Written and posted on 11/20/18.
Watch. But more than that, listen.
That's the sound of hundreds of thousands of nest birds.
We knew we would wake up in this place. We had been given a preview of what we'd experience, but words alone cannot prepare you for this sensory delight and awe.
We were woken up at 6:30am. I jumped out of bed and started to layer up. At 6:41, I took this picture through our port hole.
Out on deck, we were met with a cacophony of busy birds that surrounded us in the sky, on the water and along the face and in the crevices of the striking, sharp and edgy cliffs before us.
All of this before 8am. Extraordinary.
This is one of my favorite photos ever. I took hundreds at this cliff, and last night (11/19/18) I was going through each one, sifting beyond those that had stood out immediately months ago. I hadn't noticed the ice/snow bridge. Or the birds all along the column of this crevice. Or the powder-sugar snow along the cliff walls.
I've been reading about the Brünnich Guillemot, those black and white birds that are abundant on these cliffs. The Norwegian Polar Institute reports that "The Brünnich’s guillemot is a stout, sturdily built auk that is slightly smaller than the common guillemot, and is one of the most numerous seabirds in the northern hemisphere. Brünnich’s guillemots from Svalbard generally winter in waters off Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland (Canada), although many stay in the Barents Sea throughout the year."
And here's a video clip I found about guillemot chicks' first flights.
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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."