The Arctic Ocean Diaries: Dispatch No. 4
Julia Whitty is on a three-week-long journey aboard the the US Coast Guard icebreaker Healy, following a team of scientists who are investigating how a changing climate might be affecting the chemistry of ocean and atmosphere in the Arctic.
Last night those of us on night watch—or those who stayed up especially for it—saw the show of a lifetime. The forecast was for a strong aurora borealis starting around midnight local time. The skies had been overcast and worse all day, as we frequently sailed into blinding snow squalls. There didn’t seem a whole lot of hope that we’d get a glimpse of the magical polar lights.
I spent a couple of hours on Healy‘s bridge staring out into the night. The bridge is the highest interior space on the ship, five decks above the main deck, with wraparound windows designed to give whomever is sailing the ship a view in all directions. The bridge at night is one of my favorite parts of being at sea: hushed, completely dark except for pinpoints of red light (red light maintains your night vision), with an intimate view, no matter how dark the night, of sea and sky. It’s a cocoon of intense concentration, punctuated by the soft chimes of the ship’s bells marking time.
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