One can only imagine the unchecked optimism that overwhelmed Ernest Mansfield to see the potential for establishing the English Marble Company at Ny London. Against the backdrop of the pre and post war turmoil from 1910 to 1920 his enthusiasm must have been significant; sufficient to persuade backers to finance his dream, and to motivate the hardy souls who must have accompanied his venture. It takes less imagination to sense the despondency felt when the marble mined here was found to have been reduced to dust and fragments by the time it was disembarked in UK; inate flaws in the rock causing the rock to disintegrate with the change in temperature and conditions encountered on route. The industrial and domestic relics of Mansfield's optimism lie now as testament to his folly.
Ny London today provides a window back in time - the cast name-plates on the sides of decaying cranes, steam engines and steam hammers a reminder of the foundry and industrial capacity of Leicester in the 1920s. Anyone with doubts about the longevity of their Aga or Rayburn need only come here to see how their antecedents fared here in the Arctic; bar the rough layout of foundation and flooring timbers, the iron ranges stand out almost as eerie gravestones for the only remaining testament to the accommodation huts they must once have warmed.
Atlantis and crew remain warmed by our repaired heater which, having only recently been refusing to soldier, is likely very soon to be promoted! Whilst recording in our previous blog the collective support and assistance found in these parts I should also have mentioned our thanks to Peter of Eberspacher UK whose advice contributed to the heater's restart. We have welcomed the warmth it provides as the weather has been 'dreary'; and that's an understatement. The overall temperature has actually been warmer but persistent drizzle, low cloud, and still biting winds have made life outside the warm cabin uncomfortable. The rise on ambient temperature has also, however, led to a significant breakup of ice at the various glacier faces that surround us, and our rate of travel has been slowed by the need to pick our way carefully through it. Nevertheless our exploring continues and we spent last night at an uncomfortable anchorage at the head of the north-south aligned Krossfjord at a spot notable for another previous British visitor. On a rock next to the bay, Bill Tilman painted the name of his yacht 'Baroque' when he visited in 1974. When the wind eases enough to allow us to row the dinghy ashore safey, we shall find out more.
More domestics now. We have also been nurturing the leaky gearbox which still has a tendency to drop oil into the bilge. We think we have identified the source; a gasket in the most inaccessible depths of the hull but despite nipping up the nuts and bolts to stem the flow, the leak remains tiresomely unchecked. We are still managing though, with regular top-ups to replace the oil lost each day. Meanwhile, the Inmarsat FB250 satellite unit is enjoying the north-alignment of the fjord to give us the unexpected signal which permits the filing of this blog. At 79º 16'N the terminal's capacity to sustain comms at this latitude is surprising and notable. It is competing with the heater for worthy promotion.
From here, we shall this evening return to Ny Alesund for final top-ups of fuel and water before heading north again to the north-west tip of Spitzbergen.