By Dallas // Wednesday 3 Oct // 14:10:33 // View
It’s the scale of the landscape on East Greenland that humbles and disorients. I’m feeling downright tiny and frail, more like a lone lemming on the tundra than a member of a culture capable of remaking the land and altering global climate.
We’re motoring now through a deep channel called Turner Sound, found on few maps, looping around a mountainous island that appears to be slightly smaller than Switzerland. Our guide, Ko De Korte, with decades of East Greenland experience, tells us that this strip of coast south of Scoresbysund is the widest uttermost wilderness on Greenland, which puts it among the two or three wildest places on the planet. That mariner’s guide The Arctic Pilot, Vol. II tells Captain Gert Ritsema that Turner Sound was transited fifty years ago, but as to what manner of vessel it was or what the mariner should expect once in the sound the book does not elaborate. If any human ever set foot ashore around here, he couldn’t have gotten very far inland because the mountains plunge nearly vertically into the frigid water. Their layered black basalt flanks, mostly covered in snow, are gouged by ancient river courses, and the deep valleys between them scoured by glacial action.
A white gyre falcon, curious apparently, orbits Nooderlicht’s masts, while we humans stand about on deck shivering, snapping photos, jaws agape, exclaiming (sometimes profane) utterances in lieu of cogent statements about the dizzying magnitude, the sheer mass of the landscape. How can we express it, anyway? Facts and figures seem irrelevant measurements of these mountains, metaphor inadequate. How can there actually be such a place as East Greenland?… The sun is shinning incongruously, the sky azure blue, and we’re not used to that after our grim, eight-day crossing of the Greenland Sea.
But now some foul weather seems to be forming out east, and the ice bergs, calendar-photo beautiful an hour ago, are taking on a menacing air. If we’re to go for a walk on the flat margins of the glacier dead ahead, we’d better hurry. Nooderlicht’s anchor chain clatters through the pipe as the shore party gathers gear, and we’re ready…. No, wait, we’re not going. The fjord is freezing fast. No one aboard has ever seen salt water freeze so fast. We must move on or remain until summer returns.