The weather is still pretty rough, and we have been told to expect high winds, and therefore rough seas, for the next 24 or 36 hours. Most disappointingly, my trip driving a snowmobile through the night has been cancelled because we will not be able to dock at the small port where we were due to start. It seems that our (passive) husky-drawn sledge ride tomorrow will be OK, but not my (active) snowmobile drive. I am disappointed, but on the positive side the refund will pay for most of our (expensive!) drinks on the voyage. My excitement is thus transferred to a dip in the Barents sea, in a wooden enclosure lowered behind the boat. Only four passengers have volunteered for this ordeal, and one of them is our dinner-table companion, so we might get some vicarious thrill out of watching him. Meanwhile we have to try to sleep in the rolling and pitching ship.
…. successfully as it happens: the night was quieter than expected. We are just about to land at Kirkenes, the final port, and take our husky-sledge ride. The temperature is only -1C, but I have donned my long johns anyway. Having brought them all this way I’m going to use them!
I may not have revealed earlier that I have not shaved since we set out. In all my lives as student, angry young man, pathetic middle-aged man and elegant silvery fox I have never grown a beard. I thought it might be fun to try – away from the most viciously mocking eyes – and it should help with insulation against the cold. Gwen will take a picture before we return because I *will* shave it off!
The husky trip was a great success. For the first time we really felt that we were in the Arctic. It was not very cold (about -2C) but with plenty of fresh snow. We sat behind eight (Alaskan) huskies and were driven through woods and across a frozen fjord. Absolutely delightful. Because of the fresh snow the sledges could not go very fast, so we were slightly late back to the boat (a couple of minutes after the scheduled departure time). We hurried up the gangplank, which was immediately raised behind us and the boat set off. We are now on our way back!