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My Baptism by Ice

As I write this I'm on a cruise ship north of the Arctic Circle (66° 30'N latitude). My first venture this far north. We crossed the magical line at approximately 7:18 a.m. when I was sleeping. But at 10:15 a.m. on the aft deck level seven we celebrated our entrance into the Arctic. It was certainly more profane then scared and more entertaining than profound, but I'm glad I was there. Neptune made an appearance along with the ship's captain, as did the jolly entertainment master and all round carer of passenger well-being.  After a speech by Neptune, in Norwegian, English and German, those of us with just the right combination of courage and foolishness knelt before the captain or Neptune and were "baptised," which meant having a very large ladle of ice water and ice cubs being poured down our backs. I should note there is no photo of my ice baptism because my wife abandoned the aft deck, where brave souls knelt before captains and gods, for the warm soft comforts of the lounge. I do have, however, a certificate with my name, signed by the captain, verifying that I did indeed travel north of 66° 30'N.

On the first and second nights of this adventure I was fortunate to see the Northern Lights again a first for me. On the second night, the more dramatic of the two, a woman standing next to me, from somewhere south of Manchester, asked, "How does this happens?" The answer is this: the Lights are caused when hot plasma of electrons and positive ions is expelled from the sun and interact with gases in the earth's upper atmosphere (the journey from sun to earth takes about eighteen minutes). The earth's magnetic field drives the electrons and protons to the north and south poles, thus we have Northern Lights (aurora borealis), and Southern Lights (aurora australis), though no one speaks of the later. The most common interaction is with oxygen which results in the familiar green hue. More uncommon is with nitrogen which causes a dramatic red glow. My Northern Lights were a whitish green, but mostly white. I suppose in the first incident it is their beauty that attracts us, but it must also be their strangeness, and perhaps the notion of the sun's odd influence on the everydayness of our sky. A lot of people have the Northern Lights on their bucket-list (where the hell did that phrase come from?). If I had a bucket-list I could now cross off the Northern Lights (hands up if you have the Southern Lights on your bucket-list).

MS NordnorgeI'm on the MS Nordnorge, big enough to be impressive and small enough to be intimate. Either way she's no Love Boat. The cold wind blows around the MS Nordnorge most the day. The crew, unlike the forever beautiful and helpful Love Boat staff, can be a bit tetchy at times. Well, that's not quite fare. The women who clean our rooms and serve our meals are great, willing to talk and laugh at my jokes. But the folks in the more authoritative roles, mostly men, seem a bit annoyed by our questions and our occasional mistakes (Where precisely were we to meet for the bus tour excursion? Oh, not actually on the bus, you say). As a general rule, unless a passenger is a real pain in the ass or causing concern, you don't argue with them. I spent years in a job where the same general rule applied, and while there were numerous times I wanted to throttle someone for being annoying or simply stupid, I smiled instead. Most folks are OK and these folks are on holiday (for which they paid handsomely).

Still, I'm loving this boat ride. The fjords are dramatic and beautiful. The food is great. The being on water gives one a sense of, not isolation, but of being unreachable, which is not an unpleasant feeling.

Copyright © 2013 Dale Rominger

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