Saturday, November 23, 2013

Why? Candy Colored Sky.



I suppose in a way it was a small movement, a small-scale demonstration of the power of momentum. It just takes one person. Perhaps you and I can be that one person in our own circles of influence, whether that is a small beach in the Arctic or downtown Los Angeles. I ask you, please, join me, in whatever way you can. Our actions can create ripples of momentum, which together have the power to initiate cultural change. The time is now… no, really… the time is now.


I try to step back and view my life as if I am a raptor in an aerie from time to time. When I am working with Polar Bears International in Churchill, I often become so immersed in a whirlwind of work that I forget to do just this, but when I do, I stammer in awe.
It’s hard to put into words what exactly it is that we do up here. Perhaps it is my developing perspective as a newcomer in the greater environmental and business world, but it’s really kind of out there. I thought it would be neat to share, a little more intimately, what exactly it is that I am doing up here in the subarctic town of Churchill. For those who are interested it will provide context to all the polar bear pictures that appear ravenously on my instagram feed. So, here we go…
My primary duty is to oversee the polar bear cam operations. This is essentially a handful (5) of remote tilt zoom cameras in various places surrounding Churchill that are controlled by a remote team of volunteer operators, and let me say that these volunteers are some of the most passionate folks I have ever worked with. Four of the cameras have up close views of polar bears on nearly a daily basis. But why? What is the purpose of these live cameras, beyond being incredibly ecologically and biologically interesting (wink wink, Marty) or as I like to call them, cute? These cameras provide a front row seat to an environment and flagship species that is being affected by climate change at an incredible rate. Promotion of these cameras is linked to education and outreach initiatives providing information and an opportunity to connect with the arctic for people all around the world.


Secondly I assist in the execution of PBI’s Tundra Connections program, a series of educational webcasts. I encourage you to check out one of the archives. I am privileged to work with the scientists and educators to put together the content for these webcasts, whether that’s finding video that compliments their areas of expertise, formatting photographs, or animating graphics and charts to supplement the concepts presented. And then it’s show time. This year I have enjoyed learning how to actually execute the webcasts, meaning I am selecting the various assets as the scientists are speaking and the presentation is streaming live.

Beyond that I fulfill a variety of other roles that help our Churchill programs run smoothly. This includes anything from filming interviews, producing social media content, booking flights, or ordering way to much bacon. And yes, it is possible to order way to much bacon, hard to believe I know…

One of the things that I enjoy most about this work is the opportunity to reach a demographic that is very foreign to me. I come from Bozeman, Montana where the grass is green, the water is clean, and for the most part, people are very connected to the natural world. The work we are doing here, through a very robust digital presence, allows us to connect with people across many different geographic locations, ages, and economic classes.

Through my lens, the work I do up here it’s not as much about the polar bear as it is about the world. I feel honored to contribute to the greater solution by educating and inspiring others.  If we can save the polar bears the ripple effect among the rest of the globe will be huge. If we can save polar bears and subsequently their sea ice habitat we will save hundreds of thousands of precious ecosystems, we will lower the probability of severe weather events, we will leave behind a healthy and nourishing planet for future generations, and of course, high on my personal priority list is we will save SNOW which is something that is very near and dear to my heart.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Vanishing Realm | Part 2

*This post first appeared August 10, 2013 on polarbearsinternational.org*
I could feel the chill of the metal rungs through my gloves as I scampered up and up. One of the classic features of the M/S Stockholm is the crow’s nest. I felt a little like a pirate as I ascended the mast via a narrow ladder, nestling into the basket 30 feet above the deck of the ship.

The crow’s nest was my favorite place to pass the time during my recent trip to Svalbard. From my perch I was not only able to visually experience my surroundings, but to really experience it with all my senses, to immerse myself completely: to feel my cheeks become numb from the biting wind, to smell the salty sea, and to listen to the rolling waves as the sea birds called back and forth to one another. I visited the crow’s nest often, bundled up in my Canada Goose parka, soaking in the view from my aerie, absorbing the raw beauty abounding in this arctic region.

As we reached 81 degrees north a sea of ice spanned the horizon. At this latitude it almost seems as though you can see the curve of the earth. The ice here stretches up and over the North Pole (for now). Yes, Santa and his Elves live on a floating mass of ice on the top of world. So, if you won’t help us decrease carbon emissions to save sea ice for our furry white polar bear friends, maybe you’ll do it for Santa. (This takes saving the arctic ecosystem for our children’s children to a whole new level, I mean what about Rudolph … come on!).


After two days in the pack ice we headed south again towards the mainland. It was fascinating to watch the ice change. At our northernmost point the ice was almost completely above the surface of the water, the horizon a vast white, windswept plain. Then a layer of ice beneath the water appeared in various shades of turquoise. Puzzle pieces of snow-covered ice protruded above the water, but the layer beneath was generally frozen in very large pieces. Farther south the lower layer of ice became disjointed until it only appeared along the edges of larger free-floating pieces. Rather quickly the ice disappeared completely.

Ice appeared again, in a different form, along the glacier front. Massive icebergs decorated the deep blue water. Smaller pieces appeared in various quantities sprinkling the void. The sprinkles crackled and popped as they melted into the abyss. I ventured to the bridge of the ship and glanced over Captain Per’s shoulder. A small dotted line on one of his screens represents the path of the ship. I looked again. “Per, it looks like the ship is on land.” I said in a state of confusion. “Yes,” he replied, “We’re now in open water. That is where the glacier front was last year.”

I was shocked. Last summer, that water was a frozen mass of the ice cap; in the course of just one year the glacier front had calved and receded immensely. Gawking, I returned to the deck of the ship.

We reached the famous waterfalls of the Austfonna Ice Cap early the next morning. Dawn greeted us with blue skies and soft light accentuating the frozen turquoise rubble. Streams slithered down to meet the glacier front, cascading as colorful waterfalls into the Barents Sea. Summer melt was in full effect.

One of the guests stepped down from the crow’s nest and rushed over to me. “You’ve got to go up there, the view is spectacular and the photos will be great!” I padded my pockets, no gloves. Oh well. Without hesitation I once again quickly ascended the bitter cold rungs of the narrow ladder shivering in delight as I crawled back into the basket of the crow’s nest. I pulled the viewfinder of my camera up to my eye, attempting to capture the beauty of this distant place. The wind whirled around me and I was immediately engulfed by the harsh elements of the delicate ecosystem melting before my eyes.

Polar Bears in the Mist | Part 1

*This post originally appeared July 30, 2013 on polarbearsinternational.org*
The Stockholm is like the girlfriend you always wish you had. She has classic style, old-fashioned sophistication, but the newest technology. She is burly at the core, almost hulk-like in her strength, but delicate from afar and soft on the eyes.  She always smells good, has curves in just the right places, and is a safe haven during a stormy night. “And she doesn’t talk too much.” Peter said between a chuckle and a sip of tea.

Peter and I giggled in delight, like children in an ice cream parlor, as we pulled into the port in Longyearbyen and set our eyes on the dear lady Stockholm. We couldn’t believe our luck. We had been invited yet again to join Polar Kruetzfahrten on a cruise in the Arctic. This time we had the good fortune to travel aboard the M/S Stockholm, a beautiful 12-passenger Swedish vessel built in 1953.Peter Laufmann has become one of my favorite traveling companions. He is a journalist for Natur, a publication in Germany, and we have been working together to document the story of the Stockholm. We were asked to come along as a media team, but I think Polar Kruetzfahrten partially just enjoys our company and the humor we bring to the group.



 We call this Vadoring.
On the second night of our trip we arrived at the northernmost island in Europe, accompanied by floating pieces of sea ice. From my limited perspective it appears that there is much more sea ice than last year at this time.


By morning we were in the thick of it. We crossed 81 degrees north, a mere 9 degrees from the North Pole. Mist muddled the horizon and broken puzzle pieces of sea ice disappeared into the fog. We came across our first bear, a dead one. The carcass of a polar bear lay upon a floating piece of ice, picked clean except for the bones and pelt. A paw was strewn a few feet from the body, claws intact. I was overwhelmed by a hollow feeling: a mixture of disgust, sadness, and understanding. There are many reasons that the bear could have died: perhaps it was old age, or an attack from another bear; conditions being what they are in this particular location, hunger was not likely the cause.

Shortly after that we came upon a very healthy male polar bear. He sauntered up to examine us more closely. He was quite clean and had a larger-than-average girth. His condition was encouraging. We have had record-breaking decreases in sea ice coverage for the last six years. A more average winter (unlike the previous year’s mild one) gives me hope. Will this summer possibly be better? Time will tell.

We joined Captain Per afterwards and scanned the misty horizon for hours without luck. Around midnight the captain found a sizeable piece of sea ice and wedged the Stockholm in place for the night, watching carefully as a deck hand climbed overboard to pound an anchor into the thick white mass. I snuggled into the top bunk bed of our cabin, rolling over every few hours and opening one eye just in case a furry white friend decided to peep into our porthole and say hello. What a picture that would be I thought as I drifted into slumber-land.

Pristine Arctic: The Power of One | Part 3

*This post originally appeared August 23, 2013 on polarbearsinternational.org*
Everyone had something that caught their attention and caused them to linger. Peter and I were photographing big pieces of iridescent ice on the beach with a massive glacier front behind. Doris found the skeleton of a Svalbard reindeer caked in sand and perfectly pressed into the earth. The other Peter was photographing the tiny tundra flowers, and Barbara was perched on top of a rock, birdwatching through her binoculars. Getting us to move along at a decent pace was like herding cats, but you’ve got to soak it all in, right!?!

Eventually our guides succeeded in cresting the horizon of a small sandy spit of land on the northeast coast of Nordauslandet in the archipelago of Svalbard. On the lee side of the ridge was a small beach and the crew of the Stockholm had set up a beach barbeque! The first mate, Martin, hauled over gigantic pieces of driftwood and assembled a bonfire. Annika and Marlie laid out appetizers and passed around warm Glögg, a Swedish Christmas wine. Kjelle captained the grill and passengers and crew alike sat around the fire enjoying a delicious meal and wonderful company.


As folks finished dinner people drifted into conversation, some gazed into the fire lost in thought, others wandered among the large piles of driftwood exploring our newfound little treasure cove. I immersed myself in conversation with Peter, laughing and joking about something or other. I glanced to my right and noticed a handful of the guests putting together a piece of beach art. There was a weathered pole sticking out of the sand. Someone had found a small piece of wood with a hole in it, resembling a magnifying glass. This was wedged upright on the top of the pole. Another small stick was added to create a cross, and a few stones and small bits of turf decorated the base. It was no Andy Goldsworthy, but it was neat. The thought that these adults could quiet their busy minds enough to be present and create with such whimsical delight filled me with joy.

Then I noticed Martin, Christian, and Doris walking among the large driftwood piles collecting garbage. Litter of every color, shape, size, and material had washed ashore on this tiny beach nearly 80 degrees north of the equator. Gigantic plastic barrels, coffee tins, ketchup bottles, twine, spools, soles of shoes, hangers, kids’ Lego pieces, crates, and shredded pieces of plastic bags were scattered about. The quantity was overwhelming.

The wild thing is that all of this trash has been washed up on the beach after traveling massive distances on ocean currents. There is no doubt that the litter came from Russia, Scandinavia, and both coasts of the Atlantic. There are no settlements large enough to produce such waste in Svalbard, particularly because there were no Inuit people native to the archipelago, and because the waste the small settlements do produce primarily washes up in the fjords along the western coast.
I get an empty, mildly nauseous feeling even thinking about it. How could we be so wasteful? I have a really hard time understanding why; it goes against all common sense. I feel the same way about plastic bags at the grocery store and paper to-go coffee cups. They are so unnecessary! But re-training our cultural habits is like teaching an old dog new tricks; it’s an uphill battle.
Peter and I joined the litter-collecting group. We soon accumulated the equivalent of three garbage bags full of waste, mostly plastic, and we probably could have collected three more, at least! A few more guests walked over and contributed their own collection of trash. Christian marked the point with a GPS and passed it along to a government entity that would have a passing ship collect it later in the summer.

Of course this little act is miniscule in the grand scheme of our human impact on the earth, but it felt empowering and inspiring. Doris expressed it best, “Did you see how everyone joined in, without even talking to each other, working together silently, towards a common goal?” It was true, no one said a word, we just worked silently, appreciating the company, aware of the exponential growth of our actions with each new person that joined in.

I suppose in a way it was a small movement, a small-scale demonstration of the power of momentum. It just takes one person. Perhaps you and I can be that one person in our own circles of influence, whether that is a small beach in the Arctic or downtown Los Angeles. I ask you, please, join me, in whatever way you can. Our actions can create ripples of momentum, which together have the power to initiate cultural change. The time is now… no, really… the time is now.

Monday, September 2, 2013

After


For Kevin; May you live forever among the grains of desert sand and on the breathe of the wind, soaring forever, winking at us all, from among the shimmering stars. This poem is for you and your beloved Margie. Your relationship inspired us all. 

 After


Body and spirit in the deepest of love
dancing the dance of time.

Practiced and intentional
               they soar
          harmoniously [he be].

Others less in tune
     fumble- loosing the beat
eventually falling into a canter of their own.

     Slowly
     Constantly.
     Unique

Some dancers are simply born
rhythm radiating from within
[he] danced a tune of his own
understood mostly by [him].

But eminating light
     Contagious
     Energy
     Moved

Others danced along
Emphatically adopting [his] mood.

But body and spirit must part,
soul taking to the wind.
Sometimes right from the start,
sometimes merely weeks in.

     Years
     Decades
     Lifetimes

Eventual separation looms.

,[we] as congnative beings,
it always feels too soon.

I surmise it must be better,
ripping a sleeve at the seam.
Two lovers disjointed forever,
spirit quickly taking leave.

Freed before the pain.
Gone before the sorrow.
Dancing among the stars
watching over [her] tomorrows.

Better to be quick.?
Drawn out departure is weary.
Though whether a slice or a tear
Separation is never easy.

So now [he] becomes the earth
present in all seen.

Beginning first as dirt.
Soon blossoming into being.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Turning 23 in Longyearbyen

It’s been a whirlwind of a year. Much of the time I have felt like a puppy learning how to swim, doing the doggy-paddle, barely able to keep my head above water, panting and gasping for breathe. This year I have had some of the most incredible experiences and some of the most challenging experiences of my life so far. I have tapped into my knowledge bank and utilized every skill and discipline I spent the previous 22 years mastering. I’ve swept a lot of floors, served a lot of cocktails, skied a lot of couloirs and photographed a lot of polar bears. I sometimes sit in disbelief and wonder how it all happened. I am now in Longyearbyen, Svalbard (of all places!) alone on my 23rd birthday.  I depart tomorrow early in the morning. The rest of the guests left at 8:00am so I have the day to myself. In honor of this solo time, which I seldom seem to have these days, I wanted to take a moment to reflect, and since I am far overdue for a blog post (my apologies) I thought I would share 23 memories/highlights/moments (with pictures!) from the last year. 

May I recommend a listen to either of these tunes if/when you watch the flicks ;)




ONE. 
The Larson family invited me to join them on a float of the Lower Salmon River last August. WHAT A PLACE! Despite the fact that I grew up 30 miles from the Yellowstone I have not spent a lot of time on rivers. I grew to love it in the past 3 years. There is nothing quite like river time; floating along at the water’s pace, no place to be but here and now, kind of like powder skiing, a forced abandon to the forces of gravity and power of nature; the result of surrender: pure joy, elation, a harmonious existence with the earth. Freedom. Add the white sand beaches and warm turquoise water of the Salmon River and you have paradise.



TWO.

















CJ and I scrambled up a non-chalont peak in the Beartooths. When we finished the final bushwhack at the bottom we emerged through the brambles a little farther west of where we began earlier that morning. We found ourselves basking in the setting sun on a sandy beach at 9,000 feet in the Montana wilderness. Without hesitation we stripped down and ran into the frigid water. Realizing 100 feet out that it was quite shallow we dropped to our bellies and dunked our heads, surfacing refreshed, grinning ear-to-ear among the golden sand and sunshine.

THREE.
The Tetons have an allure that casts a shadow over neighboring ranges. When I first set eyes on Mount Moran I knew that I wanted to climb it. I was particularly intrigued when I discovered that the absolute best way to approach the climb was by crossing String and Leigh lakes by canoe or kayak, hauling the boats across a short portage in between. I was thrilled when Alaskan friend and adventure companion Dan happened to be in the area and was keen for an adventure. After a successful climb and summit we concluded that traveling via water is the absolute best way to approach mountain ventures, particularly with a heavy pack.  We celebrated with bandit and beautiful light dancing among reflections across a perfectly still Leigh lake.

FOUR. 
The alarm went off at 5am. Norbert stood up and pushed aside the curtain looking out the window at the sky. “What do you think?” he asked. “We might as well give it a try.” I answer. We stepped outside into the darkness and quietly retrieved our bicycles, mounting up, and pushing into the dark. Headlamps glowing we began to navigate the old military roads into the Daarse forest. We arrived at a small clearing we had seen deer at the day before. No fog. Deer, but nothing else particularly spectacular, except the adventure, that alone was worth the effort. We opened a thermos of coffee and watched night turn to day. Red deer roared in the distance and light slowly crept up between the beech trees. I sat quietly listening and watching next to one of my favorite traveling companions and #1 pork chop.

FIVE.
We had just arrived in Churchill and were immediately bustling around preparing everything for the start of the season. It was a bit chaotic. Late in the afternoon Jane brushed the dust off her carharts with her work gloves. “Let’s go to the flats and catch the sunset. Quick. Hurry.” Jane, Melynda and I pulled up to a small cabin on the shore of the Churchill River just before it reaches Hudson Bay. We opened a bottle of wine and lounged on the rocks watching the sunlight fade as a pod of belugas danced in the current.

SIX.
Someone interrupted Kathryn during the first evening of our Zoo Keepers & Educators Leadership Camp.“The Northern Lights are out!” Everyone stepped outside onto the deck at the Churchill Northern Studies Center. The show began gently but within 30 minutes had turned into an intensely vivid display of moving color and life enveloping the entire horizon. The display lasted for hours. We lingered in the cold soaking in every minute of Mother Nature’s elaborate light show. What a night. Oh, what a night….

SEVEN.
I accompanied BJ for the first week of Polar Bears International’s Tundra Connections broadcasts. This meant a week out on the Tundra Buggy Lodge working with three scientists and a moderator conducting educational webcasts about polar bears, the arctic, and climate change. One of our broadcasts that week had over 200 users watching, many of which are entire classrooms of students! I was astonished and thrilled by our ability to reach such a large audience. We then had the opportunity to Skype with some classrooms, allowing both kindergarteners and university students to ask the scientists their own questions. It was very inspiring to integrate the technology that is so saturating in our culture with nature and conservation.

EIGHT.
Mesmerized by the orange colors of fall, I could not take my eyes off the tundra when I arrived in Churchill. The last life of summer lingered, awaiting the bitter cold winds and snow. Nearly a week later frost decorated the branches, leaves, and blades of grass. By the time I left 2 months later Hudson Bay was completely frozen over. The polar bears needed to fast no longer and returned to the sea and their hunting ground, anxiously awaiting their first seal feast. Another season changed, another page turned, another circle of existence continued it’s cycle.

NINE.
I returned to Bozeman in December after eating way too many cookies and exercising far to little in Churchill. I don’t remember who called whom but somehow we organized a pre-season ski tour with some of my favorite ladies. It was one of the first times I had toured with a large group of gals and it was SO MUCH FUN. We laughed a lot, smiled a lot, and skied a lot of powder. It was Soooooo goooooood. Thanks ladies.

TEN.
I joined my grandparents, uncles, and extended family, some of whom I had never met before in Santa Fe for Christmas. My Uncle Mark and I stayed up late drinking wine and de-bunking family mysteries. I was able to put together a story that had always been a bit broken in my mind. It was so nice to relax, share stories, and walk Honey Bear, their pooch, in the mild New Mexico winter air.

ELEVEN.
Tony and I spent New Years Eve at the Bonnie Belle Cabin with an awesome group of friends who live in the little town (village?) of Silverton, Colorado. It is a magical little spot nestled in the San Juan Mountains. We skinned up in the late evening after climbing a pitch of ice. We arrived after dark and laughed hysterically over multiple games of charades. Someone went outside and ran back in, “Moon Dog!” We gathered on the porch and gawked as it illuminated the surrounding mountains. I turned the other direction, “Comet!” Michelle and Tony spun around in time to watch it for a few full seconds. Its duration was stunning.   

TWELVE.

When winter arrived I ventured to Salt Lake to play in the mountains. I stayed with Tony & his roommates. The first morning I woke up at their house I walked in to the kitchen and feasted on what I fondly refer to as ‘Breakfast Mountain,’ Tony’s specialty; a pile of lightly fried sweet potatoes over a corn tortilla with a medley of fresh vegetables, particularly tomatoes, sprouts, and avocado, topped with two fried eggs and fresh salsa. THE BOMB. I will never forget my first breakfast mountain. 

THIRTEEN. 
I rushed back to Bozeman from Salt Lake City in January to join the (small) Polar Bears International staff for our annual meeting. Since it is my first year working with PBI it was also my first annual meeting, and I didn’t really know what to expect. On the last day we sat in a circle having a discussion. What are the most effective tactics we can use? What resources are available to us? What has the greatest impact? I paused for a moment and imagined myself as a fly on the wall. I felt honored to be sitting in a room with such intelligent and compassionate people discussing such important issues. I did my best to be a sponge and soak up as much as possible.

FOURTEEN.
Elly-gazellie… I could write a novel. Let’s just say that we had the entire town of Haines saying “Prost!” in lieu of “Cheers” at the bar by the end of it all. We had a life changing 2 months together, beginning in Salt Lake City, travelling through Bozeman, Seattle, up the Inside Passage and settling for the last 6 weeks in Haines. I cried hard as her ferry disappeared into the dark in early April. Elly is the closest thing I have ever had to a sister.

FIFTEEN.
We were at the P-Bar in Haines. I wore my cowgirl boots. I have never had that much fun dancing. Everyone was having SO MUCH FUN it was ridiculous. There was a live local band, it was Elly’s first night out on the town, and it seemed that everyone was out to greet spring after a long sleepy winter. Sylvia was with us dancing away; three sisters together. I finally called it a night around 2:30 in the morning. Sylvia & Elly were still going strong. I made it about 5 minutes out of town when Sylvia called. “Can you come back and get me?” I was confused. There was a pause. “The cabin is on fire.”

SIXTEEN.
Mother Nature is more powerful than we are capable of comprehending. Loosing Cab was a stark reminder. I will never forget the days and weeks that followed.

SEVENTEEN.
Thin clouds covered the sky as we left camp. We gained the first vertical and crossed a long flat stretch. Adam was out front and lightly falling snowflakes were illuminated by sunlight underneath a cloudy sky. The light continued to improve as we moved up healing the fear that shuddered within me after Cab’s death and a strange string of associated events. A great day of skiing was followed by camaraderie as we chuckled away the evening at Camp Davidson.

EIGHTEEN.
The night before I left Haines I stayed up all night. I was so completely exhausted and drained, not from staying up all night, but from 2 months of relentless… life. I wish I could have given back more of the love that the community poured my way. As I drove out the Haines Highway headed for Montana I felt a little like I was running away… I will never know whether or not I made the right choice. But on my to-do list is to write a love letter to Hainesfor all the smiles, hugs, cookies, and clothes. For the community’s support and the beautiful beaches with which I could surrender to my thoughts and digest the occurrences of the passing months. I drove through a blizzard and pulled over before Whitehorse to take a nap. When I woke up 3 hours later my car battery was dead. The world speaks a funny language sometimes, but I pushed on anyways, and arrived home safely 3 days later.

NINETEEN.

The train door began to close. I looked out at Brody, weighed down by my load. Imagine a 115 lb girl hauling 150 lbs of gear around Europe on trains by herself… stooopid, but I’m stubborn to a fault. He stood in the colorful station and waved as the door closed. I was whisked away, bound for Bucharest, as our ski trip to Romania came to a close. When we arrived there was still a considerable amount of snow. In two weeks time we watched the snow disappear. Couloirs turned to rock and rollovers became waterfalls. We bought shorts because pants were unbearable. We skied some of the worst snow I have ever skied; snow covered in pine needles and gravel with sun cups that resembled rough waves in the sea. And we had a BLAST.

TWENTY.
Nearly a moment after I boarded the ship we left the harbor and went full speed ahead for St. Kilda, a small island in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. I woke to blue skies, calm seas, and gigantic towers of rock, covered in a curtain of white wings, birds flitting about the entirety of the massive spires. I rushed out of my bunk and onto the deck, camera in tow. Moments later we approached the island. I have never seen such a remote piece of wilderness. Enormous cliffs jutting out of the sea contrasted its lush hillsides. A short jaunt to the top revealed the vast blue Atlantic in all directions. I stretched my arms to the sky and embraced the ease and beauty of such a remarkable place.

TWENTY-ONE.
The entire group was back at 14 camp contemplating; calculating the pros and cons, the potential consequences and the reward. A small crew of 6 decided to stay past our out date and give it one more go. I had things I needed to do, but they were on hold for a month, they could wait a few more days. The final steps to the summit ridge I struggled to catch my breath; 10 steps, breathe for 20, 20 steps, breathe for 40. I was exhausted from the attempt only 1 day earlier with 1 day of rest in between. I took the final steps to the summit and everyone hooted and hollered. Clouds softened the beaming sun as euphoria buzzed between us and we exchanged high-fives and hugs.

TWENTY-TWO.

(There are no bears in this video… sorry.)
A seal lounged on a small piece of sea ice. “If you approach them slowly they don’t seem to get scared. I think they see the ship as a gigantic ice berg or something,” Martin, first mate of the Stockholm, mentioned later on. We couldn’t have been more than 10 meters away and noticed a white face with black beady eyes and a little black nose swimming silently behind a cluster of ice flows. “No Way…” I gasped under my breath. Everyone was silent. In a burst of motion the polar bear emerged from the water lunging onto the ice flow and landing in an enormous splash on the other side, the seal barely slipping away in front of his open jaw. The bear swam for a moment and crawled back onto the ice flow stunned and defeated. He then slid back into the water and swam away slowly into the abyss, continuing the relentless search for sustenance in the vast puzzle pieces of melting sea ice.
TWENTY-THREE.
At 11:55 the crew of the Stockholm summoned everyone for a toast. I was a bit confused as we had already toasted to a successful journey and everyone seemed to have said goodbye and retired to their rooms. Anika appeared with Champaign glasses for all and Peter shouted “1 MINUTE!” The last few stragglers shuffled into the galley. “Midnight!” Peter said and everyone raised their glasses, “Happy Birthday!” and the room full of Germany and Swedish friends began to sing (in English!), followed by hugs and warm wishes from all. We reconvened a few hours later and danced at a disco club 78 degrees north of the equator into the early wee of the morning. I couldn’t have asked for a better celebration, or better company. Thank you. What a treat.

“You know, with your life, you should get down on your knees and pray to the powers above every single day.” Peter said to me this week. He couldn’t be more right. Thank you to all the friends, mountain partners, vadering cohorts, family members, and followers. After all, experiences aren’t much if you don’t have someone to share them with.
Bear Hugs from the #greatwhitenorth.
Much Love,
Kt