As my flight today ferries me South I reflect that 22nd August was one of those "days that wasn't". Greenland to Denmark is, I think, a five-hour time difference and evokes memories of empires where the sun never set.
I've just finished my morning shower when Emily knocks at the door. I pull a towel about myself to receive an important message: we have to be out of the room in ten minutes. Since Mike's gone missing and my stuff seems to have been hit by a hurricane, this doesn't happen.
|My stuff eventually fits into a backpack and suitcase. When I originally bought the two sweaters and sleeping pad which make up most of the excess bulk, I'd viewed them as disposable necessities (and bought them at an appropriate price), but now they seem a little more like infrastructure - auxillary members of Team Richard, and I'm loathe to leave them behind. So the suitcase comes along with the thought that if I get annoyed with it later, I can always ditch it.|
Mike reappears, having taken water samples from the river to help determine the appropriate bouyancy of future tracers. All this done, I have the 31st kiwi and Jemma, Mike, and I climb into the jeep and head to the airport.
Everyone sits down for breakfast or a last musk ox burger. Everyone but me. There's still one last important mission in Greenland: the geocache. The description mentioend something about a Musk Ox and accessibility between flights, so I spend an inordinate amount of time poking around the Musk Ox Souvenior Shop (which I've never seen open); realising the futility of it all, I pull out the GPS (as I should have done earlier, it is geogaching after all), and find myself jogging down the road towards a rock mural.
|The cache turns up readily, as it's been designed to and I drop off the geocoin I've been carrying (pictured here). Sometime in the next few months, on a rainy day, perhaps, I'll send the coin's owner some pictures and an condensed description of my Greenland travels. At times, I think we all live vicariously through other people, which I understand, but I don't grok vicarious living through inanimate objects. Nonetheless, somewhere out there, someone's life will be altered in this way.|
|We check-in ten or so boxes of ice recently chainsawed out of the glacier and get into the security line maybe ten minutes before departure. The airport man is very nice, but explains that he can't stamp passports, a request that was brushed off when we arrived. But taking unofficial trips to the ends of the earth seems worth the omission.|
|The plane's flight path takes us out directly over Sugarloaf and the project area, so I get a whole new perspective on things from my window seat.|
The Sand Flats
|The River Crossing|
Our camp is where the river narrows towards the lwoer center, this is also where the waterfall is.
|My point, where I saw the beautiful ice cap.|
|The edge of the ice cap.|
As we climb, the Rayliegh criterion forbids my seeing much of the terrain of the ice below - it's lost with distance. But with the ice, another factor dominates this - optic overload. Sunglasses cut out whole swaths of the spectrum and, by seeing less, you see more. The landscape is dominated by seemingly flat plains etched with long rivers, lakes, and fissures, but these are the gross features. The smaller-scale features are in constant flux and, for those traversing the ice sheet, it will never be the same twice. Perhaps this is part of its beauty: that the speed of the changes, though slow, is such that it can never be explored or known. While the height of Everest will be listed on maps to within a meter, the ice sheet can never appear with even this accuracy. (This may be a slight romanticism: the ice sheet is a beautiful function of standing waves, weather effects, et cetera, and could probably drive John Nash crazy.)
|The Eastern Edge of Greenland - much less hospitable!|
The flight features more journaling and reading, along with more food! While AlaskaAir gave me the safest and most enjoyable flights of my life, GreenlandAir has fed me the best. It's salmon patte, lettuce, crumbly cheese, lemon, breaded beef, potatoes, gravy, asparagus, a small bottle(!) of wine, a more small bottle of Bailey's (Alcohol #2), a glass of apple juice, two bread rolls, butter, and a Toblerone chocolate for desert - all served with metal cutlery (knife included)… and all for "free".
Sunset: 60% faster. Denmark.
|At the airport, I stick around to unload the ice boxes, collect my suitcase, and say a quick good-bye before disappearing into the crowd where, moments later, I meet Bill. His sign says, "Barnes", but he recognises me from a SEAMONSTER picture.|
We head out to the train, which is silent and neat inside, with clean lines and efficient doors; so efficient that they almost grab my backpack from me as we run aboard.
I'd searched everywhere to try to find Danish or Greenlandic phrase books for this trip, but they are, apparently, hard to come by. Bill seemed to know what he was about, though, and we found the right stop.
The walk to the house was along wide, yet sparsely populated, streets. Copenhagen seemed filled with abundance of spiders all building their webs up near the street lights, supported, in this part of town, by rusted ironwork from the early 01900s, originally used to hold street-car lines.
The street lights are strung on wires and hang down the middle of the streets when these are narrow or two split the job, when they're wide. The effect is little balls of light floating in space - it has a nice aura. The buildings are all three or so stories and getting towards the hundred year mark without really showing it, though we pass a number of places where exteriors are being cleaned up. Having survived the coal-heating era and the polluting-car era (on its way out), the renovations should last much longer than the originals.
There are also a lot of bikes. Bill claims this is simply the way the people are: if it's less than 20km, they prefer to bike.
|In a somewhat Spartan, but very tasteful apartment, I'm shown to one of the nicest bedrooms I've seen all summer. A profusion of food and sandwiches is offered and the conversation runs the gambit of Cindy and Bill's travels in India, Panama, and New Zealand, as well as my recent work. After they go to bed, I while away an indeterminate time at the piano.|