Destination Discovery: The Polar Ice Cap

by Janis on July 23, 2010

The Polar Ice Cap viewed from the deck of the Prisendam

Cruising at the Top of the World onboard the ms Prinsendam    

 People often ask us about our favorite port during our 130-day European adventure in 2007. A tough question, because it’s difficult to compare Europe’s diverse ports. Venice, Sochi, and Leknes, in Norway’s Lofoten Islands, are just a few examples.  We enjoyed them all – for very different reasons – making it hard to choose one favorite.  But ask us about our most unique European scenic cruising experience, and we have a quick answer: sailing into the Polar Ice Cap onboard the Prinsendam.    

What’s the Polar Ice Cap?    

The earth’s North Pole is covered by sea ice or pack ice floating over the Arctic Ocean. If you look closely at National Geographic’s “The World” map, it contains an indication of “the winter extent of sea ice” near both poles. Each year during July and August, some of this ice pack melts, shrinking the solid mass of ice cap.  Between the frozen mass and the open sea is a section of the Arctic Ocean with pieces of sea ice floating on the water’s surface.  To us, it is “chunky”, like ice cubes in a cocktail.   

Captain Turner (red jacket) and a junior officer navigate the Prinsendam in the Polar Ice.

 Onboard the ms Prinsendam, Captain Christopher M. Turner and his crew carefully navigated our ship into this “chunky” water. We spent half of a day in the midst of the Polar Ice Cap.  Hear the excitement in this brief video clip.   

508.5 Nautical Miles from the North Pole         

Since the melting occurs at different rates each year, the exact location changes every year.   2007 was a heavy melt year, and the Prinsendam sailed further north than in prior years — to the nautical position of 81°31, 5′ N, or 508.5 nautical miles from the geographical North Pole.           

The 100th Voyage of the ms Prinsendam         

If you’ve sailed on Holland American ships, you know that most of the crew is from Indonesia and the Philippines – the climatic opposite of the Polar Ice Cap.  It was cold out on those decks in the middle of that giant sea-and-ice cocktail. Witnessing the officers’ and crew’s excitement and enthusiasm as they gathered on the ship’s bow for a staff photo celebrating the Prinsendam’s 100th voyage was another treat for the guests.           

No Sunset         

The temperature may be cool, but the sun never sets between late May and July this far north. Cruise programs usually list the times of sunrise and sunset. Here the program simply stated “No Sunset” on the days above the North Cape.             

Getting to the Polar Ice Cap         

We experienced the Polar Ice Cap on the 18-Day Top of the World cruise aboard the ms Prinsendam.         

For 2011, Holland America Line has scheduled scenic cruising of the Polar Ice Cap on Saturday, August 6th aboard the ms Prinsendam. This scenic cruising is part of the 21-Day Arctic Explorer cruise, sailing from Tilbury, England (London) on July 25 and returning to Amsterdam on Monday August 15.         

For another perspective on the Polar Ice Cap experience, check out this post from the Happy Alaskan blog.         

          

We enjoy discovering new and unusual places.  What about your travel passion? What’s your favorite destination discovery? Please share in comments.         

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