My fascination towards polar regions dates back to my childhood, when I used to read Jack London’s White Fang and Call of the Wild. I remember watching the amazing series “Far North” with my father. I also remember watching Disney’s Sleeping Beauty for the first time, and the first spark formed when I learned the meaning of Aurora, the name of the beautiful princess who was enchanted by the black fairy and was to be woken up by the kiss of her true lover. Northen Light has been associated with Aurora, ever since. Then I came upon Amundsen and Scott’s story and their epic voyage to South Pole.
I love ice, rain and snow, and I love adventure. So, in the summer of 2015, on a gloomy night, it occured to me, that I was not going to sit and let life decide for me. I was the one who decided for my life all those times. Shit happens, but I won’t let anything come between me and my dreams. Misfortunes are gifts. You observe more widely, sense more strongly, and learn to make a weapon out of them to fight back. After all, that’s what adventures means. To get through the obstacles, no matter how stiff they seem.
…I arrived in Moscow in the morning and found AA who was supposed to lead me to my temporary residence. I had to stay there until nightfall, then take my next flight to Murmansk, the northernmost city on earth, the resting place of the most powerful icebreaker ship in the whole wide world: 50 Years of Victory. They had named her after their 50th victory in WWII.
It was 8:45 and I was waiting in the lobby for other group members to join. In the meanwhile, AG was giving me the required information about my upcoming voyage. We made friends instantly. Then, I met SH and AD who happened to be long time friends. I commented on his look and how he resembled Andy Latimer, lead vocalist of Camel. AD was from Italy. They turned out to be among the coolest guys I’ve ever met, and my friends for life.
… We arrived in Murmansk at 1:45 am under the relentless sunshine. Murmansk’s airport is very small, it could barely host four aircrafts at once. We had been led immediately to the luggage conveyor belt, but as soon as I put step in the building, a mysterious man came forward, with his cold look, seeking my passport and ID, as if he had found a criminal. They ordered me to get my luggage and follow them. Everybody was staring at me, making me bear more pressure in this humiliating situation. AG and AA accompanied me all the way to the building. They started to check my passport without even asking a thing. AG and AA tried to talk them out and convince them that I was a simple adventurer, heading the northen part of earth. After 40 minutes, when they had been persuaded that I was not a danger to them(and not humanity, you will learn later), they let me out to join my intrigued fellow passengers. Then I found out that they did the same thing to another easterner. Turned out every black haired person was to be treated so.
…we entered the city and headed for Azimut hotel. Murmansk is a logistic city, with no tourist attractions. It was so spiritless, as if World War two had ended the night before and then it had been evacuated. You could hear the noise of used newspapers dancing with leaves at the corner of the pavements, under the huge shadow of cube like buildings, just to show off the brutal sunshine that was sheltering us.
…45 minutes later, I was in my VIP room, served with fresh fruit and the most comfortable bed I could think of.
…after eating breakfast we went to a meeting room for a briefing about our voyage. I sat beside this humble and friendly man who happened to be the manager of the Nike company in Taiwan. Ian, the expedition leader, did a great job enlighting us about our voyage and what we could anticipate during our two week trip to north pole. And that we would need a vacation after this vacation and how we were embarking on a once in a life time experience. He also informed us about the most tiresome part of our voyage, passing through the most restricted area of Murmansk: their nuclear facilities. After all, their ship was going to be our home for the next two weeks. Based on his briefing, everyone could anticipate inquisitive yet polite behavior from Russian officers in Murmansk’s most restricted harbor.
…We passed through the fences, got out of the bus and stared at this huge, man made object which was supposed to take us to a region reigned by the most dangrous creatures on earth: polar bears. And nothing could be more intimidating than the excitement of the stunning beauty that awaited us, up there!
To be continued…