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Day 10 - August 10, 2012 - Novaya Zemlya then Kara Sea and Barents Sea en route Franz Josef Land, Russia

By Peter W. Damisch - Historian, General Naturalist, Polar Bear Guard, Zodiac Driver and Cartographer

Co-ordinates: N 78º33'04", E 64º19'19"
Weather: Stormy early with high seas but improving in afternoon
Air Temperature: 4ºC
Pressure: 1000 hPa
Wind: 10 knots

This morning started much earlier than most of us had anticipated. The Silver Explorer was experiencing a very strong high Arctic storm, something that is quite unusual at this time of the season. The lowest air pressure of the storm occurred about 0200 with sustained winds for several hours at 55 knots or above and seas running about 8 meters in wave height.

At 0430 or so I got up and went to the Bridge to get an update on our status. Of course I found the Captain and Bridge crew working the ship safely through the storm. Robin, our Expedition Leader, was up there as well. Between the two of us we discussed that neither of us had ever seen such conditions in any prior Arctic season.

Of course our planned operations at the Oranski Islands were completely out of the question. It was then decided to try and seek partial shelter just inside Cape Zhelaniya at the northeast corner of Novaya Zemlya. However, upon arrival, conditions inside the small bay were not suitable and thus we changed course to slowly begin our transit towards Franz Josef Land even farther north in the Russian High Arctic.

At breakfast I had several guests comment on how well the stabilizers had helped to reduce the movement of the Silver Explorer in contrast to other ships that they had previously sailed on.

Our onboard schedule was adjusted to offer a broader variety of activities throughout the day as we continued north in decreasing winds and seas. Just after breakfast I hosted a film in The Theatre about the three, world-famous expeditions that took place on board Fram, Norway’s national ship of exploration. The first was led by Nansen and attempted to reach the North Pole. That effort yielded great science but fell just short of its goal with Nansen returning to help lead Norway to independence. The Fram’s final expedition was led by Amundsen who was successful in his effort to reach the South Pole.

Later on in the day I stopped by to listen to our geologist, Juan, give a presentation titled ‘Ice Rocks’ which addressed the wide range of ice formations found throughout the world. Franz Josef Land is well known for its many ice-capped islands as well as the numerous icebergs and sea ice that we hope to observe over the next few days.

Uli, one of our marine experts, hosted one of Silver Explorer’s famous ‘Expedition Team Trivia’ contest. Of course it is all for fun with a series of questions ranging from maritime and nautical topics to funny inquiries about the staff on board. It was a great combination of useful polar knowledge as well as a bit of fun.

I next stopped in to listen to Kara, our biologist, give an updated presentation on ‘Polar Bears: Their Biology’. I always learn something new from Kara’s briefing and today was no exception as I focused in on den selection and formation by female bears as the autumn season approaches.

My final formal presentation occurred during our daily Recap & Briefing. Due to the large number of questions previously received about Novaya Zemlya, I provided an overview of the nuclear testing that occurred far to the south of our landing site, starting in the 1950s. Open air testing ceased in 1962 but underground tests continued through the early 1990s. There were many great questions from guests about these not so long ago activities.

Our day finished up with far improved weather. Our projected arrival time in Franz Josef Land had also improved throughout the day from doubtful to almost certain to be able to reach our intended landing sites for tomorrow morning’s operations, which is quite good and welcome news for all of us.

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