Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Is for Anniversary, Arctic, and Aurora

I wrote this yesterday aboard the M/S Midnatsol but am posting it from the Clarion Aurora Hotel in Tromso. Not much wireless connectivity in the Arctic Ocean. If the husband wants to nap when we get to Oslo tomorrow, I'll see about writing up the rest of the voyage.

Back to composing in Word. The husband cannot get an Internet connection even on one of the computers in the Internet cafĂ©, so I might as well not even try. Given our distance from any real port at the moment, the lack of a connection isn’t surprising. I am writing this late Monday afternoon, and I expect that it will be Tuesday before I actually can post this. This may or may not help keep things in the proper time perspective.

Before I get to the theme of this post, I need to report a bit on yesterday morning and afternoon. The action (also starts with an A) didn’t really get going until evening. When we awoke, the ship was docked in Trondheim, a city we have visited several times in the summer. It was somewhat surprising how little snow there was and how not cold it was. That’s somewhat become one common thread on this trip. We passed on the excursion to the cathedral and at 10:30 welcomed the husband’s second cousin (who just turned 88) and her son (who is about our age) to the ship. We spent a quite wonderful 90 minutes catching up over coffee. There was plenty to talk about since our last visit was six years ago. Noon came too quickly, and we had to say farewell. We did promise, though, to come back in two years should someone be throwing a 90th birthday party for Ingrid.

Sailing out of Trondheim, we passed a shipyard and a quite interesting eight-sided lighthouse. 
As you can see, there’s not much land around the lighthouse, none in fact. 

All Norwegian lighthouses are now controlled automatically. Still, it was intriguing to imagine what life might have been like for this lighthouse’s keeper in the older days.

During the afternoon, we also went through the narrowest channel of the journey, a mere 42 meters from side to side. Oh, and there was an almost-right-angle turn in there as well. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a photo that illustrates just how close the rocks on each side were. There was nothing I could really work in to provide scale. Obviously, we did make it through, with added appreciation of the talents of the captain and crew.

Last evening, the parade of A’s started.  First were some sightings of the aurora, our first on this trip. There are no photographs to verify this because I didn’t even try to take any. Five years ago, in Iceland, I did and afterwards didn’t really feel as if I had watched the aurora. My attention had been centered on the tripod, the camera, the proper exposure time, and so on. This time, I wanted my attention on the experience.

The first sighting was in the evening, before most people had retired for the night. It was not a strong aurora—it never varied from green—but it lasted for quite a while. We watched on deck 6, one of two open-air decks until the bitter wind drove us in and up to deck 8’s floor-to-ceiling-high windows. After it had faded significantly, we headed to our cabin for bed. We had been warned that should the aurora appear during normal sleeping hours, there would be an announcement over the loudspeaker. That announcement came at 2:15. We quickly dressed and headed up to deck 6. In the rush, I had forgotten to pull my hair back or grab a hat, so the first while outside was frustrating not to mention dangerous. I really couldn’t see anything, and the deck was slippery in spots. I couldn’t get the hair to stay put even under my coat’s hood. Fortunately, the husband had worn a hat which he gave to me and used his jacket’s hood instead. It was still only a green aurora, but it seemed to be everywhere. We saw it to the right. We saw it to the left. We stepped out from under the eaves and saw it straight overhead. The husband is Canadian with numerous aurora sightings under his belt, and he said he’d never seen anything like it.

The husband has been monitoring the Norwegian aurora forecast and says that there is supposed to be active aurora both tonight and tomorrow night. That makes viewing it subject to Mother Nature’s weather inclinations. Right now—late afternoon—the sky is quite cloudy. We have learned that that means nothing. We shall just wait and see. We have tonight on the ship, at least once we return from our three-hour Viking excursion that includes dinner, and tomorrow night, on shore in Tromso. There is an “aurora safari” there if the conditions are favorable.

This morning, we crossed the Arctic Circle. There was a contest to see who could most closely predict the exact time of the crossing. Needless to say, one of us did not win that contest. The exact crossing time was 7:17.1 am, and both of us had entered times right before 7:00. Crossing the Circle is marked by passing a small sculpture of the world sitting on a very small island.
There is a larger version of this sculpture at the northernmost point of land, but we will be leaving the ship before it passes there. Various posters and pamphlets suggest that it might be possible to have your photograph taken underneath this sculpture, but perhaps those are just publicity shots.

The crossing was marked again mid-morning by the appearance of King Neptune.
He came—in peace—to baptize those of us crossing the Circle for the first time. Actually, “baptizing” is probably not the right term for having ice cubes and ice water poured down your back with your shirt having been pulled open at the back of the neck. The first person to get the treatment was the winner of the crossing time contest.
Her prize is in the left pocket of her coat. It is a Hurtigruten flag signed by the captain and various other people with the crossing time noted.

I am not sure why, perhaps they liked that in response to the question of “where are you from?” I replied, “Virginia,” but I got two scoops of ice and water down my back. It actually was not as bad as it sounds. Still, I welcomed what came next which was being handed a shotglass of liquor. It was quite warming and made removing the ice cubes a bit easier. A couple actually made it all the way through and ended up falling out of my pants legs. After all who wanted to be baptized and a few who didn’t had gotten the treatment, there was time to pose with King Neptune to mark the occasion. I took this as an opportunity to publicize the existence of SEAL Team Physical Training, the people with whom I work out when I am not hindered by a bum shoulder.
As for the last A, today is our 30th wedding anniversary. This trip is our gift to each other, though I did cheat and bring along a card for the husband. It’s from a new Hallmark line and featured a Venn diagram of “you” and “me” circles with the intersection labelled as “the perfect amount of stupid.” I think that’s a descriptor we’ll remember, maybe for another 30 years. “The perfect amount of stupid” sums up the intersection of the husband’s rational and logical thinking with my flights of fancy—ooh! A shiny butterfly!—better than any other descriptor that pops to mind. It’s been a good 30 years, and here’s to 30 more.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful write-up! Congrats on being a bluenose now, and very sincere wishes for a happy anniversary with many more to come.

Wishing you safe travels for the rest of your trip.

Janet T.

Va said...

Your whole purpose was achieved: that aurora thing! Is that why you married in February - to repeatedly celebrate and see it at the same time? Makes the trip sound more than worthwhile! King Neptune looks pleased to be with you. Crossing the equator on a cruise includes King Neptune too - He sure gets around! Love your descriptions and thoughts!

Debi said...

Sounds like a pretty damn fine and memorable way to spend an anniversary!

cbott said...

Love the card! Made me lol out loud. Glad to hear you've joined the ranks of 'I'd rather enjoy this for me than feel I have to document the occasion for the non-specific future viewer' (re: not photographing the aurora). Traveled Oz with that mindset and never regretted it once!