Posted by: adorsk | June 10, 2007

Ultima Thule

Hi All,

Greetings from just Southwest of Iceland. Right now it’s about 8.3 degrees C (50ish F) outside and foggy.


There are roughly 300 m of water below the ship for the moment, but the depths are varying greatly. That’s because we’re right on top of the mid-Atlantic ridge! It’s kind of fun to watch the depths go from 1500m one hour to 300 m the next, as if we’re cruising over the Rockies.

Land of the Midnight Sun

Up here it’s light almost all the time. When I went to bed at 22:00 yesterday, it looked like early afternoon. Good thing my room is down below, otherwise I don’t know how I’d get to sleep.

In fact, when there’s so much light, I hardly feel tired at all when I go to bed. This makes we wonder: is sleepiness a matter of ‘stun’ or ‘sun’? What I mean is, do some people feel sleepy because of how much energy they’ve put out, or because of how much light they get, or something else? For me, I think light has a huge effect. Back on land I’d be worn down by 9:30 or so. Just something I was thinking about. If you ever go to a place with long days, see if you feel less tired.

Wind Riders

There are lots of birds around now that we’re in Northern waters. I love watching them. They glide low over the waves, following the contours. When a wave face looms right in front of them, they pull up just in time, always.

They fly around the ship until they spot herring (or whatever else comes up near the surface). Then they plop down and pop their heads under for a quick bite.

Sometimes they glide along the sides of the ship, hanging and turning in the wind as if on strings. Perhaps the spirit of Alexander Calder haunts the Atlantic skies.

wind rider close-up wind riderBirdFormation deck bird bird profile

The Iceland Cometh

Tomorrow morning we’ll pull into Reykjavik. Just this afternoon I heard Icelandic coming through the radio on the bridge. Reminds me a bit of the Swedish Chef on the muppet show. I hope my miming skills are good.

I’ve been reading a little about Iceland in my spare time. Some interesting facts:

  • Iceland is a nation of bibliophiles. If they were the size of the US, they would publish 1200 books per day (so says Lonely Planet). I love it already.
  • Icelanders have the longest working week of all European nations, averaging 50+ hours per week. Nearly everyone is employed. I guess this jibes with what my Dad posted, about things being super-expensive there.
  • Heated car seats? That’s nothing! Try heated streets. The streets in Reykjavik are heated from geothermal energy

I’m looking forward to getting into port. I’ll probably be helping the on- and off-coming science parties with their preparations, but I should be able to spend some time in the city. Maybe when I get back to Reykjavik in July I’ll go out into the countryside to see glaciers and waterfalls. Whatever happens, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Thanks for reading.


For this week’s post, I made a mash-up of the bridge. This is where the on-duty mates work, and where the ship’s navigation equipment is. I like to come up here after dinner and watch the wake from the bow.

Bridge Mash-up bow wake

And the coldest June cookout I’ve ever had…




  1. Alexander – there is a large body of research on circadian rhythms – that is, the normal rhythms of the body vis-a-vis sleep and waking. The hormone cortisol is secreted early in the morning, normally, but when one’s body rhythm is upset by constant sunlight or by working different shifts, such as shift workers at factories, the body doesn’t know when to produce the cortisol. So long as they stick to the same shift, they adjust their body rhythms. However, when they are on changing shifts, t hey fail to adjust and have all sorts of medical problems associated with the stress of failing to adapt (also accidents – at work and driving).
    Were your bunk not below, I would suggest using a sleep mask over your eyes, as given out on airlines on long flights.
    Remember our friends’ admonition – don’t order any food or buy anything but for necessities as everything is imported and very, very expensive. But, I agree with you, it is good to try to see somem of the terrain, especially the geysers and sources of the geothermal energy. When I was there many years ago, there were no trees that i saw, but that was just in Reykjavic and environs. Are there glaciers in Iceland?

  2. Hi Alexander – let’s try this again, first one was, oh well never mind. Anyway, I’m so enjoying reading of your adventures – so well-written, so interesting for me – I almost feel as if I’m on the ship – how exciting for you.

    The sleep theory is interesting because for me, as long as the sun is out, I’m totally energized – when it is cloudy and dark so am I.

    Keep on doing wonderfulo things – stay well. Nancy

  3. Hi from your brother.
    Sounds like you are having fun; I am as well. Working for the city is great.
    Hope the leatherman has come in handy.
    Take care.

  4. Hi Alexander,
    You’ve never met me, nor I you, but your Dad set me onto your blog and I’ve been following it. What fun!
    Your Dad and I were best buddies from elementary through high school in Petersburg, VA. We lost touch after graduation. I quite accidently reconnected with him about a year ago on the Internet Word-a-Day subscription that we both receive. He wrote a comment to one of the words of the week and I saw his name while scrolling through them. I emailed him and, as a result, my daughter Alexa and I will be traveling to Cape Elizabeth in July to visit your Mom and Dad and do a day or so of biking while we’re there.
    I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I’d love to see a picture of you in a subsequent entry. Would you be willing to get in front of the camera instead of behind it? If not, I’m sure I’ll see you in pictures in Maine.
    Thanks for contributing to my maritime education! I’ll keep reading. Barb

  5. Wow Alex wonderful descriptions. As I was in Ireland last year I remember how much more extreme the levels of daylight changed from winter to summer–but now you’re way above that!

    Great pictures, once again! Enjoy the island!

  6. Hi Alexander – I love reading about your adventures, written with your wonderful sense of humor. It is really great for those of us who have not seen what you are seeing – all very exciting. Be well. Nancy Ricker

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