Day 34: It Turns Out Arctic Shipping Is Mostly About Not Bumping Into Ice

Remember how last week I said it wasn’t super windy? ha. Jokes on me, it has been very windy, except for the one day it was snowy and also windy. I can’t even call it a false spring, because it is on average much warmer than it was over the winter, it’s just not warmer than it was a week ago.

Looking south-west over the inner fjord. You can’t hear it, but this image was making a solid whistling noise on the way to school earlier this week

Of course, sometimes you wake up and it’s just a fog bank outside.

Looking south-west over the inner fjord, but it’s kinda hard to tell because there’s no landscape to be seen, just fog

I can’t describe how disturbing it is to have seen the same mountains everyday for months, to suddenly have them gone. It felt like living in an overturned bucket. This is also the darkest it’s been in several weeks, and it was almost relaxing; I’ve been feeling very hello darkness my old friend, where have you gone it’s 10pm about this whole extra daylight business.

We started Navigation and Shipping in the Arctic this week, and on the one hand it’s nice to be talking about things I understand (boats!), but on the other hand it is a little depressing the extent to which actually everyone is looking at a byproduct of climate disaster (the opening of the Central Arctic Ocean) with anticipation. But on the third hand we also keep talking about the time in March 2021 when a ship got stuck sideways in the Suez Canal for a week and what this highlights about international shipping routes and their fragility, and it’s just such a funny thing that happened; it’s been making me giggle to myself all week. The professor is delightfully straightforward and we’re covering a bunch of interesting pieces about why the Arctic Ocean is different; the dark, the ice, the remoteness, the endless competing jurisdictional intricacies. It’s all very interesting and also makes me very glad I don’t have to organize anything in the Arctic. We watched a video about the Search and Rescue process for cruise ships around Svalbard, and the shear number of organizations that need to be notified, even if they don’t send any aid, is staggering. Also, cruise ships are just too big and look like evil floating hotels and I don’t see the appeal.

Because we’ve been talking so much about the North-west passage, I’ve have all the useless, hopeful maps that people were making in the 14-1700s, where any given river just opened up right after they stopped surveying, turning into a beautiful east-west waterway across the continent, stuck in my head. These are often on maps where the country is about a third as wide as it usually is, or California is an island. Early cartography was a weird time in terms of how much of what was on the map actually had to be real. They were just so hopeful that the world would be shaped the way they wanted it to be, despite all evidence and good sense to contrary, but they just kept drawing El Dorado and fountains of youth and great inland American seas.

Left, a map called Planisphère physique où l’on voit du pôle septentrional ce que l’on connoit de terres et de mers, avec les grandes chaînes de montagnes qui traversent le globe by Philippe Buache in 1756. Right, just North America, with a passage from the Saint Lawrence river, through the great lakes, to the west coast. Sadly, this does not exist.

Early this week I decided to make myself some overly fancy shortbread cookies shaped liked chessboards. I forgot, until I went to bake them, however, that we still don’t have any baking sheets, so I took our only decent spring-form pan, popped the edge off, and baked the whole batch about seven cookies at a time. It was not elegant, but it did work. Stupid problems require silly solutions. The cookies ended up tasting very good.

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