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Date: 12 Aug 2010 18:43:00
Title: Nothing around us but sea

70:10.117N 59:11.031W Thursday afternoon

We've been underway for almost a day now and the sea is completely glassy calm. We had a bit of wind overnight so Andrea and I didn't sleep that well. It's always hard to sleep on the first off-watch. We go to bed around 2100 but it's a bit early to really get off so my mind starts wandering. With the boat pitching around as well, the hours go slowly.

Magnus woke us up just before 0400 for our watch. There was about 10 knots of wind from the starboard side so he'd put half the genoa up and some main but had the engine on as well. We were making good speed so we left the rig like that for most of our watch. I pulled the main in tight as the wind started to die away just before we finished at 0800. By then, I'd got really cold so I was glad to jump back into bed. I warmed up quickly but it was a long time before Andrea's feet had recovered. This time, we were both properly tired and the sea had calmed down as well. We slept well until about 1300 when we got up for some lunch.

It's now absolutely flat calm outside. Hardly any swell and only tiny ripples on the surface of the water. We passed an oil rig a couple of hours ago. They're prospecting for oil on the continental shelf of Greenland. I don't think they'd bother coming all this way unless they were pretty sure there's oil so I think that's another potential massive earner for Greenland in the near future. The rig was surrounded by support ships and there are other vessels around us at the moment. I thought we'd see nobody atall on this crossing but the place is humming with traffic. If they start finding oil and minerals up here, it's going to get very busy indeed.

It's great to have some time on a crossing to just chill out and have an enforced period of rest. We've all been reading and getting ourselves sorted out for the new adventures ahead in Canada.

I'm looking forward to seeing how the Inuit in Canada have adapted to the modern world and how that compares to their friends in Greenland. The Canadians have founded a new state called Nunavut to give themselves a large measure of independence so that's similar to what's happening in Greenland as they'll soon be independent from Denmark. It seems to me that both the Canadian and Danish governments have tried hard to smooth the entry of their Arctic peoples into the modern world - a process that's bound to be painful. I know the Greenlanders have got fed up with the paternalistic attitude of the Danes who have tried to slow the pace of development but it's hard to see what else could have been done.

I've read and heard talk of maintaining traditional society while taking the best bits of the modern world. In practice, this seems to mean that you get to have healthcare, a comfortable house, large Yamaha outboard and a high-velocity rifle while not letting anyone tell you what you can shoot or when. With a growing population, this doesn't seem sustainable to me. I don't see how traditional social structures can cope with a world so different to the one they evolved in. To my mind, the moment you get a gun, that's it. You're in the modern world. You can kill everything in sight and you need proper laws to manage the environment or else it's all going to be gone very quickly.

It's impossible to own private land in Greenland so it will be interesting to see if they can prevent a "tragedy of the Commons" occurring on land there as it has in the seas everywhere else.

Harvey

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