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.

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