Thursday, July 13, 2006

Herjolfsnses, Greenland

I sit huddled in the lee of my tent, on a windswept spit of land home to Viking merchants a thousand years ago. Instead of a hut of peat and stone, I've got a ten year old North Face tent, bright yellow and smelling of laundry soap. There's no mutton or arctic char on the menu tonight, just chipotle-flavored rice boiling away on the roaring camp stove. And there's a half million dollar condo that I may have purchased waiting for me back in Seattle too, as opposed to oaths of revenge and a price on my head back in the home country. Though come to think of it there are at least a couple folks back home who'd like to see my head on a pike.

The weather held through the day though, and the sun burned through the clouds from time to time. I made my way slowly east, past the mouth of Ketils Fjord and around another small bay filled with dozens of mammoth grounded icebergs, glistening in the afternoon sunlight, nearly glowing against the dark clouds still shrouding the surrounding mountains. A huge arched berg seemed too delicate to hold its own weight, and I refrained from the urge to motor underneath it.

Massive, astonishing vertical walls lined the fjord, rising thousands of feet into rounded summits, lost in passing banks of fog and cloud. Dwarf fireweed grew in protected hollows on the tundra, surrounded by fragile looking clumps of moss. Each closer look revealed another, smaller world of moss, lichens, tiny orange blazes of color on stems of yellow, intricate pattens of live and dead grasses.

I worked my way out of the fjord and toward Fredericksdal, passing out along the coastline exposed to the Atlantic. it seemed fairly, well, pacific, but on cue the wind picked up and stirred up an ugly chop. I still wandered a couple miles out to inspect another massive group of bergs, growing vertically out of the waves like destroyed castles (must use metaphors sparingly, if all I'm going to see if icebergs...).

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