My Friend, the Disko Bay Iceberg

I spent much of July writing in a room overlooking Disko Bay, in Ilulissat, Greenland. 20150711_193104There was an iceberg that looked a little like a church parked just fifty feet off my deck. It wasn’t like the other icebergs, breaking and rolling and drifting past, but a magical constant, no doubt beached out.

It sat as I wrote, reflecting back, through the morning and afternoon light and into the reddish glow of the night. And there again the next day, stoic. And then it wasn’t. 20150711_211422It had collapsed, been divided, exposing its underbelly, as it turned itself inside out and drifted away back to the depths, leaving me with an emptiness of blue.

Bathroom Graffiti

I’m not a fan of graffiti because it makes things look generally worse.

Ilulissat, Greenland

Ilulissat, Greenland

However, the one exception to this aesthetic is the public bathroom.

Hank's Saloon, Brooklyn

Hank’s Saloon, Brooklyn

While many scrawls are crude and offensive,they seem to enhance the environment.

Clinton, New Jersey

Clinton, New Jersey

And they give you something to read.

The Aquarium, Fargo, ND

The Aquarium, Fargo, ND

Paul-Emile Victor’s Arctic Garbage

Although today’s tourists are well schooled on not leaving their trash behind, it certainly wasn’t the pattern of the past. IMAG2895Paul-Emile Victor led a number of scientific expeditions from the Eqi Glacier Polar Camp in 1947-51, during which he determined that Greenland was in fact composed of three separate islands, all hidden under the ice.IMAG2888Over the years, he and his colleagues left behind many reminders of their presence, including oil drums… IMAG2918sled tracks… IMAG2917other detritus…IMAG2919and of course the shed…IMAG2893now filled with graffiti of who has been there since. IMAG2889

 

Icebergs & Glaciers in Greenland

80% of Greenland is covered by snow and ice. IMG_3127It is a mass so big that, if it were to melt, the oceans worldwide would rise seven meters, drowning many coastlines, while Greenland would actually rise. IMG_3129Ilulissat is on the west coast where many glaciers and ice flows meet the ocean, including the Ilulissat Ice Fjord and Eqi Glacier, both of which are major tourist attractions due to the melting ice.IMG_3291 The Ilulissat Ice Fjord is densely packed with icebergs, moving gradually out to sea at a rate of 19 meters per day, producing 35 cubic kilometers of ice every year. IMG_3213It takes almost three hours to pass through the maze of ice by boat – a distance of 5 kilometers. IMG_3301The Eqi Glacier, which is retreating a rate of 15 meters per year, meets the ocean directly, with massive sheets and chunks of ice dramatically calving into the ocean several times every hour. IMG_3387 IMG_3389 IMG_3391 IMG_3392It is a remarkable and sobering event to witness, the sound of which is reminiscent of approaching thunder or a massive door being slammed shut in an empty room.

Ilulissat, Greenland

Ilulissat, a town of 4500 people, is the hub for tourism in Greenland; it sits at 69 degrees north, 120 miles above the Arctic Circle.IMAG2847The tourists come to see the icebergs which surround Ilusissat in the summer months. IMG_3177IMG_3185English isn’t commonly understood, although the youth appear to know a word or two.  IMAG2799IMAG2841IMAG2800 There is a stark aspect to the town – water piping strapped to exposed bedrock, sled dogs tied up everywhere and a dusty sports field at the center. IMAG2794However it’s the surrounding ice and the light that draw all of the attention.IMG_3190

Unplugged in Greenland

I was in the cold and bright of the far north over the past two weeks; instead of computer and ipod, I was consumed by constant daylight and the sound of ice collapsing into the sea.

Ilulissat, Greenland

Afternoon in Ilulissat, Greenland

It took time to accept that my electronic feed was gone and there was nothing else but the cold world all around.

Midnight at Ilulissat, Greenland

Night in Ilulissat, Greenland