Sunday 14th September
During the night we entered open sea (Barents Sea) and experienced a ‘perfect storm’.
The high pressure over Europe and the high pressure over the Arctic squeezed the approaching low pressure from the Atlantic creating strong winds, high seas and meteorological confusion that results in swirling water, and during the night 29 foot high waves with a forecast of even higher, maybe up to 70 foot!!! This led to the ships four stabilisers breaking and although reaching 71.5 degrees north the ports ahead of us are small so the captain turned around and headed for the shelter of the fjords and the largest port in the area at Alta. We arrived here in the early afternoon.
We are staying here, using the ship as a hotel, until at least late Monday with the hope that German engineers will fly in and conduct repairs. We are currently planning our independent exploration of this infrequently visited place, which is the headquarters of the Midnight Sun observations.
There are people on board who would have left the ship at the terminus of the northbound journey at Kirkenes. As a result they have been provided with a coach journey of 7 hours across the mountains to the airport in time for their Monday plans.
This is the true North. As we write we see vast expanses of bare, grey granite with ice fields on the highest summits and stunted bushes and small trees showing signs of autumn in the geographical region known as ‘The Taiga’ which is just short of the tundra of the Polar regions which we would have seen if we had made the journey to Kirkenes. This is the only section of true tundra in Europe.