“It was quite an experience to make the passage north on the 50 let Pobeby (50 Years of Victory). I knew she was a powerful icebreaker but she turned out to be much bigger and stronger than I expected!!
When I was in Svalbard we were stopped by pack ice (true the ship was only ice hardened), but this time when we reached the first ice she did not slow down from 15 knots (maybe a half knot or so), she just kept going. It was only later that the speed of advance was reduced to around two knots when we met the older and thicker ice, and only once did we have go astern and have another ‘bash’ at a particularly thick ‘pressure ridge’.
We finally reached 090.000° North on 5 August. For me it was a strange feeling; no real emotion (unlike some of my fellow passengers – cheering, jumping up and down etc) just the thought ‘Done it’. A bit like, for me, getting to the top of a big(ish) mountain. Pleased to have got there and to just quietly enjoy the moment.
Anyway, after the various celebrations, it was off to find a safe ‘parking place’. Much to my surprise there was open water – not very much, but enough to make unsafe to go on to the ice at that point. This ‘little’ task was easier said than done!! It took the best part of 10 hours to find a secure spot.
Once parked we could get onto the ice for photos, ‘The world’s most northerly BBQ Lunch’ (more like supper but who was to know?) – and also for some brave souls to take ‘The Arctic Plunge’. I was not one of them! (In actual fact we were about six miles from the actual pole, but who is telling!!!!
Later on we sailed south towards Franz Josef Land (Rudolf Island and Teplitz Bay). This passage took just a little over 24 hours as we followed our northerly track which meant a little less hard going and an easy passage through the ice.
The landing at Teplitz Bay unfortunately had to be aborted as there were a number of polar bears ‘camping’ in the old weather station so we had to settle for a zodiac trip, then continued on to Cape Norway, where Nansen and Johansen overwintered in 1895/6 (made them hard in those days!!!) From there the overnight passage to Champ Island and its spherical stones (geodes) – once again we nearly had to abort the landing as there was a large polar bear taking its morning stroll but this time our Russian friends, after watching its progress along the fore shore, gave the word that it was safe to land. Interesting and well worth seeing these stones .
After the landings we made towards Tikhaya Bukhta with a quick pause at Rubini Rock (in mist) By this time we had gone from sun to mist, thick sea fog and drizzle!! Landing at Tikaya Buktha we had a good idea what a drab place it could be for the Russian Park Rangers who lived at the base there. I enjoyed the walk round the site and was pleased to see the Russians have started to clean the place up, but still have a long way to go. I was told by a staff member a vast improvement had been made over the last year. I made a mental note to check Ny Aalesund’s claim to be the most Northern Post Office but I think Tikhaya Bukhta is further north? (There is an official sign outside the hut – Tikhaya Bay Post Office 163110)
After the visit to Tikhaya Bukhta we started the journey back to Murmansk to arrive there in the early morning of 11 August for a short bus tour of Murmansk. I think all I will say about Murmansk is I am glad I do not live there and leave it that.
So, as you can tell, I found the ‘adventure’ both rewarding and educational and also met some interesting people, especially among the English-speaking Chinese and Russian passengers.
Once again thank you for putting the trip together for me and therefore making it a resounding success”.