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The Arctic Circle Initiation

NEAR THE ARCTIC CIRCLE –- Hello from "north of 60," as in 60 degrees north. We're edging ever closer to the Arctic Circle (now in Davis Strait), and that means enduring the time-honored nautical traditional of the "crossing ceremony." Call it initiation, call it a hazing, but there are rumors of head-shaving and eating rather unappetizing ocean delights. All first-timers have to go through it. (Something about appeasing King Neptune? Or is it Queen, in this case? I can't recall.) At the pace we're going we should cross tomorrow sometime. What will happen to our intrepid CBS News bunch? Come back to find out!

We spotted a small pod of minke whales off the starboard bow this morning, and a number of Arctic birds called fulmars. Chubby little white things. Not much else except a massive, uninterrupted sky. It's decidedly colder, especially with the wind. I think we're all a little restless, ready to see the pack ice and more wildlife. But it's coming. In the next couple days we're also going to dig deeper into the science behind the expedition and follow a sampling station from start to finish. In the meantime today we tested our satellite equipment from the stern deck to see if we could send back live video at any point. Everything went according to plan, though my mouth was nearly frozen by the time it was all done.

Incidentally, my dad is onboard as an electronics technician and all-around support guy. He's been traveling to the Arctic for as long as I can remember, and that goes back nearly 30 years. He's seen it all up here, including the changing landscape and diminishing ice. In 1994, he even got married when the Louis S. St-Laurent made it all the way to the North Pole on a historic journey. You could say ice runs through his veins. (Well, not in an emotional way, but you get my drift.) Anyway, we've had a daily chess game since I got onboard, and in keeping with precedent, he's been beating me soundly every time. OK, I came close one day. I'll pick his brain a little –- along with some of the impressive scientists onboard -– as we go northward. The institutional memory of these researchers is extremely valuable in interpreting their results.

(Remember all that oversleeping I mentioned? I think it may be quashed with nightmares about the upcoming crossing!)

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