Farthest North, Log 1: En Route
© 2013 Mark Seth Lender
All Rights Reserved
I am flying into the sun, a sun that refuses to quite give up the ghost, though it’s after nine o’clock. It is one day past the Solstice. The twin-engine Beechcraft is the oldest thing I’ve flown in for 20 years. The last old crate was a DC 3, then the only regular service in Costa Rica from San Jose to the Osa. The cowling blew off the starboard ending and they circled the field, landed again, found the damn thing and tied it on with a clothes hanger and off we went, indestructible. This time I’m dead-heading the other way. West of North, toward Toronto. The plane roars and rattles. It reminds me of the contraption Jimmy Stewart pilots in The Flight of the Phoenix (the 1965 original), except the kid at the controls has no idea who Jimmy Stewart was.
For all that this plane is the safest since that DC 3. The ground below is all farmland, we can land just about anywhere, just gliding in, dead-stick, slower than you’d dare to drive your car on any four lane highway. We are 2/3 empty, there are only two crew. There is no security door and you can watch them at the controls, adjusting the trim, changing transponder from one tower to the next. And that peachy-orange light pouring through.
Toronto is only the departure point. The next leg of the trip is the flight to Kangerlussuaq, at the top of the long fjord of the same name, in southern Greenland. There I join up with Adventure Canada’s ship, and we cruise north along the western coast, a land of glaciers and calving icebergs. In three days, I’ll be across the Arctic Circle, where the sun only halfway sets this time of year. I will sleep little, that’s how I am in the field. I don’t want to miss a thing. This is only the beginning.
Mark Seth Lender