*13 August: I am in Ilulissat on the west coast of Greenland at roughly 69° latitude, separated from Canada by Baffin Bay. About 60,000 people live in the country, the largest island on the planet, mostly covered with ice rather than humanity. Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the reasons I am here, the other being my interest in sailing by ferry down the coast for several days, gaining acquaintance, I hope, with the near endless fjords of this region. The town’s name means iceberg in the native language—appropriately since the glacier at the head of the Icefjord feeds a constant stream of bergs into the fjord and thence the bay. From the town, and especially my relatively elevated hotel window, I look out at hundreds of the namesakes floating all over the strait between here and Disko Island, about 35 miles west but looking closer. The bergs are pure white, come in all sizes, and like clouds do not perceptibly move; look away and back and that illusion ends, but the movement is slight and slow. Some of them have the prototypical, turquoise-colored glacial color around their watery base, for reasons I don’t understand. Maybe a sign of the more swiftly melting bergs? [No, I later learn, it’s just ice in purer, transparent crystalline form.] Since I lived in Alaska 30+ years ago I have been enchanted by these transient beings, on their way from life as part of a glacier onward into water becoming part of the sea. They seem to me mysterious in the absence of any real mystery about their source and nature. Like trees, they quietly abide, albeit comparatively briefly. More of them drop from glacier into Icefjord than anywhere else in the northern hemisphere. We will wind our way through them when the ferry leaves tomorrow evening. Before then, I will hike along the edge of the Icefjord, surely one of the most daunting traffic jams imaginable.

Above 2 photos by Author Craig Brestrup

Photo by Alexander Hafemann on Unsplash


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