The sea grew thicker with more and more bits of floating ice, grinding and scraping on the hull of the ship until we eventually reached the edge of the pack ice and could travel no further North.
We stopped at 79°56,6’N 012°38,3E
From here, all the way to the polar ice cap and the North Pole, is an ocean of giant ice slabs with no passage for Antigua and those who sail in her.
Our guides took out an ice drill, which is just like a giant hand drill, and bore a hole down into the centre of a large piece of sea ice.
(Actually, it was a small Tabular Iceberg, there are lots of interesting facts about sea ice and I’ve learnt some great words: frazzle ice, pancake ice, growlers and bergy bits, snowpatch, spindrift and ice flowers. Ice flowers are delicate spikey crystals growing from the sea ice, we ate some.)
Having drilled the hole they wedged in a hefty wooden pole of driftwood found on the beach a few days ago, then tied ropes to the ship, fore and aft (boating speak).
Once the ship was secure we went down the gang plank and onto the ice. We had to wear our life jackets and watch each other all the time. If you fall in to this cold sea you will only survive for two or three minutes.
Ship’s dog Nemo was thrilled to be in the snow and leapt about like a puppy.
I had imagined that an iceberg would feel as if it was floating and move about a bit. It felt more solid than the ship but I found that I was walking a bit strangely, kind of softly, and quietly. In fact everyone was quiet for a change, and everyone was walking funny.
I wondered what would happen if we all jumped up in the air, and landed at the same time.
Then I scraped away the snow and I could see the ice beneath me, watery and blue. I was standing on a little piece of ice, floating in the Arctic Ocean.
And then it began to snow.
It was awesome.
We remained tied to the ice overnight and took some evening zodiac trips to look around.
Here is a beautiful little film Rachael Dease made from out of her cabin porthole.
I finally saw a walrus!
He was huge and fat and wrinkly and looked like a big brown rock. He lumbered off the side of his floating iceberg then itched his back on the scratchy edge.
When he turned to face me it reminded me of when you stick chopsticks under your top lip to make walrus tusks – I thought his face was funny.
Here is a picture taken by Adam Laity, of us in the middle of the night, in the middle of the ice. It was carrying the Antigua with it and moving all the time.
By the time we had breakfast next morning we could see on the GPS that we had drifted round in a circle and were back where we had begun. I went down onto the ice we were anchored to and saw that it was now a very much smaller berg, footprints made the day before had been safely in the middle and they were now walking right off the edge! It had melted to about half the size.
We untied and chugged back southwards, the way we had come.
There was still not enough wind to sail.