There is an open bridge policy aboard the Explorer. Passengers can wander in and out any time of the day or night. I have spent a fair amount of time there so far this trip. Typically, I have to open the door with my elbow because I have coffee, binoculars, and camera in hand. I tend to hunker down and stay awhile.
The bridge is impressive for a few reasons. With all of the lights, buttons, screens, and levers, it’s like walking onto the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. The kid in me wants to press every damn button, turn every dial. I’m sure one of the buttons engages the Explorer’s warp drive. Unfortunately, my not-so-inner child will have to keep his hands to himself because a standing rule on the bridge is, “Don’t touch anything!” They obviously made it with kids like me in mind. It’s a good rule, but will it be enough to contain this intrepid, amateur explorer?
I hope so… I certainly don’t want to get kicked off, because the most impressive thing about being on the bridge is being able to comfortably take in the commanding view of this cold, alien landscape. On this particular morning, an Arctic scene unfolds before the lucky denizens of the Explorer’s bridge. We all watch a cloud bank pour over the top of a distant mountain ridge, quickly expanding to fill the fjord that we are slowly motoring down. I imagine it’s what an advancing glacier looks like over the course of geologic time. This “glacier” swallows the mountain in a matter of moments. It takes real glaciers thousands of years to do the same. As a fog settles in around us, I step outside to listen to the Arctic. Serene. Not a sound, other then the small wake that is gently breaking around the slow moving hull. The fog breaks momentarily. A glinty ray of sunshine dances off a distant glacier, making it glimmer and glow. A chunk of ice calves, giving the kittiwakes something to look for.
As I stepped back on the bridge to get a break from the cold, I glanced down underneath the window and noticed a long row of notches carved into a piece of trim. They are clearly there to keep track of something. Odd to see such a low-tech information gathering system in such a high-tech world. I asked the captain what they indicated. “Polar bear sightings,” he responded. “A red one means that they were feeding on a kill.” Hopefully we’ll get to carve a couple of notches of our own on this expedition… Stay tuned!