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    7 October 2010 – Longyearbyen, Svalbard

    I’ve arrived this afternoon at Longyearbyen, Svalbard, to participate in The Arctic Circle creative residency, and am sitting in our Lodge quietly watching most of the other 17 participants hunched over their laptops or quietly chatting with one another. It’s a truly wild and wonderful......

  • 9 October 2010 – Longyearbyen, Svalbard

    Tomorrow we leave, late in the afternoon. I guess we will be on the boat during the day, finding our way into its spaces and making everything fast. There were excursions today to the Global Seed Vault, to the Airship Museum, and to an art......

  • 10 October 2010 – Underway on the Noorderlicht

    I’m feeling pushed into this environment now. This morning I felt it coming on, as though the land itself had begun to thrust upward into my space. But I push the land aside: I’m getting more concerned with having time to read, to think, to......

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    11 October 2010 – Trygghamna

    I sleep perfectly, not waking to Janet coming in, and managing not to get up to pee. Janet’s alarm goes off at 7.15 but I’m already awake. The light is only faint. I luxuriate a little, not anxious to go outside. But the curiosity is......

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    Forlandsundet

    I pull a hat over my ears and put on my coat, done up to the high neck, and wrap my fingers in possum gloves, then goretex. The stars are bright and beautiful, with the sky finally dark. I walk to the bow along a......

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    12 October 2010 – Gravneset & Gullybreen, Magdalenefjorden

    Perspective is utterly lost inside a fjord, the mountains rise up from an impossible water, a surface around which everything is painted. The ice crumbles along the beaches, transparent, cloudy or blue – and it is vivid blue, holding the memory of the glacier beyond,......

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    13 October 2010 – around the north-west tip

    This big island, cleft a thousand times by deep fjords, and whorled from end to end with contour lines in black and white, is Spitsbergen: meaning simply ‘pointed mountains’. But on the map it looks more like a collapsing brain, falling apart at a thousand......

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    14 October 2010 – Moffen Island

    Moffen Island – wild and white and flat, nothing but a lagoon surrounded by pebbles and snow. There is sky in all directions, no hill, no feature except the criss-cross of driftwood from one end to the other. There are walrus: rolling, hulking, tusked monsters......

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    15 October 2010 – Hornbaekpollen, Liefdefjorden

    First Mate Barbara is singing along to ‘Mama said there’d be days like this’ in the galley. Jan, our guide, is eating orange cake and wiggling his bum in time. Anna is wearing a red and white striped shirt. Arjen is photographing Wendy at her......

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    16 October 2010 – Erikbreen, Liefdefjorden

    We’re in the Liefdefjorden now – the Lover’s fjord. It’s named after a ship. It’s near here that Christiane Ritter lived with her trapper husband in the 1930s – at Gråhuken. At our downstairs dinner table there is a running joke about my supposed search......

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    17 October 2010 – Monacobreen

    Floating silent in the zodiac with three sound recordists, Wendy, Eva and Aimee. All of them artists of other disciplines, kitted out with recorders – Wendy has a submersible mic. I join them for the silence, while they record the sounds of slushy ice, clinking......

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    18 October 2010 – Virgohamna

    At Virgohamna, after a night anchored at Ytre Norskøya. Rolling side to side all morning in swollen seas, and then a very wet landing in the Zodiac, and a very cold couple of hours on land, stomping around the remains of Andrée’s balloon expedition, blubber......

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    19 October 2010 – Ny Ålesund

    Anchored in the Kongsfjorden, at the wharf in Ny Ålesund – the world’s northernmost permanent community, a town of less than 200 scientists from several countries. It is only around minus one, but the windchill is extreme. Snow is blowing like blossom and smoke across......

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    Sailing…

    We’re heading out of the Krossfjorden towards Barentsberg. A couple of sails up, the ship leaning beautifully to starboard, so that outside the starboard saloon windows is nothing but foaming sea, and lilac grey sky to port. In amongst the exhilarating slosh of the ship......

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    20 October 2010 – Barentsburg

    The Russian town of Barentsburg, seemingly lost in time, though a mere 30 kilometres from Longyearbyen – we’re nearly ‘home’. A coal-mining town run for the purpose of staking a claim, by Norwegian accounts at least, it produces enough coal to generate the power to......

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    21 October 2010 – last day’s sailing

    One minute it has been crisp and clear, the next it’s snowing hard, the wind searing. The seas have been flowing and cold, or rising and falling like easy breath, or surging in all directions, white tripe-like webs of foam creasing and blurring between thickening......

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    21 October 2010 – Advent City

    Stranded on the shore opposite Longyearbyen lie a ruined few huts and an ark-like wooden boat, at ‘Advent City’ – our final landing. Another windblown stretch where perhaps the curve of the mountain to the sea is simply another convex arc defined by snow…filling in......

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    22 & 23 October 2010 – back in Longyearbyen

    Off the boat in the morning, 9am. The dock is unfamiliar; my last step outside is in near-darkness, and at the adjoining wharf a huge truck appears to be tipping refuse out into a small bulk carrier, shipping out Longyearbyen’s garbage. As daylight arrives, there......

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    24 October 2010 – leaving Svalbard

    We’re barred from the mountains by big airport windows; they rest in blue-grey light, the full moon is risen above them, and the snow coats them thickly. At the other end of the departure hall, the mountains are very near, and the plane waits for......