The next morning, the Lady Grace encountered the ice pack. It was as if they had run aground in the night on the shores of a broken white wasteland, or had discovered an archipelago of floating islands, a few fathoms thick, blanketed with snow and streaked with muddy yellow at the waterline. The ice pack shifted, rising here and dropping there with the currents and the action of the slow waves. This shattered wasteland covered the hundreds of miles ahead of the Lady Grace, crazed ice hard and blinding bright in the daylight, the seams between the separate floes black as if great quantities of ink had been poured out by the hand of Heaven. The Lady Grace followed these dark seams south, into the pack. It was, as the whalers of Grytviken had warned, much farther north than usual, especially at the start of summer. But it was loose pack, and under reduced sail the Lady Grace pushed her way easily through the gaps in the frozen archipelago, sometimes running half a mile or more in open water.This post is just a reminder to myself that yesterday, after a break of a month, I began again to work on the draft of the novel I'm calling Nowhere But North. I've written about 70,000 words of that draft, and have about 25,000 still to write. I think it will be a pretty good book. Currently, I realized at lunch today, I am entering that phase of first draft writing when I have pretty much abandoned ideas of propriety, which is to say that as far as what and how I write, anything goes. This is how it always is, having mentally collapsed under the pressure of the work, I decide that every idea--no matter how absurd--is probably a pretty good idea and should be allowed its place in the book. Three quarters of the way through and I've become punchy. The above-quoted excerpt is not an example of the absurd which creeps into the novel.
Jernagen and Weir had set up their scientific gear on the quarterdeck. Weir lowered his dredge over the taffrail, paying out a long braided steel cable, hoping to find something new swimming in the deep cold water. Jernagen measured the air and water temperatures, the geomagnetic variances, the mineral content of the ice and the water, and the spectrum of the sunlight. Weir netted petrels, fulmar gulls and dreamed of dissecting Emperor penguins. He photographed crabeater seals, killer whales, humpback whales, and Finner whales. He found shrimp and jellyfish in his dredge, a thousand feet below the ship's keel. Jernagen and Weir sat on the deck with their heads close together, scribbling notes in their journals, smiling and breathing each other's pipe smoke.