Due to an unscheduled military exercise occurring off the coast, our agenda was pushed back several hours, which allowed us to take a leisurely tour of Murmansk. Soviet-era buildings are prevalent in this city of about 300,000, the northernmost in Russia. The trees here are smaller than they are in other parts of the country, since summer is so short. In fact, they often have measurable snow as late as the end of June.
After (barely) clearing security, we boarded the 50 Years of Victory, the crown jewel of the Russian icebreaker fleet. First up on the agenda was a mandatory intro and safety meeting, followed by dinner. Mushroom soup, ocean perch, duck, and wine. Around midnight, we launched into the Barents Sea and by 2:00 AM were in open water. A steady diet of Dramamine and soup are the only items on the menu, at least for me, until we reach the ice - most likely tomorrow morning.
We will search for whales, narwhal, and a variety of other arctic fauna, including numerous types of sea birds. It has become noticeably colder as we head north east, and so the long underwear we packed may soon come into play.