Welcome to the Arctic: Day 2
I opened my eyes to a bright light shining through the curtains. I pretty much just groaned and covered my head with my pillow. Looking blearily at the digital clock on the desk beside me I noted that it was just after 7 a.m. local time, but it looked more like noon.
Welcome to the Arctic.
One of the things that I hadn’t taken into account was how long the sun stayed up. I mean I knew that days lasted a long time in the Arctic summer but I just wasn’t prepared for the reality of it. It was kind of like seeing a tornado up close. You see the pictures and video, but you’re just not prepared for the reality of it. I staggered into the bathroom and used the shower for the first time. This was also the first time for using a marine shower/bathroom. If you’ve ever been on a ship of a certain size, you’re already laughing. I walked in, asked, “Where’s the shower?” and then realized that the curtain that was tucked up against the wall pretty much was the shower. I had to pull it around myself, make sure that the toilet paper wasn't going to get soaked, try to balance the soap on the faucet, not drop the shampoo and try to scrub myself all at the same time. Oh, and this was while the waves were pretty much non-existent.
I couldn’t wait for a good storm.
After only having wiped out once in the shower, I managed to get dressed and headed down for breakfast. George was way ahead of me and was already seated and chatting with everyone when I walked into the dining room. Breakfast was a buffet of wonderfulness. Bacon, eggs, all kinds of yummy and all of it was seriously gourmet. This wasn’t a quick rushed bunch of food. This was the kind of breakfast you get at the best restaurants. I felt almost out of place. I’m more used to sleeping in parking garages and using my car to stun and cook dinner.
Once breakfast was over and we had some time to kill before the rest of the clients (adventurers?) arrived on board, George decided to kill the power in our room one last time with another power bar mishap. I think we got lucky in that we never got the chance to learn how to say, “Bloody Kourounis, what the hell did he do this time?” in Russian. I fled the room before the electrician arrived and spent the morning doing more shooting, more exploring of the ship and then just hanging out. There was a bunch of small benches hidden in nooks and crannies on the various decks around the ship so I found one that had a lot of sun and just well, stared out at the ocean for a while. It was nice to decompress for a bit after the rush of getting to Iqaluit and then to the ship and then shooting etc.
Lunch time rolled around and once more it was a feast. A buffet feast and I could actually order whatever kind of sandwich I wanted. I decided to forgo my usual peanut butter and had some sort of wonderfully artistic meat sandwich. I still have no idea what it was, but man did it taste good. I knew at that point that I was going to be in serious danger of eating too much on this trip.
The activity on the ship began to ramp up in a big way as we got closer and closer to the arrival time of the rest of the clients. This was the first real trip out this season for the crew for this year so I think everyone was a little nervous about how it was going to go. Boris was running around getting things organized, people moving to where they needed to go, gear stashed and ready, and even making sure that the carpets were cleaned.
Three o’clock hit and a pile of people moved out to the stern of the ship and zodiacs went up and over the side. The gangway dropped and more staff hurried down to the rubber boats. There were still a few boats left on deck but down in the water below, the pilots were zipping the boats back and forth and bouncing over the waves and generally having a grand ole time. The water was calm, flat and the sun was shining brightly. Pretty much the opposite of the day before. Well, at least there was a far less likely chance of people throwing up on the way to the ship than when George and I headed over.
We headed up to an area overlooking the main gangway and set up the cameras. We thought it would be a good little bit as an arrival scene for the show. And then we waited and waited, and waited…
Finally, the zodiacs began cutting back across the water towards us and we could see that each one of them was filled with red figures. It looked like we were being invaded by Christmas elves. It didn’t take long before the first zodiac docked and those elves began the march up the gangway. George and I were in a position to shoot everyone as they got off the gangway and the looks on their faces as they walked beneath us was worth the effort. Most looks were in the vein of “Uh, what are you guys doing?” but a few just posed and grinned. I knew we were going to be having some fun on this ship.
I’m not sure who I was figuring would be on a trip like this, but what I didn’t expect was a whole family to be there. There were people of all ages but generally it was an older crowd. I’m guessing it was because the trips are kind of expensive and it takes years and years to save up for one. Still, it was a trip of a lifetime for many of them and I could see the excitement on all the faces that passed below us.
By the time the last passengers came on board, we’d gotten all the shots we needed and pretty much managed to introduce ourselves to everyone. We quickly became known as “those crazy Weather Network guys”. The ship was suddenly alive with people running back and forth, trying to find their cabins, looking for snacks, or just generally just looking around. George and I retreated back to our cabin and flaked out for the rest of the afternoon. A lot of people wandered by and did a double take when they saw all the computer and camera equipment spread out across the room. We explained what we were trying to do and we pretty much had everyone ready to be a part of the show. Always good to get invested before filming even starts.
With almost no warning, the deck plates underfoot began to thrum slightly and with barely a sense of movement, the Ioffe’s engines began to inch the ship forward. I ran to the front deck to watch the crew haul up the anchor and with a rumbling clank the chains pulled the massive anchors up to the side of the ship’s hull. We were underway into the Arctic wilderness.
Boris came on the intercom about an hour before dinner started and announced that we would be undergoing a lifeboat drill. Which meant that all of the passengers, crew and One Oceans staff had to make a dash for one of the two big lifeboats on board when the safety bell rang. The idea was that you had to find both life jackets in the cabin, put them on and then walk out to the deck where the lifeboats were. Lucky for us, the boats were just at the end of the hall on our deck. We could get there quick and ensure our survival. Or at least the survival of whatever tapes we’d already shot.
When the bell did go off, we dutifully grabbed our gear, our cameras and headed for the boats. Along with everyone else. When you suddenly have over 50 people all crowding into a tiny deck, it’s gets real intimate, really quick. And then I looked into the lifeboat. Which seats 69 people. In a an area smaller than your kitchen. For the show, George made me crawl inside and pretend that I was enjoying myself. I’m not great with enclosed spaces and all I could imagine was almost 70 people crowded into a tiny lifeboat on heaving seas with barely room to move let alone throw up. And there would be a lot of that.
I left the boat as quickly as I could with George giggling that he’d managed to torture me again. I owe him big time and I was just hoping for a big storm as soon as possible. George is notoriously bad at keeping his dinner down when any ship he’s on starts to rock. I, on the other hand, do not react at all to motion sickness. Or so I thought. This would come up later in the voyage (much to my delight).
Dinner was … well, pretty much what I wasn’t expecting. We had a choice of either a meat, fish or vegetarian option, soup and salad and then finally a choice of deserts. Seriously, this was just insanely awesome and I figured I might be using the gym far more than I originally thought…
As the ship began to slide out of the entrance to Frobisher Bay the sun turned into a fireball of yellow and red and sank slowly towards the water. What always amazes me about the Arctic is the light. Pinks and yellows glinted off the water and clouds. The red of the sun deepened and the light changed slowly towards dusk, but even after well over an hour, the sun had barely touched the water. That was when I noticed that it was after midnight. The Arctic strikes again.
I finally gave up getting amazing shots of the sun and wandered down to bed. I wrapped a pillow around my head and tried to block out as much light as possible. Sleep was not going to be easy on this trip.
Be sure to also tune into The Weather Network on TV tonight for the latest installment of Storm Hunters: Best of.
MORE STORM HUNTERS: Missed an episode? You can catch them all online by heading to our Storm Hunters page.