Friday, 10 September 2010

A Glimpse of Antarctica

Greenland is the second largest ice reservoir in the world, accomodating ten percent of the planet's total volume. One has a hard time believing this when traveling down the west coast, through places like Ivituut, Nuuk or Qassiarsuk. But everything changes as soon as you make it to the other side and a little to the north. Today's exploits showed us the harsh, cold, dangerous - and ominously beautiful face of Greenland. In the morning we entered a fjord that became famous in 1888, when a young man by the name of Fridtjof Nansen set off to cross the inland ice for the very first time, accompanied by another legendary explorer, Otto Sverdrup. Here in Umiivik they started their bold journey, and we can hardly believe they did as we are driven so comfortably there by Polar Cirkel Boat, wrapped up nicely in our fleece, softshell and gore-tex outfits, after a nice morning tea and with the prospect to a hearty breakfast afterwards. We are entering the world of ice, it is everywhere, in the water, ashore, at the horizon, all around FRAM. People are not meant to be here, and yet they were. Our respect for the ancient explorers couldn't mount any higher. In the splendid morning light we discover arctic terns, kittywakes, fulmars and a couple of seals, even a bearded seal on an ice flow.
After this, FRAM steams full ahead towards the north to reach K√łgebukta during daylight. We make it, but our radar does not show the expected large tabular icebergs in the bay. Instead we get quite a few echoes from further out and decide to have a look. And indeed, soon we distinguish enormous silhouettes in the evening haze, some bigger than our imagination allows - between 80 and 100 meters high is the biggest tower of ice we pass, 3-4 times higher than our ship; you can only get an idea of it by trying to spot the seagulls at the foot of this giant. Slowly we make our way among these mountains of white and blue, awed, reduced, timid, and moved. Now night is around us and we can't see them any more. But we know that they are out there, cold and majestic, and now we believe that there is more than one iceworld on this planet. We caught a glimpse of Antarctica.