There are four flights of stairs from the working deck to the bridge. I like to go up from the outside and watch for birds and whales, and water dripped from the instrument mast. Today, beyond the bridge and the deck behind the wheelhouse, beyond the rail, a mosaic of ice and shades of grey water travels the other way. Everything appears isolated out of sight of land.
We are now well west of the armies of yesterday’s walrus, and there are few animals to be seen here, few birds and fewer whales. Over a couple days, we count ten polar bears, but all of them far away and most of them are in the water. There are photos, but they appear as little more than fields of loosely banded ice, a photograph of everything and nothing.
Maybe a keen observer will see the bear, a thin line of yellowing white, its nose out of the water at left, swimming across the ship’s diminished wake. Describing a distant point amidst this landscape is an art one can learn, I suppose. “See the two little chunks there, and then go back three floes and look for the knob of blue near the spot of black, which is the bear’s now abandoned lunch. There’s blood on the snow. That’s the dark bits to the left.”
I just put the bear center in the frame, if only so I could find it again. Because a minute later everything has shifted in relation to everything else. Looking out over the stern, I had to be shown again and again where a bear was.
You can also follow the R/V Sikuliaq @rmtopp& @Sikuliaqon Twitter and @toppworldon Instagram and @R/V Sikuliaq on Instagram and Facebook. To further chart the course of this August 2018 expedition, look up Arctic Winds, Fish, Fins, and Featherson Facebook.
—Thanks to the R/V Sikuliaq, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, and the National Science Foundation.