in every direction. The sky is now ominously streaked with grey and white. An eerie pink light appears and a sickly yellow hue lurks on the horizon. It is incredibly beautiful but otherworldly. Thrilling but frightening.
The Captain tells us he is looking for a solid area where he hopes we will be able to get off the ship and walk on the Arctic ice. Now that would be thrilling
We continue north for another hour or so, but there is still no sign of solid ice, and sadly the Captain can’t find a good landing spot. It is disappointing, but we have the memory of sailing 81 degrees north, which we are informed is further than this ship has ever been.
But the day is by no means over. The captain has found a place where there are some gaps in the ice, big enough for the zodiacs to be launched. It is bitterly cold, but miraculously the clouds break and the sun returns.
Every piece of clothing we have is wrapped around us and looking like waddling Michelin Men we awkwardly climb into the zodiac and make our way in to the Arctic ice, just inches above the freezing water
For an hour we gently and very carefully thread our way around the ice. We are looking for seals but all we see are amazingly tough little seabirds skimming the ice and diving for fish.
We return to the ship, as cold as we have ever been in our lives but as energized as we have ever been. The Fabulosity Meter is making more noise than it has in years.
The day has not produced a polar bear but it doesn’t matter. It is for days like these that we travel and we are so grateful to have them back in our lives.