Jul 062013

Farthest North, Log 5: Eternity Glacier

© 2013 Mark Seth Lender
All Rights Reserved

Southbound along the Greenland coast. The morning fog clears slowly, and then its mountains and pinnacles and eskers and peaks all along the way. Upon the vast snow fields and below the hanging glaciers the white is raked with dark rills, the tracks of many small avalanches (and some not so small). The peaks run upwards of two thousand meters, small as mountains go, but because they start at the sea they have the aspect of a range many times that high. At the mouth of a fjord we drop anchor again, and take to the small boats.

This is Evidghedsfjorden, “Eternity Fjord.” At the apex, an aging glacier, all blue ice fractured and crevassed in vertical lines 50, 60 meters overhead. And threatening to cleave away. The resident flock of Black-legged Kittiwake own the floating ice. They stand on the small glassy flows and only take off when you are so close you can read the bright of their jet black eyes. On the narrow shore and the dark bare cliffs that close in on the glacier from either side, it is the Glaucous Gulls that rule. Many are in that halfway plumage of summer molt, mottled brown and creamy white. But a distance it is more their pale pink legs that set them apart from the Kittiwakes. In flight, against the glacier’s face and in the air above it they both provide scale which otherwise is almost impossible to judge. Not very big as glaciers go it is plenty big enough.

Mike Beedell is at the Zodiac’s helm. He is a nature photographer’s photographer, the kind of guy who will sit there eaten by bugs or freezing his tail off for the sake of a Decisive Moment He knows wildlife and its landscape with an intimacy only decades of experience can buy, and easily points out where to look, what we are looking at, and always lines up for the best shots. With all, he keeps a safe distance. If one of those bad boys decides to break away you want open water between you and where it drives down, and plenty of it. Fjords run deep, and it’s a long, long way to the bottom.

Stresses in the ice snap like gunshots. Ba-BAM! BAM!

Nothing happens (You relax thinking “False Alarm”)

Without warning a chunk lets go…

It hits the water in fragments, not with a splash but concussion. The slurry of ice that follows goes on and on. It sounds like running water. There is that here too, glacier-fed waterfalls that hiss all the way down the worn granite faces between ice and sea. An eider duck flies over the glacier’s fragmented white top. We must have startled him up, I did not see from where. A big bird, against this landscape he is very small. And again, that sense of scale and how tiny we are. Glacier; Arctic; Greenland; I can’t get used to it, have to keep reminding myself of the reality of the place. Well the place is real enough. The reality of me – here –that will take time and reflection.




Special thanks are due to Jillian Dickens of Adventure Canada and http://www.Bannikin.com without whom none of this would have taken place.

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 July 6, 2013  Birds, General No Responses »
Jun 262013

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.



 June 26, 2013  General No Responses »