Seventeen hours, fifty-five minutes

17:55 to go, Singapore: Takeoff. Singapore shrouded in low cloud, as per usual.

17:45 to go, Johor Bahru: seatbelt sign off. Bust out my half-finished copy of The Rational Optimist.

15:15, Thailand: take a break from reading. Matt Ridley was a terrible bank manager, but he’s a brilliant science writer. Good to see he’s decided to stick to his doctrine of specialization and trade.

15:14: leaf through inflight duty-free catalog. What on earth is a Lancome Duo Virtuose Precious Cells and why does it sound like something pilfered from a Genentech lab?

13:40, northern Laos: finish The Rational Optimist. What now? Walk around a bit.

13:39: The guy four seats in front of me looks exactly like Weird Al Yankovic. Or maybe Slash.

13:38: Gruen Nation. The ABC’s MP4 video downloads work great on iGadgets; feel momentarily guilty that I’m no longer paying my eight cents a day.

13:37: Where does Todd Sampson get his tee-shirts?

13:15, Laos-China border: John Hewson is a really good sport. Can we get him on TV more often?

12:15, northern China deserts: stare out window. Try to watch Treme. It’s by David Simon, therefore it must be good.

12:00: give up on Treme. Overtaken by sleep.

10:30, Lake Baikal: wake up. Slept through Mongolia. Not sure I missed anything.

09:15, Siberia: looks like we’re headed straight north off the top of the map. I knew I shoulda taken that left toin at Vladivoishtok.

09:00: bust out camera, take some photos of rainbow clouds. Double rainbow clouds. What do they mean?

08:30 to go, Severnaya Zemlya: The enormous bloke in front of me in an Australian Bodybuilding Championships tee-shirt is listening to the Glee soundtrack. Yeah. Don’t stop believin’.

08:00, Arctic Ocean: “feet wet”, as they say - or as they would say if this were a Tom Clancy novel. But Tom Clancy novels don’t have stewardesses serving chocolate cake. (Or do they? I’ve never read Without Remorse; maybe it’s in there.)

7:30: the little plane on the flight status screen has just flown off the top of the map. This doesn’t look like Narnia.

7:25: first sight of Arctic icecap. NOW it looks like Narnia. “always-winter-but-never-Christmas” Narnia, but still.

7:00, 38,000 feet above the Arctic ice: It’s just gone 9:30am in NYC. Need to stay awake or risk world-class jet lag. One thing making it easier: through a quirk of timing (taking off mid-morning, flying through the 24-hour-sunlight zone above the Arctic Circle, and landing late afternoon), the sun never goes down for the whole 18-hour flight.

6:30: picturesque broken pack ice out the window.

6:00, 87 degrees north: the most northerly screening ever of Yes We Canberra. NEW WORLD RECORD.

More after the jump…

5:20, north coast of Greenland: LAND HO!

5:00, little knobby bit at the top left of Greenland: It is a desert out there. Utterly lifeless brown hills, with glaciers dotting the valleys, and little eroded canyons where rivers might have flowed tens of thousands of years ago. It is surreal. And clear as a bell. The pix are spectacular.

4:55: “Would you like a snack?” “Sure, I’ll have, um… Damn it, I can’t see a thing. Are those chips? I guess those are chips.” The difference between a blinding Arctic summer landscape and a darkened airplane interior does not do wonders for your night vision. (12000 @ f4 to 20” @f1.4 sez camera: how many stops?)

4:30, Baffin Bay: feet wet again; put down the camera and fire up last night’s PM, because I am a nerd. It’s 2am in Sydney now, so we might have a new Prime Minister. Or the same Prime Minister. Or a hung parliament, and no Prime Minister at all. It’s Schrodinger’s Election.

3:15, Hudson Bay: overcast on the Bay; blinding white clouds from horizon to horizon, so photos are out. Plants vs Zombies time.

2:45, far northern Quebec: enough zombies. Still overcast outside. Been in the air for fifteen-and-a-bit hours, and received a radiation dose roughly equal to a chest x-ray (there’s one for all you fear-of-flying types).

2:40: exploring corners of my iTunes library that haven’t seen sunlight in years. I’m the piano player / down at Eddie’s bar / and Rachel, she’s the waitress / who wants to be a star…

2:35: speaking of things that haven’t seen sunlight in years, can we open the shades yet? It’s like we’ve got a planeload of vampires.


2:20: Hey, maybe all the radiation will give me superpowers. RRAARRGGHH. HULK SMASH. HULK STILL NOT FOUND / WHAT HULK LOOKING FOR

2:05: Why are Mr. Mister carrying a laser down the road that they must travel? And are we talking a little pocket laser pointer, or one of those big industrial-grade lasers?

1:45: Hey, they’ve got “Classic Comedy” on the inflight entertainment. But since when has Newhart been classic comedy?

1:44: Apparently it was never classic. And it was never comedy, either.

0:45, over Montreal: Wahey, you don’t have to complete the I94-W any more if you’re on a visa waiver. Thanks, CBP.

0:40, upstate NY: please return your seatback to an upright position and open the shades AAGGHH TOO BRIGHT IT BURNS IT BURNS also it’s still overcast out there, I thought NY was supposed to be fine and sunny?

0:00, Newark: “Welcome to Newark, ladies and gentlemen; I’ve just been informed that our stand is still being occupied, and it should be free in about half an hour. So there’ll be a half hour delay.”

Land of the free, and the home of the AAARRGGHHH.