Sunday, August 6, 2006

Nuuk, Greenland

Morning dawned a bit bleary in Nuuk; thanks to finishing off my illicit stash of South African red wine last night. But there was lots to do once the second cup of coffee cleared the fog. I walked to the dock where I'd left the boat last night after nearly 100 miles of cruising in the rain. It was a lovely day, in a dismal sort of way, but I made my way down the steps one more time to the dock, pulled the boat out of the water, draining the evening's accumulated rainfall and leakage out, detached the motor and quickly deflated the tubes and rolled the boat into a tight if soggy package.

I hauled the gas tanks up, left the boat and outboard by the road and checked out of the hotel, dragging my bags outside. I loaded the mess into a cab, went down to the dock to load the rest and offhandedly asked if the driver knew anyone who needed an outboard. Turns out he did.

As three fishermen walked past, one asked what I wanted.

Four hundred. They came back with three. Three and a half? We settled on three. A wad of bills was produced, and I got half my money back on the motor. He carried the motor off and I felt a little pang for my reliable, if underpowered, outboard.

I carried the remaining bags it to the crowded airport, surrounded by hyperactive children and clots of Inuit and Danish idlers, waiting. And waiting. Three hours later the clouds parted enough for planes to roll in, and we hustled ourselves out of Nuuk in short order.

I read the entire hour and a half down the coast, oblivious to where I was. We landed, and I performed my ritual rounding up of bags, carrying of bags, moving of bags, loading and unloading and checking into overpriced hotel for the night, I want to savor this place for a little longer, but I also want a beer, a nice dinner, a decent night’s sleep.

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Ililussat, Greenland V

Greenland shows many faces to even the most casual of visitors, By turns green and inviting, cold and forbidding. At the moment, she's being extremely temperamental. Twenty knots worth of wind blow across the small cove, raising whitecaps here and out into the bay. Lenticular clouds fill the eastern sky, and the low grasses and wildflowers dance in the breeze.

The ice here is a glaring white, lacking both the color and character of the harder ice. A massive, muddy river flows from underneath the glacier, surfacing in whirls and torrents of current that swirl the icebergs in circles. Pushes by opposing winds and currents, the ice eddies into thick, grinding packs along the glacier's edge, and I make a mental note to avoid getting stuck there, as the ice circles right up to the glacier's face before being spat out.

Which goes a long way toward explaining how I shortly found myself scrambling and swearing and heaving and shoving the boat through impossibly packed ice, struggling to free it before being deposited at the very foot of the glacier. I had easily motored through once, but the current had changed and I was swept slowly inward again, locked in by floating bergs the size of small, floating cars. And all at once I understood that this was a bad thing. Should the glacier take this moment to calve a large slab of ice, I would likely be swamped and soaked and deeply fucked by the massive wave thrown out.

I stripped off my sandals and grabbed my rubber boots and started pushing off the ice, then finally getting out of the boat and standing on the bergs that would hold my weight, and dragging the boat up and over and through the packed ice. It wasn't quite fear or panic, more of an understanding that this was something very important to get done. Now.

I managed to get the boat within 10 feet of the ice edge, and raced the engine to get extra push while dragging. I somehow doubt any of this is standard power boating procedure, but it seemed to work, and I was exceedingly happy to pop out into open water.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Ililussat, Greenland IV

Sitting on the edge of an isolated cove, sixty miles north of Ilulissat. It's already past midnight, but you can't really tell at this latitude. I don't think a soul on earth has the slightest notion of where I am. The motor is acting up again, I neglected to buy a replacement oar for the one I left in Sisimiut, and I don't think I have enough fuel to get back to town. The weather turned south just before I made it to the end of the glaciers that I've come looking for. An ugly band of gray blue clouds rolled in from the south east, sending my mood south as well.

Had been feeling very lucky indeed, a free man at my age, exploring this remote edge of the world. There's a cool iceberg, check it out. I think I'll go climb alongside that waterfall, at least until the bugs drive me back to the water. It's a pretty sweet deal, but I worry that I'm missing something along the way.