The Ice…. How beautiful the ice was along the west coast of Svalbard where I sailed aboard the tall ship Antigua.
The glaciers calve and purge forward huge chunks of ice, cracking and splashing into the sea.. meandering in the wind and waves until they melt and become part of that in which they float. The crevassed face of the glaciers are extraordinary, with the blue and turquoise colour of the ice just so incredible.
This blue ice is caused when snow falls on a glacier and is compressed and the air bubbles are squeezed out. The dense ice of the glacier absorbs every other colour of the spectrum except blue – so blue is what we see! The crystalline structure of the ice also scatters this blue light making it the most exquisite turquoise I’ve ever seen.
The world around me was blue. Every minute the tone of blue changed. The water was blue. The sky was a blue I’ve never experienced before. And the ice. Ice was blue… and black!
As the glacier surges forwards, the gravel, silt and rock embeds in the glacial ice and becomes suspended in the frozen mass. The black was dramatic in this frozen world.
As the days became darker and colder, the surface of the sea started to freeze. The sea ice was forming, and I just loved the tinkling sound of the ice breaking and rubbing against other shards; as we sailed slowly through.
There were times though where the sound wasn’t so pretty… and was more like a bang and thud under the hull, often when I was snug in my bunk. There were several nights where the Antigua crept slowly and carefully into the shelter of a fjord in the dark, guided by the torchlight of one of the crew on the bow who was guiding the skipper to pick our way through the icebergs; and at times they just couldn’t be avoided.
I used to pop on my down coat, hat, gloves and stepped my pink cotton PJ’d legs into my fluffy insulated boots; and on the snowy deck in the darkness I was so excited to see the illuminated icebergs as they slid beside the hull.
The night.. and even sometimes the darkness of the early morning was cold, but beautiful. I loved that quiet time where in the darkness the icebergs had a magical character quite different than in the daytime.
The light was dimming each day, and the more difficult photography became. Wind; the movement of the ship; engine vibrations; wobbling zodiacs filled with cold restless passengers – all contributed to it being an extremely challenging environment in which to photograph. Often I would put my camera on my lap or at my side… and just experience being in this remarkable world amongst the ice.