Sailing east off the north coast of Spitsbergen in fairly bad weather and rough sea. Heading towards White Island (Kvitoya). Watched the movie Mary Score Shelley’s Frankenstein. Ship pitching and rolling as we sailed through the night. Secured ourselves in our seats and watched, and endured, the film A with an eye always on the dramatically shifting horizon occasionally visible through the portholes.

Diary entry 16 September 2011.

The story of Frankenstein begins with the British explorer Captain Robert Walton sailing to the North Pole when his boat gets stuck in the ice and an air of despair descends over him and his crew. The despair is interrupted by the sight of a man riding a dog sledge across the ice coming towards the boat. The man turns out to be Victor Frankenstein, the creator of the Frankenstein Monster. Victor tells Walton his life story and soon after he falls ill and dies.

The Frankenstein story develops as a series of tragic episodes that centre on the fear of the Monster, the ethics of its creation, and how it is perceived as dangerous and murderous; whilst its feelings, emotions and sensitivity, are deeply misunderstood. Eventually the mounting tide of regret and revenge result in Victor chasing the Monster across the globe and he eventually encounters him, self exiled in the Arctic, close to the North Pole. The Monster on finding the dead Victor on board the stricken ship, takes him away onto the ice, where he too goes to die.


Still from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

The weather worsened and we never made it to Kvitoya, instead we headed back west and south into the shelter of the land. At Rijpfjorden we landed Fornecedores and on the way to Rijpbreen glacier we came across a dead polar bear that had probably died of starvation from being stranded on the island due to the lack of sea ice which would have normally enabled it to roam and hunt for seals. The barren land of Nordaustlandet held little in the way of food in the winter period, fast approaching at that time of year. Accounts of bears coming into settlements and attacking humans, whilst not commonplace, are increasingly reported, as is the somewhat justifiable reputation of the polar bear as a skilled predator and hunter. To attribute such characteristics as instinctive or genetic however, fails to recognise that a substantial impact on the current behavior of polar bears is due to human activity.  In particular the warming effect of carbon emissions causing a dramatic reduction in the volumes of sea ice have led to increasing difficulties for the bears to migrate in the winter. On 16 September 2011 Image the levels of Arctic sea ice were extremely low.

As I write now twelve months later, sea ice in the Arctic region has shrunk a dramatic 18% this year to a record low of 3.41m sq km. We have in the second decade of this century already exceeded the predictions for Arctic ice melt for the end of the century and are facing huge challenges to the way we currently live our lives. There is irrefutable evidence that our economically driven and uncontrollable desire for energy consumption has had a dramatic climatic effect on the way the Arctic region behaves. Changes in the Arctic conditions will have a potentially irreversible knock on effect that will threaten our way of life, unless we make some significant changes.

Depressingly cheap mlb jerseys the new race to explore the Arctic and extract its resources for economic gain is on. ‘Lets go up there and drill for oil’ Alphabets is the cry of Shell and others. There is no more perfect indictment of our failure to seriously address one of the greatest threats to humanity.

Who are the real monsters of the Arctic as we move from fiction to the future?


Chris Wainwright

16 September 2012