Crossing The Arctic Circle

1 Aug

July 27, 2019

Mo and I departed Nuuk in the late afternoon for the short climb to Sisimiut, Greenland’s second largest city, population 5,500.

The leg was uneventful, a mix of fast sailing and fast motoring on a fast north-setting current, except in two ways.

One, at 1800 hours on July 26, 2019, day 251 of the Figure 8 Voyage, Mo and Randall crossed 66 30N latitude and thusly sailed inside the Arctic Circle.

This circle carries several definitions, “the line above which trees do not grow and the ground does not thaw” being less common than “the parallel of latitude north of the equator that marks the northernmost point at which the sun is visible on the northern winter solstice and the southernmost point at which the midnight sun can be seen on the northern summer solstice.”

Thus the phrase, “land of the midnight sun.

Sticklers in the audience will argue that owing to precession, this latter circle is a moving target who’s boundary is currently closer to 66 34N, but the line is often stated simply as “above north 66 and a half,” and in any case, we crossed both.

The Arctic Circle also serves as a start and, on the other side, a finish line for the Northwest Passage. Compare our highest latitude in the south, Cape Horn, at a very raw 56S; now we are ten degrees above that in north latitude with roughly ten more degrees to achieve before we can turn to the south and homeward.

And this tidbit by way of confirmation that we are entering a cold country: at 66 57N, “Sisimiut…is the first settlement on the west coast [of Greenland] where sledge dogs are kept.” (Andrew Wilkes, ARCTIC AND NORTHERN WATERS, Imray).

The second diversion on this uneventful passage was the discovery of an engine oil leak. I’ve been happy to exercise the motor so much on these hops up form St John’s because if a mechanical problem is to develop, I’d prefer it develop here rather than in the Canadian or Alaskan Arctic. Greenland’s “cities” may be small relative to what citizens of middle latitudes expect, but they are veritable metropolises when set beside what we will find further on.

The leak began ten hours into a twenty-hour motoring session, produces up to one drop of black oil every five seconds, and is coming from the aft of the engine. Further assessment awaits arrival in Sisimiut.

This article was syndicated from The Figure 8 Voyage


  1. TJ Young

    I never comment on feeds. Nor do I “follow” others pages … but I can’t wait to see your feeds and check your progress. This, I think, says something about your writing. The brevity is a key I think. Hemingway-ish. I find your voyage incredibly interesting and wish you the best of luck! Safe journey!!

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