We tried to get some sleep as soon as we left Chicago to force ourselves to be more in sync with the Hong Kong time zone. I managed to get an hour or two of sleep but that was it and it's not because I couldn't sleep more. After my short cat nap I found out we going to fly right over the North Pole instead of over Alaska as the live route map showed before we left Chicago. So, I was very interested in seeing how that would turn out and where we'd show up on the other side.
The following picture (a snapshot of the in flight tv monitor) shows our flight path from Calgary to Hong Kong via Chicago and over the North Pole. We passed over the North Pole just under 6 hours after take off from Chicago at an altitude of approximately 35000 feet, where the outside temperature was approximately -59°C. I looked real hard to see if I could spot Santa down there, but it was just too dark to see anything!
We saw our first glimpse of sunlight, at least that which was bright enough to photograph, approximately one and a half hours or approximately 800 miles after passing over the North Pole. The following is a picture of that sunrise and the location where it was taken is over Ostrov Bolshevik, an Island just north of Eastern Russia (Siberia) as shown on the map above.
Approximately 3/4 of an hour later, or approximately 400 miles, it was bright enough to start to see things outside as shown in the pictures below. The location where these were taken is not far from the northern coast of Eastern Russia (Siberia) as shown on the map above marked as 'ground visible'.
The following is a picture of the first community I spotted with my binoculars (it's in the center of the picture just to the right of the river). According to my world atlas there are communities further north than this. This picture was taken about an hour after those above and at a location just south of the Arctic Circle.
The following is a picture of the first sign of life, smoke coming from something down there. I tried but could not make out the source with my binoculars. This picture was taken about 15 minutes after the one above.
This is just an interesting landmark that is visible in satellite images of the earth.
That's the northern shore of the massive Lake Baikal down there. This lake is over 600km long and 80km wide and it contains one-fifth of the earth's fresh water. That's nearly 3 times more fresh water than there is in all of Canada. We passed over the south/west end of Lake Baikal just after passing by the city Irkutsk. Those of you who remember me talking about wanting to take the Trans Mongolian Railway from Hong Kong to St Petersburg may be interested to know that the Trans Mongolian Railway passes around the south/west end of Lake Baikal and makes a stop in Irkutsk. The sun is very low on the horizon and about to set so its getting harder to see the ground and take pictures.
About half way between Irkutsk and Ulaanbaatar I spotted a Large jet speeding by in the opposite direction. By the time I got my camera out all that was left was its trail. At the time I was very surprised how close it was, but now after doing some research I see it likely wasn't a big deal. When that jet passed us we were less than 150 miles from both the Irkutsk and Ulaanbaatar airports, so at that distance it's probable normal for planes to fly a little closer to one another.
The sun set just about the time we passed near Ulaanbaatar. At that time the lighting conditions were such that it was impossible to take a decent photo of the ground, but I do recall telling Justin about passing near a fairly large community.
I took many other pictures, including many that show the massive amounts of logging that has occurred in Siberia, but they weren't that clear and a lot of that stuff is visible in satellite images of the earth.
We flew into Hong Kong International Airport following a path to the west of Hong Kong and Kowloon, so we didn't have an opportunity to take any good night time pictures before landing. We landed at about 9:10pm local time, which was only about 10 minutes behind schedule, not bad considering we left Chicago an hour late.