Three Deck Cadets’ Voyage of Discovery Onboard an Arc 7 Vessel

Three deck cadets’ voyage of discovery onboard an Arc 7 Vessel

On board the Eduard Toll, three deck cadets met with polar night, celebrated Christmas in the Kara Sea, and saw stunning displays of Northern Lights while on their first journey at sea. 

A cadet’s first voyage leaves a lasting imprint. For many, the experience sets the stage for their career development at sea. On this first journey, theoretical and analytical knowledge is transformed to practical skills onboard a ship. For Deck Cadets, Aaron O’Neil, David Perkinson and Electrical Cadet Luke Ryan, the journey was one of learning, discovery, and blossoming friendship. This is their first-hand account from their first voyage onboard the Arc 7 vessel, the Eduard Toll.

We set sail from Dunkirk, France on 23 November 2020, onboard Eduard Toll bound for Sabetta, Russia. All three of us were glad to be finally joining our first vessel following months of delays from Covid-19. While certainly very enthusiastic, we were all naive about what we were getting ourselves into!

Within our first week on board, we were thrown into the harsh depths of the Arctic winter. On the first trip North, we were met with polar nights and spent nearly two weeks in those conditions, before seeing daylight again off the coast of Norway. Trying to convince your body that it is one o’clock in the afternoon with the moon and stars are out - is harder than one would think!

On top of this, we managed to find ourselves in one of the harshest winters on record. Temperatures from mid-December until the end of March never went above -20, and the coldest day we recorded was -39. It was not all darkness as the vessel was lit up daily with specular displays of the Aurora Borealis dancing across the night sky.

“Getting plenty of chances to be on the Azipods while going stern-first through the ice was a great practice and an experience few cadets get a chance to do. I really enjoyed learning the vessel’s characteristics, how to control the vessel’s moments and dodging polar bears that ventured too close to the ship!

And on Sundays, socializing with the crew while jumping between the pool and sauna. With the pool water coming straight from the Arctic at a chilly 2-3 degrees and the sauna ramped all the way up. The sauna lounge was always the hot spot for making connections.”

Deck Cadet David Perkinson

While being away from our families during the holidays were hard, we enjoyed a very festive Christmas on board with the crew, with everyone going to extra lengths to get the vessel into a festive spirit.

Doing their best to make the vessel as homely as possible over the Christmas period, special attention was done to make the vessel as homely as possible by decorating the bridge and common spaces with Christmas festivities. While forced to celebrate a belated Christmas day due to a port call in Sabetta, it was still without doubt a fun day with plenty of crew activities, topped off with some very thoughtful gifts from the vessel’s God Mother, Tati-ana Kuznetsova.

Incidentally, although the vessel was deep in the Arctic and along side in Sabetta, with vast amounts of snow and ice on deck and the surrounding area, the UK Met Office defines a White Christmas as “one snowflake to be observed falling in the 24 hours of 25 December somewhere in the UK.”

Suffice to say, it didn’t snow in Sabetta at all on Christmas Day!

As the months rolled by, the sun slowly crept back above the horizon and the full beauty of the Arctic ‘icescape’ was unveiled to us. We were greeted with constant polar bear and walrus sightings, along with the occasional Arctic fox in the Sabetta terminal.

Seeing polar bears and Arctic foxes in the wild, roaming the barren icescape was a rememberable highlight for me. Being able to see such animals freely roam in their natural habitat with their cubs in tow really made me appreciate my career choice and re-affirmed that I had made the right choice.”

Deck Cadet Aaron O’Neill

The severe temperatures resulted in exceptionally heavy ice concentrations leading to months of ice navigation with some challenging situations. We certainly enjoyed the more hands-on aspect that this type of navigation demands, giving us an invaluable experience as cadets.

We completed our first STS operation in Kil’din Bay Murmansk, Russia with the LNG/C ‘Clean Horizon’ on 16 April. Upon reaching Murmansk Vessel Traffic Service, we were treated to the sight of the Navy conducting exercises just several miles from our track, which made for an interesting navigational watch. Murmansk is the home of the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet including it’s submarine fleet. Taking pilots late into the evening coming into the bay lit up by the deck lights of Clean Horizon didn’t do the landscape any justice. Waking up the next morning to see the wonder of the landscape coated in snowfall illuminated by the sun was a truly scenic sight making for great photo opportunities.

“From my time onboard the Eduard Toll, I found that there was an endless array of new challenges as well as experiences, that constantly pushed me to learn, develop and inherit new skills.

One of my most memorable moments from working on such a unique vessel that operates in such isolated areas, was the once in a lifetime opportunity to see this part of the world. I remember working out on deck one morning changing a lightbulb, and maybe halfway through the job, I stopped. I experienced what I can only describe as a ‘pinch me’ moment. It was snowing lightly, and as I looked around and saw the deck covered in a blanket of snow, our ship breaking through an endless field of ice and in the background a mountain region coloured an almost brilliant white. In that moment, I remember feeling very grateful and honored to be onboard the Eduard Toll, and to be witnessing such a beautiful landscape which I can only imagine was similar to the one that the famous Arctic explorer Eduard Toll himself once witnessed.

This truly was an amazing experience and one that I will never forget. I want to end this by saying a massive thank you to the Eduard Toll crew on behalf of Aaron, David and myself. Everyone honestly welcomed us onboard with open arms and was there to help us from the day we signed on, until the day we signed off.

We made a lot of life-long friendships while onboard, and we definitely look forward to sailing with you all again in the near future.”

Electrical Cadet, Luke Ryan

On board the Eduard Toll