When the sun comes out, with the clouds still hanging low in the sky, the light of the arctic summer is unique. The sky shimmers with mother-of-pearl shades of baby-blue, light turquoise and just a hint of gold. It is the same light we sometimes see just after dawn, but it had just turned 9am, and it was already full daylight.
Archive for the 'Greenland' Category
19th August 2006
Last night, for the first time in 48 hours, the clouds lifted. It was an opportunity to shower and wash my stuff without it feeling futile. Afterwards, I sat at the picnic table outside the campsite and watched the shadows lengthen, spellbound by the luminosity of the ice in the blue-grey light. However, as soon as the sun descended behind the rocky outcrops, the temperature dropped. I had to smoke with my mitts on. The magic moment was further disrupted by some of the Germans (whom I dubbed the �Hitler Youth� because of the way they�ve taken over the living room) coming outside for a smoke and talking at full volume. I was determined to finish my book, but by the time they left and I could again concentrate, it was so dark that I had to hold it right up to my nose.
It was just as cold in the tent as during my first night in Greenland. As soon as I stopped moving, the warmth seeped out through the sleeping bag and blanket, and even with a sweater, mitts and a towel wrapped around me, it was too cold to sleep.
Apart from that, I was paranoid about the time. I have an early start on Sunday, so I set the camera alarm to 6 am to try whether I would hear it. As a result, I kept waking up in the increasing light, thinking it must surely be six by now, but when I checked, it was 3:34 am. When the alarm eventually went off, I didn�t hear it.
I woke up at 7 or 8 am, to the familiar sound of the tent pane flapping in the wind (I hate that tent), with the rain offering its piddling accompaniment. I went back to sleep, but the weather did not change by nine, ten or even eleven o�clock. It was an affront. I had enough of the constant rain.
I stayed inside the tent for as long as possible, because at least it was warm by then and struggling into my boots and wading through the mud seemed like too much work. By the time I eventually got to town, it was a quarter past one and the stores were shut. At least, I still have some ship�s bisquits, tinned fish and processed cheese for the whale watching trip tomorrow. The forecast looks brighter and I�m keeping my fingers crossed.
18th August 2006
- It�s pissing it down with rain
- The campsite is full of Germans
- Not one picture has come out
I don�t know why the latter happened. Apparently, the little knob next to the rewind lever wasn�t turned back into the right position after I changed the film on the boat. But at least the digital pictures have come up alright.
Today was a day for smoking a pipe in the bar. Failing that, I retreated there for a few cigarettes. David Gilmour was up on the big screen, looking like one of my old college professors, pumping out �How I wish you were here�. He reminds me of my age. They were good once—how does it feel to be seventy-something and look back at that?
Slowly, the fog was creeping in from the sea, obliterating all the colours outside, wrapping everything in a grey blanket. Ping Floyd are a hell of a soundtrack to the fog.
Another excursion boat left the harbour. Hell of a day for it. It is too expensive to go on these boat trips and for once I was glad that I didn�t have one planned until Sunday.
On the screen, David Gilmour laid down one hell of a guitar solo. He still has it, but it is scary to see how old he is now.
The humid cold seeped through the walls of the bar just as it did through the pane of my tent, my sleeping bag and my woollen blanket the night before. It chills right to the bone.
Gilmour made his guitar howl. I think of the dogs howling last night, every time the rain picked up.
�Shine on you crazy Diamond� came on, and it reminded me of my time at the Danish boarding school, where we always used to play that song; then of the Pink Floyd gig John took me to just after we met. Life�s coming full circle.
The fog was lifting. The prospect for tomorrow and the weekend should be brighter.
17th August 2006 (later that day)
As soon as people approached the imposing dining room, with its tables, covered in starched linen and silverware, overlooking the iceberg-strewn bay through large picture windows, the murmur of conversation ebbed to a whisper; but when they clapped eyes on the central display—which was spread across three tables—they fell silent.
17th August 2006
There is a press release pinned to the town noticeboard. The new season’s quotas for belugas and narwhals have been set: 285 narwhals (but minus the number caught in the previous year by some of the communities in excess of their allocations) and 160 belugas.
The narwhal quota will be re-evaluated in the autum, as many of the later (spring) catches seem to derive from the Smith’s Sound population for which there is no biological monitoring. As far as West Geenland is concerned, the biologists’ advice for belugas is 100, not 160, while that for narwhals is 135—less than half the number decided on.
OK, so I’m not going to do this in sequence. Too boring.
I’m struggling a bit with my English at the moment, so flowery descriptions will have to wait for my BNA writeups…
16th August 2006
I have travelled the world—well, fifty countries or so—but only rarely have I seen a sight which literally made me gasp.
This morning, after I had peeled myself out of the tent and piled some rocks on the pane to keep it from flapping in the breeze—which would be called a ‘gale’ back home—it happened again, just as I turned around on my way to the toilet block.
The mundane reality of campsite life was brushed aside as the Northern hemisphere’s mightiest glacier lay spread out in the bay below like a dish on a plate:
Photos are going up on Flickr gradually, but I’m not yet in a position to blog (When I am, my traveljournal will gradually appear, with pictures. It will be back-dated so that the whole trip comes up in sequence. Good old pen-and-paper).
Check it out. However, internet here is slow, I’m not used to the keyboard, Flickr keeps crashing and the people at this internet café just had the most terrible bust-up—of which I understood every word. So, I’m outta here! Be patient, and better photos and more sensible entries will follow soon.
15th August 2006
Ahead, the Sydney Opera House just floated by.
I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to do this trip on acid in the midnight sun.
But however magical our surroundings seemed, the weather hadn’t improved. I kept the lens of my camera covered as best as I could, but there was no way anybody could light a cigarette in this rain. So I thought shelter in a niche away from the driving wind.
“Sure is real shit-cancer weather!” A teenage girl, likewise struggling with a fag.
“Yes, this is belief.”
My Danish was still at the ‘listen, but don’t talk’ stage. But I grinned broadly anyway. Icebergs which looked like piped cream and spun-sugar sculptures were literally the icing on the cake of what were at least six humpback whale sightings plus dozens of seals. I felt that I had truly arrived.
The ship was equipped with a giant, 101 person life raft which can inflate in seconds. Passengers glide down a sort of rubber chute; at no time does anyone come into contact with the water. Just to make absolutely sure, they don’t just wear life jackets, they don ‘full immersion survival suits’—think membrane drysuit with fluorescent strips and a whistle.
This is Geenland, land of extremes.
Hikers and adventure travellers: No snickering at the back!
The air tasted of Wrighley’s ‘Ice’, but this was the real article. An artic breeze washed over me like a refreshing shower. I enjoyed it nearly as much, although it slowed me down. I had’t thought there could be anything which could slow me down any further.