We sail slowly down the coast. Traveling south, the air and sea grow warmer, and when I stand up on deck I can actually smell...life. A humid green scent missing from the high arctic ice.
We travel to Crossfjorden and its' glaciers, hanging from ragged mountain peaks. They're all but lost in low gray cloud cover, but when even the smallest ice breaks away, the fjord echoes with thunder. In the gray light at the end of our trip, everyone seems subdued.
I don't recognize the man in the mirror. Gray stubble, baggy eyes, face slack and jowly as a depressive basset hound. My clothes smell of dead whale. It is so time to go home.
As we sail past Prins Karls Forland, a thin strip of island that protects this coastline from the North Atlantic swells, winds rip the fabric of cloud cover to let in beams of sunlight over the peaks. We are here late in the summer season. The mountain peaks have shed last winter's snow from all but the most shadowed and protected clefts. Brown dust coats the glaciers in streaks. Within a few weeks, autumn snow storms will return, coating these peaks in white, freezing the sea and putting the land back to sleep.
Sometime after midnight, the sun emerges tentatively through a break in the clouds. Glowing orange and low on the horizon, it sends a pale glow across the mountains lining Isfjorden and onto the boat. We put down the last dregs of our celebratory wine, scurry up on deck and take one last round of pictures before we go.
August 20, 2009 - Spitsbergen Island, Norway