Farthest North, Log 4: Shallow Water
© 2013 Mark Seth Lender
All Rights Reserved
In the summer melt as the ice temporarily gives way to a near-constant sun, 1.5 million litres of water pours into Kangerlussuaq Fjord, every second. With that water comes thousands of cubic meters of rock, ground to a powder by the passage of 100,000 years of glaciers. It turns the water out in the fjord milt blue. Out in the center channel it’s 200 meters deep but in the near shore water the heavier particles settle out and mudflats line the shore. In the fjord the tide flows out even faster than the melt flows in, a good 12 knots by the looks of it and aided by a steady wind. We are aboard a Zodiac racing that tide to our ship, Sea Adventurer. The water is d dropping half a meter every 10 minutes. We aren’t going to make it…
We’ve run aground. The mud is silky soft, no rocks and there is no danger to the inflation bladders that make up the rails, and provide buoyancy. We’re safe, but we aren’t getting out of here. I have an oar and Jane the pilot and I push as hard as we can trying to clear the highpoint that has us hung up in the center. Actually these are paddles, short narrow wood and they aren’t up to it. After a few minutes of this mine is permanently bent. In the 40 minutes we’ve been at it another 40 meters of beach has appeared and now there are moguls of grey featureless mud raising their heads around us. The other boat can’t reach us either and the alternative is either wait for the tide. It is still shy of dead low and that will take hours. The only alternative is to wade out to deeper water.
The water feels deceptively warm to the touch but that mud? It has memory and that memory is ice. In half a dozen steps my bare feet have gone from painful to numb. They will warm up. What worries me is my gear. All of it is in the Zodiac. All. And I’m really worried.
But then again, how many people do you know who can say they’d run aground above the arctic circle? Only this one, I wager.