ABOARD CCGS AMUNDSEN—At 8 o’clock last night the view from the Amundsen’s bridge was dazzlingly bright, even though the sun was only 10 degrees above the horizon.
There were no outside lights to switch off to mark Earth Hour because the usual night time lights hadn’t yet been turned on.
|PETER CALAMAI PHOTO|
|A snowmobile headlight is illuminated but outside lights on the icebreaker haven't yet been switched on at 9:15 last night, as the Amundsen' contribution to Earth Hour.|
“I told you,” said a smiling Captain Lise Marchand.
As the onboard representative of the newspaper championing Earth Hour, I had raised the question of the Amundsen observing Earth Hour with numerous people right after coming on board two weeks ago.
Few had even heard of the event. Those who had were skeptical — of the purpose and of the value. The captain noted that it would still be quite light here at 8 o’clock on March 29 because of our northern position.
As well, more than one scientist pointed out that they were here in the frigid Arctic actually working hard to understand climate change and living on a vessel were every watt of electricity, every ounce of fuel was carefully husbanded.
“Those people down in Toronto will turn off some lights for an hour and then go back to driving their SUVs to pick up milk from the convenience store and wasting electricity with old beer fridges in their basements,” one said.
But Star reporters don’t give up easily.
I continued to talk up Earth Hour with kindred souls. I downloaded material from the web and left it at the captain’s doorway. I began raising the topic with Tim Papakyriakou, the very busy but also exceptionally patient chief scientist.
It all came to a head yesterday when Tim and the captain agreed that the Amundsen should do its part, even though the gesture would be mostly symbolic because the twilight now lasts almost until 9 o’clock.
So the plan wasn’t to turn off some the ship’s external lights. Instead, they won’t be turned on until after 9.
And that’s what happened. As it turns out, I joined an excursion last night out on the ice to an instrument-crammed sled which is the pride (and sometimes the heartache) of Environment Canada researchers.
The Amundsen was a bone-jarring snowmobile ride away across more than a kilometre of snow drifts and occasional ice ridges. It looked very small.
It also looked dark. Not until a quarter after 9 did the customary spotlights flick to life, like fireflies around the decks.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit feeling some relief when a light illuminated the red maple leaf emblem on the ship’s funnel. That’s my home, I thought, and it’s warm there and the bar is open tonight.
But I’d be dissembling if I didn’t also confess that I returned home to find that I’d left all the lights ablaze in our cabin.