August 11, 2007
It seems like several people have the "countdown" on the brain because a couple of people have mentioned it today. Even though the halfway mark was last Tuesday, we are within a week of returning to land. Angelo has instructed us with the upcoming plan: We are going to continue the seismic acquisition through tomorrow. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we are to continue mapping areas that may have been missed with the multibeam and topas systems. Then on Thursday we will start to head back to Svalbard, as it will be a 15 hour journey there. We are supposed to arrive to port early on Friday because the Spanish Ambassador to Norway is going to greet us once we arrive. The naval crew has been practicing their assignments for the formal event. That ought to be very interesting to experience!
As we continue our seismic data acquisition, we were at the northern end of the line during the morning shift at 76°08.58'N and 14°02.58'E with a speed of 5.2 knots and depth of 795 m. Another cloudy day, but every now and again we get a breakthrough of the sun through the clouds. The sea has been very calm and almost no wind to create white caps, so it has been a perfect day to spot whales! I have seen three large whales and a pod of pilot whales. They have all been very far away and it has been difficult to identify them. I think that the three large ones were sperm whales based on their spout size and the view through the binoculars. One may have been a blue whale, but it is difficult to say for sure. I stood out as long as I could scanning the horizon this afternoon in search of them, but it got a little chilly and I had to come in for some hot tea! We also had our first sighting of another vessel. We could not identify the country of origin or the type - our amateur guess was a drilling vessel because of the placement of the smokestacks and the large crane systems.
The highlight of today was a BBQ fiesta on the helicopter deck that the naval crew hosted for the scientists. The weather was perfect, calm seas and rather warm. They had large grills on which they cooked different types of meat and potatoes and had wonderful salad- reminded me of home and the great outdoor cooking I enjoy in the summer! Lots of music and dancing as well! Another special part about the fiesta was that the Captain and officers presented all the scientists (including me and Catalina!) with plaques that commemorate the International Polar Year of 2007-2008 and have the picture of the Hesperides in the middle. I will treasure this memento forever for my trip to the top of the world!