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Northeast Passage expedition

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Northeast Passage: Observing walrus up close

We arrive at the village of Vankarem at midday. This is a traditional Chukchi settlement of about 200 people and is reminiscent of the Alaskan villages I have visited. A cluster of neat one story homes sit together near the shore with boats pulled up on the tundra and fishing nets stretched in the water.

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Northeast Passage: A truly exceptional day

The boat is moving so slowly and in calm waters as I take my watch with Anders. Ryrkaipiy is in sight, but it is still dark and too early to approach, so we reduce speed to a mere 2 knots and make a very gradual arrival. From a distance we begin to see the tell tale signs of a former military base- abandoned structures and debris. In the middle of this however, is what appears to be well maintained and colourfully painted buildings.

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Northeast Passage: Nearing the Chukchi sea

It was a bouncy night as we pushed our way into a head wind, especially for the two of us in the bow! I have a digestive biscuit and coffee to start the watch then take an interview via satellite phone with the Guardian newspaper. Modern technology is truly amazing.

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Northeast Passage: Restocking in Pevek

The winds have finally let down as I sit alone in the dark boat for my anchor watch. The outside temperature is -1 C. My ship mates are sleeping soundly after two straight days and nights of rough seas. The boat is sitting across the bay from Pevek and the town is lit up much like any modern town, except this is truly remote country. I watch the lights of a vehicle on the outskirts of the settlement. As I look across the water, I am again struck by the commonalities of northern communities across the Arctic and among northern people. Though indigenous people perfected living strategies for this region, for most of us, live in the north would be a tremendous challenge.

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Northeast Passage: No signs of life

After being in the ice twice now, yesterday for several hours, I am struck by what we are not seeing. Other than the odd seagull and a few small seabirds, we see no signs of life whatsoever. In other parts of the Arctic we would see numerous seabirds and sea ducks, seals, walrus, whales, and possibly polar bears. In the coastal waters of the New Siberian Sea, we make few observations of marine mammals at all, save for two ringed seal on the 30th.

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Northeast Passage: A day on the Explorer of Sweden

I sit anchor watch alone tonight in the lee of Pushkaryov Island. In the tradition of the expedition, Ola held a team meeting following dinner to decide whether we should push ahead immediately in moderate seas, or to get some rest on the hook and depart at first light. No one is eager for a restless night of fighting the headwinds which now gust to 30 knots, so we will set sail again at 4 AM. I will wake Anders when it is time to make the boat ready and will try to fall asleep in my bunk before the rollercoaster begins! We hope to make Pevek in less than 32 hours and in the early morning as we have papers to arrange with the authorities and we plan to make it a short visit.

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Northeast Passage: The arctic marine ecosystem

Days are flying by and the nights seem nonexistent as my sleep is now
partitioned to mid-morning and early evening bouts. The seas have picked up
a bit and my berth is in the bow, so any motion is exaggerated. Despite
growing up in the middle of America, I find myself quite comfortable at sea
and I sleep extremely well.

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Northeast Passage: Sea ice floes

Midnight comes again all too quickly as I find myself making some strong
coffee for our watch. A coastal freighter has appeared on our radar nearby,
a cargo ship that plies the Lena river and shallow near shore waters between
Tiksi and Vladivostock. It is the only ship we have seen since Tiksi, but as
the summer ice continues its rapid retreat, more ships from countries other
than Russia will demand passage on these seas.

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Northeast Passage: The New Siberian Islands

Waking for the midnight watch is quickly becoming a comfortable routine. Using our satellite phone to upload this blog is another story. I continue to struggle with technical issues in linking my PC to the phone, technology on the high seas and in the remote Arctic is never easy nor works as planned! Fortunately, Ola has a tested system on the boat that continues to work well and I will have to rely on his help to update you on our progress.

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Northeast Passage: Open water

Midnight and it is time for my first watch with Captain Anders. The crew rotates in the wheelhouse every 4 hours and we have the quiet early morning and mid day shifts. As I am already jetlagged from travel, it is actually a good chance to start a new schedule.

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