Written and posted on 11/18/18
We excitedly boarded the National Geographic Explorer, greeted by the hotel manager Patrik Svaerdmyr. We met up with naturalist Edward Shaw who we'd met in Washington DC during orientation and who would look out for us over the course of the expedition. It was lovely to see a familiar face amidst the hustle and excitement. We set sail around 4:30pm and the first few hours on board were busy:
In between the busy, I headed out on the deck to take in the views.
After dinner, we grabbed our coats, gloves and hats and headed outside to for our first hours of marveling at the wonders of the Arctic.
Sitting in the quiet of the library, a glacier up ahead, port side, I was already mesmerized by the light. It was partly sunny and the water is clear with little pieces of ice floating atop. I watched little birds dance on the water.
I spent a couple of hours on deck. At 10:30pm, it was 38 degrees, and it was hard to pull myself away and inside. The light...the light is dreamy, creamy, luminous and soft.
I met Jasper Doest, the Nat Geo photographer on board, on the deck around 10pm. While I was looking though my view finder, he asked me a few questions that went straight from my ears to my brain to my heart. What are you trying capture? What's the story you want to tell? It was my first day in the Arctic, and I was already overwhelmed with what was around me. How do I put this all into words and images?
I can say this - the landscape was dynamic and ever changing with the constant of movement - the water was moving, we on the ship were moving, the clouds were moving, birds flew around us. The sun burst through clouds and she speckled rays of light across the ice, the mountains, the snow, the water. I'd turn my body 45 degrees and see something entirely new and wondrous. And it was my first night under the Midnight Sun.
The story of this night?
Be curious. Be patient. Stay. Stay quietly.
I headed to bed almost at midnight. Here's a view from our port hole right before I tucked myself in.
Finally, here's a little video of my first night in the Arctic.
As a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow, I traveled to Svalbard in May 2018! Thanks to Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic for supporting teachers and encouraging us to be explorers.
Some of the text shared here was written in my journal or through social media posts while I was on expedition.
But much of the writing shared here was written in the months following my return home.
I had this idea that I would embark on my journey and, in real time, reflect and write and create blog posts and videos and online albums and photo books and postcards. I had fantasies of sitting in the ship's library with my pen and notebook, collecting and composing what I'd seen and experienced and manifesting deep, profound thoughts.
Yeah. That didn't happen.
My experience was so intense, so surreal, that I had difficulty finding adequate words to describe it all. Silly, inconsequential, and unsatisfying words were all I had - great, amazing, unbelievable, incredible. At the end of each day I would try. After dinner, somewhere between 10pm and midnight, I'd make my way up to the library to write. But I would get distracted. The large, glorious, gorgeous windows were too inviting and each moment was unique. The clouds were shifting, the water was moving, the ship was in motion, the ice upon the water was drifting. Each and every moment was unique.
My eyes were up and wide open. I was outside on the deck feeling the cold air and the lightly falling snow on my face. Or I was sitting on the bridge, snuggled in warmth, with a pair of binoculars looking looking looking. Oh, I tried to shift my thinking to writing something more than a bulleted list, but I just couldn't pull it off.
To put it simply, I couldn't focus.
I coined my condition Wonder-Induced ADD.
It is a beautiful affliction to have.
This blog is dedicated to my aunt, Tina Chavez, who is always my biggest fan and supporter. When I told her about my expedition to the Arctic, she asked, "So, when do you go on the Polar Bear Express?"
She also told me to run fast from the polar bears, but naming this blog "Run, Jen, Run!" isn't as charming as calling it "The Polar Bear Express."