Searching for the Vikings

Sunday, August 27 - Day 26: At Sea in the Atlantic Ocean

Today it started out foggy again, but since we’re in the middle of the ocean the Captain decided not to use the foghorn, as there’s nobody nearby to hear it, except the fish, and they don’t care. When we went to breakfast, we noticed that everybody on board is still drunk from last night. Oh, wait. Sorry, that’s the rolling of the ship. Either that, or we’re drunk too, and we didn’t drink anything. We changed time zones again last night, but this time we set the clock back an hour, so we get an extra hour of sleep, in theory. In fact, it just means we woke up at 6:30 instead of 7:30.

I wrote above “At Sea in the Atlantic Ocean”, which is true. I was going to write North Atlantic, but then I thought maybe it’s still the North Sea. I’m not sure which one we’re in. The maps and atlases don’t have little dotted lines indicating where the boundaries are. I didn’t see any dotted lines in the water either.

At 9:00 we attended another one of Dr. Hannesson’s lectures. Yes, he’s still with us. Or maybe he left and came back since we are headed back to his home of Iceland. His first slide had his name on it which is Thorsteinn Hannesson, but his first name didn’t start with a “Th”. Instead, he used a letter from the Icelandic alphabet, which is pronounced something like our “Th”, but looks like something else completely. I can’t write it here, so try to imagine a lower case letter “b” superimposed on a lower case letter “p”. That is, a little circle with a straight line on the left, running from the top of the letters to the bottom of the letters. Interesting. We had seen this on signs and boats in Reykjavik but didn’t know how to pronounce it.

His lecture was about “Greenland and its People”. First off, it’s not called Greenland, at least by the native people who live there. In the local language, it’s Kalaallit Nunaat. Which he said means “Land of the People”. I think it really means “Really damn cold place”, probably not exactly using the word “damn”. Greenland, he told us, is the world’s largest island that isn’t a continent. I don’t know who gets to decide what’s a continent. From the Northern tip to the Southern tip is about 2000 miles. Pretty big. However, he said that the whole island has only 35 miles of roads.

He talked about the history, how the Inuit have been there for thousands of years, and then the Vikings came in the late 10th century. He also told us something that I had heard in stories, that the Inuit language has no numbers greater than two. It’s “one”, “two”, “many”. He said that if they need bigger numbers, they use the Danish words. He talked about their hard lives, fishing, hunting, etc. Things are more modern now. They have real towns, with some roads, and real houses, and even supermarkets. He said they even play golf on the ice. They drill some holes and use orange golf balls. He said you can drive a ball 1000 yards, because on the ice it keeps rolling and rolling and rolling.

He then showed some pictures of a skiing expedition he went on with some friends. They ended up in a very little village and needed a place to stay, so one of the locals invited them to his house, and even gave them a big dinner. It was seal meat. He said it tasted pretty bad, until the young boy of the house told him to put a lot of ketchup on it, which helped.

Later we went to another “Ask the Captain” session, this time with the new Captain. There wasn’t much new information, but some people came aboard after the previous session, and so this was their chance to ask questions of the Captain. Our new captain seemed like a nice guy, but I have noticed that the number of announcements on the PA system has decreased since he took over. I guess he doesn’t like them.

Now would be a good time for me to enlighten you all with another fascinating tidbit of useful information about life aboard the M.S. Rotterdam. The first full day on board, I, of course, took a shower in the morning. No scoffing please. I hear you muttering, “Yeah, good old once-a-month Jeff”. That’s not true, almost. In the shower, mounted on the wall are three dispensers for shampoo, conditioner, and liquid body soap. I pushed the button a few times and got some of the body soap and applied it to my skin. I then detected an unusual odor, or it is a smell. Let’s use aroma. It was familiar, but at first, I couldn’t quite place it. Then it hit me: Wrigley’s Spearmint Chewing Gum. I smelled exactly like Wrigley’s Spearmint Chewing Gum. Wonderful. Doesn’t everyone want to go through their day smelling like that? I congratulate the Holland America Line for its wonderful taste. I have been using it every day since. I wish they had Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit scent. My Favorite.

Another interesting thing I have noticed on board, and this may just be because we are in proximity to over 1400 other people, is that there are a lot of what I will call “conversation hogs”. Almost every time we have shared a table at dinner, and even sometimes just sitting around somewhere, when a conversation gets started, there will be one person who does all the talking. Some of them are really adept at it. If someone else manages to get in a sentence, the “conversation hog” will manage to turn the gist of the conversation back to themselves, their lives, their stories, their relatives, their travels, their opinions, whatever. If somebody says, “I’ve recently been to hole-in-the-wall-town in obscure-country, the “conversation hog” will mention that, amazingly, they have a cousin who lives there, and then proceed to describe that cousin’s entire life. Staggering.