Research cruise through the eyes of a novelist - Zygmunt Miłoszewski runs BaltArctic Cruise Logbook

What does oceanographic research look like from a writer's perspective? What do the professions of researcher and artist have in common? And how does the concept of the hero's journey relate to a scientific career? Follow Zygmunt Miłoszewski's logbook from the BaltArctic Research Cruise


The vagabond gene

fot. Zygmunt Miłoszewski

The long goodbye • Is science boring? • True nature and timid civilization • The river flows both ways • Waffles and fine dining • We are not rock stars

Bodø beyond the Arctic Circle, the nineteenth and final day of the expedition. In a moment I come off the board of the Oceanograf as one of the last, the ship is empty and quiet, there is no queue for the express machine, no slamming of the lab door, board games are packed. The ship is getting ready to receive a new scientific team – mostly students – who are about to set off back south, via Malmö to Gdańsk.

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The cook must stay

a stocki

An hour of night • We miss our families, but we're sad it's over • Are students allowed to eat dessert? • How the ship parks • A writer comes in handy sometimes • Banana hunting

We live in a postcard from the north. A sea so smooth that the water looks like liquid metal in the sun, it’s warm and crisp at the same time, with toothy Norwegian islands on the horizon and snow-capped mountain peaks behind them. A small whale with funny white fins, identified as a common minke whale, circles around the Oceanograf. At night we all celebrated the last night on board – it lasted an hour, the sun went down half an hour after midnight and almost immediately rose a few dozen minutes later. There are only fifty nautical miles left to the Arctic Circle, so we won’t experience darkness until the end of the voyage.

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Colors of fire


The sky in the north • The need to walk • Polish waffle colonizes Norway • Nerd and adventurer sail on a date • European board game championships

Saturday, the thirteenth day of the cruise. We left Bergen last night to enter one of the most beautiful phenomena I’ve ever seen in my life. You know that moment when the sun sets over the sea, the sky burns intensely with the colors of fire for a moment, then the colors fade, night falls and the beach becomes empty. Here, just below the Arctic Circle, the sun sets, the sky lights up – and stays that way. Half the sky glows orange and red for several hours before the sun reappears above the horizon.

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Bucket and a drop

Wiadro i kropla

The wind blows hard • The great expedition of the small Baltic • The scientific bucket • The cure for the mania of grandeur • The ocean looks like a spinach smoothie • A sip of monsters

The tenth day of the expedition, we sailed from Kiel five days ago and have only enjoyed calm weather for brief moments since. We haven’t encountered a really stormy one either, but the winds are blowing evenly all the time, and now we’ve also had to duck behind a rocky island below Stavanger – an old Viking settlement and now the oil capital of Norway – for a few hours so that the scientific team can carry out their research without risking dislodging themselves and their equipment from the deck.

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Parking for ships • The ocean does psychotherapy • Not everyone is an adventurer • Euro elections at sea

Want to make the ocean laugh, tell it your plans. On the morning of the eighth day of the expedition, we should be sampling off the coast of Norway, and we are standing huddled with twenty other ships behind the tip of Jutland waiting for good weather. Just above our car park in the Skagerrak Strait, evil lurks, in the form not so much of a strong wind, but of the waves that have been rushing through the Atlantic for days.

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The longest night


Appearances and truth • Bad forecast • Propaganda of success • How steaks let you look back a million years • So it goes

A short lecture on the physics of sailing. Toward the ship the wind is true, calculated in knots. Right now, for example, it’s a pleasant three degrees on the Beaufort scale, or more or less 10 knots (about 20 kilometres per hour). But on board we feel the apparent wind – the real wind together with that caused by the movement of the ship. That is, if we were sailing against the wind at our speed of 10 knots, on deck we’d be getting a headwind of 20, already a decent five bft. But since the wind is now blowing toward Oceanografer’s broad ass, the wind abates and we have a sunny beach on deck.

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Steel-eyed adventurers


Waves past Cape Rozewie • Spinach and seasickness • Passing Bornholm • The unknown seems familiar, but we're still excited

It’s Tuesday afternoon on the second day of the cruise. After sailing almost two hundred miles, we pass Bornholm, which allows us to catch Danish coverage for a while and call our families, still 24 hours to Kiel - where the real expedition begins. There is not much wind, the sea is almost flat, a nice change after yesterday evening, when a nasty Baltic swell and twenty knots of wind hit us as soon as we emerged from the protective shadow of the Hel Peninsula.

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edit. MJ/ZP