In our final report from Arctic Norway, correspondent John Cumberland has to get used to the idea of doing as he’s told – a radical concept indeed!
At the beginning of our Arctic voyage Swedish Captain Dan invited us to join him on the bridge at any time. First Officer Emil was similarly welcoming.
As you would expect, the bridge is an excellent viewing platform and warmer than other parts of the ship and so one took advantage of the kind offer, especially after a chilly morning pounding the decks ‘shooting’ polar bears. After a few days one was allowed to ‘do things’.
“Would you like to steer the ship?” suggested Emil on a misty afternoon sailing between some of Svalbard’s dark brown islands.
“Of course”! was my instant reply.
After gently rotating the surprisingly small dial, the ship obediently set off on course 031.
Cairns and Hamblin and fellow passengers were sipping tea downstairs in the ‘saloon’ and blithely unaware that the ship and ‘The Plan’ had been hijacked by a presumptuous course attendee. As the newly appointed (unofficial) ‘second officer’ and having duly set the course, I thought it wise to check the blue radar screen, especially as the sea mist continued to provide a soft background to the seascape, but not superb visibility.
There, slap bang in the middle of our course, appeared a large rectangular obstacle on the radar.
“What is that?” I enquired of our First Officer.
“Probably a large iceberg” he explained.
“So, we are on the Titanic course then?” I exclaimed.
“Ho, Ho! I have never heard it called that before!” tittered Emil.
At which point the large macho iceberg emerged from the mist.
“Ho, Ho, that is very funny” chuckled First Officer Emil.
A swift course correction seemed a more appropriate response and I modestly suggested course 034 to steer us to the starboard of the threatening iceberg.
“No, 029 to Port” contended our First Officer.
Now I don’t know about you, but as I had spotted the iceberg menace first and dubbed it the ‘Titanic course’ and had suggested the course correction, I felt my ‘vote’ should carry more weight in this matter than that of the First Officer. Who the hell did he think he was?
In exasperation, as the iceberg loomed even larger, I turned to the Captain and suggested a solution to this battle of wills: “Shouldn’t you arrest or shoot one of us (meaning the First Officer) to save the ship”? (the Captain held the key to a formidable arsenal of hunting weapons which belonged to the ship, so the shooting was more than a theoretical possibility!)
The surprisingly calm Captain ignored my advice and we continued at 10 knots on the potentially shipwrecking course 031. He took a sip of tea and pondered. The iceberg crept closer.
Those of you familiar with Maritime History will be aware that 12 April 2012 is the centenary of Titanic’s fatal voyage. You will also know that if the Captain had changed course earlier, disaster could have been avoided. Instead, Titanic scraped down the side of an iceberg, which was impregnated with boulders from a melting glacier and sheered off the heads of scores of rivets. The side of the ship simply popped open. We had photographed smaller icebergs like this a few days earlier.
Finally, almost at the last minute, our undemocratic First Officer seized the controls to the ‘bow thruster’ and neatly ‘side stepped’ our huge iceberg, which glided past in the mist.
No shots were fired and we were saved! I still think starboard 034 was the better option however. Damned stubborn these Swedes.
Note: Northshots sincerely hopes that the accounts of these seemingly frivolous events have not deterred any potential guests from joining us on future tours. If that turns out to be the case, we shall be speaking with Mr. Cumberland’s legal representatives.