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Random Thoughts from a Ship's Deck

Phototrips can be bloody tiring.


I reached home a little after noon. A journey that was a tale of delayed flights, missed connecting flights and the general sense of stress that comes with such situations. There’s a sense of reassurance when you are back in familiar comforts and the desire to relish in doing nothing is so tempting.


But this post is due today, so here I am, pounding on the keyboard.


So…Svalbard …hmmm


I am still struggling to describe it. The same old, tired adjectives seem terribly insufficient . Maybe, over the next few weeks, the memories will crystallise , the photos will take form and the stories get re told in my mind.


For now, I thought I will share some unconnected, disjointed thoughts while on the ship. ( we were on a ship roaming around the different fjords of Svalbard for 9 days..or was it 10 days ? )


*****


I stood on the deck, my hands deep in my pocket searching for some hidden warmth , shoulders bunched up, looking out at sea. The table top mountains swept downwards to meet the sea, the remaining snow forming an eye catching pattern on the slopes. Dark clouds hovered above, the reflection off the snow creating a glow above the mountains.


An iceberg floated in blissful isolation. A fulmar casually swooped around the ship, using the air currents, unmindful of the temperature. A guillemot crashed into the waters, utterly comfortable in the freezing waters. Somewhere out there there a whale might be quietly sinking down into the dark depths of the water.


How does it feel to be in the middle of nowhere?

Nowhere


*****


I wondered about the explorers from a different age. What drove them to venture into the totally unknown? Recognition…Glory ? Or the restless stirrings of adventure of the unknown mysteries ... the yearning to find out what lay beyond.


Or…was it the most common reason- money? The riches you could get if you’re the first to discover a new land wasn’t inconsequential.


But, there has to be that sense of adventure. Can’t be just commerce.


Come on.


Please.

Adventure


*****


A grey mist hung, forlorn and stubborn. I couldn’t see beyond a couple of hundred feet. The horizon hung, a sulky, obscure grey line behind the grey curtain . A few guillemots flew around us listlessly. The ice for which we had timed this trip, could be seen in the distance, a crust of white barely visible through the mist.


Our ship moved glacially towards it.


Will we see a bear ?


Patterns


*****


There was a Hindi cricket commentator who loved to say a bowler appealed with utsah zyada aur ummeed kam. ( Essentially... more enthusiasm than hope )


I was reminded of that phrase as I stood on the bridge scanning the sea of white in front of me through my binoculars for the elusive yellow dot which just could be a polar bear .


I am terrible at being able to spot anything in the wild.


Nevertheless, I stood, legs slightly apart, binoculars raised, looking rather alert, with the assumed air of an expert. It felt important.


( Of course, I didn’t spot anything )


Bear Country


*****


The counting of the votes was in progress.


I stayed on the deck in the sub zero temperature of the early morning, holding my camera, focused on the guillemots. I tried a slow shutter speed of a flock but what I was really chasing was a slow shutter speed of a single guillemot taking off. A group of three guillemots teased me for a long while, bobbing up and down in the icy waters showing no inclination of flying off. Occasionally, patience pays off…got a few.


But we photographers are a finicky lot, I was wanting to catch a flash their red feet too as they land or take off.


That is tough.


Sigh. Why is easy, boring ?




*****


Elections? What elections ? When the initial numbers were coming out and which were contrary to what the expectations were, I was as detached as anyone could be. If not trying to get images of the guillemots, I would be lost in watching the desolate Arctic beauty. The numbers occasionally floating upto me left me vaguely disinterested.


Maybe there’s still hope for me. Or maybe I was afraid to hope.


Desolation


*****


Spending ten days on a ship isn’t a usual experience. The ships that we have used in both our trips aren’t luxury liners. They’re smaller ships, more than 70 years old, with a maximum capacity of 12 guests. comfortable and right for the job but some might also describe it as basic.


However, we develop a familiarity bordering on fondness for them. We walked onto our ship MS Origo instantly comparing it with our last ship, the Malmo. Unfavourably.


Oh look at the deck…it’s half in size of the Malmö’s. And no chairs too.


These rooms are so small!!!


Boy, it’s a pain to open any of these doors…it’s tough and it’s heavy enough to injure.


There’s no library room ? Malmo had so many more books !


Origo grew on us. We started opening the heavy doors with nonchalance. The rooms got organised easily with some help. I lounged around the spacious dining room chatting with others or reading Amitava Kumar’s The Yellow Book - a traveler’s diary ( a rather appropriate book for the situation ) I often sat on the upper deck, alone, gazing out into the sea.


Human nature…it adapts rather easily once we get over the cribbing.

MS Origo


*****


It was past ten in the night and the sun shone with a gay abandon that one rarely associates it with in these parts. The ship gently rolled on the deep blue waters as it whistled to our next destination.


Some of us stood on the upper deck, a few sipping cognac, the others simply soaking in the sunshine, all of us frequently doubling up with laughter as the jokes flowed as easily.


Life felt good.

Joy

 

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6 Comments


Beautiful memories ...

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😊

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Loved it! Took me back to those random, joyful moments

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Thank you :)

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Loved the Drone shots.

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Oh those were nerve wracking moments ! The first time I was using one in the wild and needed to lean on my friends quite a bit :)

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