Wednesday, February 8, 2023
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Bear Witness to Greenland

Phrases By Nat Hab Traveler Kelley McKinnon and Images By Our Expedition Leaders

{A photograph} of an iceberg captures nothing of its essence or its presence.  However then, two-dimensional snapshots by no means convey the bodily grandeur of one thing with depth and peak. In the identical approach first-time metropolis guests would possibly stand near the underside of a skyscraper or a monument and bodily bend again to take it in all the best way up, feeling small by comparability, assembly an iceberg in particular person strikes awe. It’s a presence you’re feeling. It attracts you in.

Our days at Base Camp in distant East Greenland embody expeditions by Zodiac the place we twist and wheel round in our seats to soak up the 360-degree marvel. We glide on surprisingly calm waters within the midst of icebergs of styles and sizes unimaginable; icebergs which have solely lately damaged off from their stable glacier beds and at the moment are on the whim of tide, currents and wind, making their approach down this distant fjord to the ocean. To explain them as ‘making their approach’ makes it sound deliberate or intentional, this journey they take. Nonetheless, they’re vacationers caught in cycles of season, temperature and local weather as are we. The distinction, after all, is that they haven’t any alternative nor affect within the matter, harmless and submissive actors in a play that we stepped in to partially direct.

Travelers aboard zodiac travel through calm arctic waters in Greenland photographing icebergs and glaciers

© Melissa Scott

“No, we can not go farther north within the fjord.” Our Indigenous information cautions our naïve enthusiasm to discover additional, to the touch the first origins of those icebergs. The icebergs transfer quick, he says, and so they may entice us by sealing off the slender water path he found that had allow us to flip and sidle among the many ice giants this far. That is the traditional shift of ice on water, however we can not discern this motion with out fixing our gaze on a landmark and patiently noting the nonetheless progress of ice. There aren’t any different methods to see it. No ripples, no wake. How does one measure shifts this sluggish? Our information has recognized since childhood. All of us be taught the dangers in our personal neighborhoods, but not often perceive the dangers to others in their very own place. His warning about being trapped by ice introduces a wedge of foreboding, personalizing nature in my thoughts with an inkling that she would struggle again if she may.

Travelers zoom by on a zodiac in the arctic waters of Greenland

© Ralph Lee Hopkins

Closest to their origin the place they break off in noisy chunks, the sound of a brand new iceberg separating is just like the loudest thunder clap, however it resonates with extra depth throughout the expanse right here, the sound channeled alongside the waterway. Close to the glacier supply, the icebergs are a lot bigger and blunter in form, with one the scale of a soccer stadium. They’re extra ominous in some methods as we strategy them in our small boats. They’re nearer collectively and appear to protect the fjord and the ice sheet within the background, laying declare to the fitting to cross. Going south on the fjord the day prior, we had all been delighted by the nonetheless large icebergs that had been worn by inventive forces of abrasion into shapes our imaginations discerned. We variously noticed circus performers, skate parks, scary monsters and dolphins in our ice sculpture world that had our imaginations operating, in the identical approach folks seek for shapes they acknowledge in clouds. These icebergs have been extra separated, like a herd of horses that was snug in its run and never held shut collectively for their very own sense of safety.

Travels in distance under glacier iceberg bridge cheering from zodiac boat arctic waters

© Ralph Lee Hopkins

The expertise of being on this panorama doesn’t evaluate to mountain hikes or different vacationer treks. It’s not like the pause one would possibly tackle a peak inside a spread of grand, seemingly immovable mountains. The eight of us in a Zodiac really feel totally different contained in the chess board of icebergs as a result of we aren’t observing a static panorama. We’re inside a dynamic as if dropped to the center of a stage whereas a sluggish ballet dance is underway throughout us. We’re shifting because the icebergs and water are shifting and it feels as if our heads should always flip to maintain out an eye fixed for one more participant on this stage that we would unwittingly stumble upon.

Natural Habitat Adventures and WWF travelers celebrate a fun zodiac ride under the arctic sun of Greenland

© Colby Brokvist

Our grinning native information at one level yells, “You wish to contact an iceberg?” He rapidly angles the Zodiac simply sufficient on its path in order that raised arms on one facet of the boat can look for a second off the overhanging fringe of ice, sufficiently small, within the information’s judgment, to pose no threat as we enter its area.

Gleeful happy travelers hold a chunk of an iceberg from a glacial fjord in Greenland

© Colby Brokvist

The utter stillness of this panorama can lull one into a way of calm till the second this place asserts its independence with a motion so swift, pronounced and sudden that it really took our breaths. At some point whereas boarding the boats, some noticed motion whereas others solely heard a close-by crack like a gunshot. Within the bay the place we had come ashore, shut sufficient for the ensuing waves to threaten to engulf us, a big chunk of ice had calved from an iceberg. Some noticed it. The now instinctive seize for telephone cameras was not fast sufficient to seize this in-real-life shock. Our information knew this photo-op second carried hazard and he jumped with an vitality we had not but seen to launch the boat in seconds and switch it to level safely into the waves that have been coming.

Calm arctic waters in Greenland as zodiac glides through fjords of glaciers and icebergs walls of ice

© Eric Rock

Our first time out, we have been near an iceberg that ever so slowly rolled over as we approached it, seeming like a sleeping large shifting lazily below blankets. What prompted the roll we didn’t know, however some shifting imbalance in the entire of the ice construction in its relationship with its mattress of water was at work. Whereas we delighted within the sight of this mild large shifting earlier than us, we have been additionally wordlessly warned of the unpredictability of our ice companions and their indifference to our security.

Travelers approach massive iceberg in Greenland riding a zodiac boat on calm arctic waters

© Ralph Lee Hopkins

At some point we picnic on a barren island of rock inside shut view of the ice sheet. What was hanging on arrival to Nat Hab’s Base Camp two days prior was that the ice sheet lay flat for miles to see with mountain peaks punctuating its entrance however not often extending above its flat profile. We have been all accustomed to seeing different peaks jutting raggedly into the sky, however right here the peak of the ice sheet exceeded that of most mountains. From a distance, the ice sheet regarded like a comfortable white blanket unfold fairly evenly alongside the highest fringe of the horizon. At a look, it might be mistaken for a flat layering of clouds. Its presence turned a continuing grounding drive, one thing we regarded to over morning espresso and within the night because the sundown emphasised its line. It felt virtually just like the ice sheet was holding the remainder of the panorama collectively, like a defend that protected the mountains beneath from erosion; like a glue that held them again from sliding into the ocean.

Hikers enjoy sunny day in Greenland trekking over rocks overlooking fjords and glaciers

© Colby Brokvist

The hikers return from their post-lunch foray. The rock and the small however hardy tundra development appear unaffected by the press of our ft. No footprints have taken on this exhausting place. One traveler observes, “I couldn’t keep right here. It’s too exhausting a spot.” She doesn’t imply troublesome or difficult, despite the fact that surviving right here is itself a query. She means the austereness of it; the coldness that registers despite the fact that we have been cosy in our orange survival fits. The panorama feels chilly to your eyes even whereas it affords the hanging majesty of fjords, mountains and coloured striations of rock formations.

Traveler with natural habitat adventures and WWF taking photos with an iPhone of wildflowers in arctic tundra field fuzzy white flowers in Greenland bear flowers

© Colby Brokvist

Occasional tiny purple or white flowers would mark a strip of uncovered grime in a valley or nook. However even these shiny troopers didn’t ease a sense that our presence was extremely international right here. By the second day, the barrenness registered in a deep sense of humility and slight discomfort whilst I admired the distant view of the ice subject every morning over espresso. It struck me that we had seen not one tree or shrub and no signal of life apart from rare birds and the one humpback that had noticed us in our puny Zodiac. That whale, seemingly alone within the huge fjord, had solely emphasised the dimensions of our environment, our isolation, and the extent to which nature right here quietly dominated us in each approach.

Whale tale breaches icy arctic waters in Greenland surrounded by icebergs

© Eric Rock

There have been many surprises in Greenland. One of many sweetest was to listen to the voice of ice. Or, slightly, historic bubbles of air trapped seemingly without end within the compressed ice emit delicate spontaneous chirps because the ice melts and they’re free once more. I interpret them as little squeals of enjoyment at rejoining the ambiance from their longstanding cells. Or maybe gasps of shock at launch from slumber.

Expedition leader wildlife guide naturalist holds chunk of sea ice in Greenland piece from glacier and iceberg

© Natalie Alane

We sit on historic rock that kinds a small island and have 10 minutes of silence after our lunch. Our information, a author in addition to journey seeker, reads us a poem to encourage reflection. He states the apparent—all too not often do we now have the prospect to sit down in a second the place not one human-made sound can intrude. We’re miles from one other human or human settlement. There aren’t any flight paths right here. In a bay miles away is the crumbling basis of an deserted sod hut that was strategically positioned on a hill by individuals who survived solely via consideration to nature’s cycles and her whims. Their humble shelter was constructed to see when whales or seals or different seasonal bounty was arriving, nature supporting their survival efforts on this in any other case inhospitable place. These ruins are the one proof that folks as soon as lived on the land away from the settlements, settlements constructed by governments that most well-liked folks to dwell along with human aids, not the pure problem and rhythm of the hunt.

Greenland vast arctic waters floating sea ice glacial fjords cut by snow-capped mountains

© Ralph Lee Hopkins

I discover myself listening with my eyes closed to distinct water sounds. There’s something I’ve by no means heard earlier than. At first, it feels like a number of small flows down the mountain, little creeks and streams of soften operating their technique to the ocean. That is the sound of operating water that untold folks attempt to recreate in gardens and houses and places of work with synthetic fountains or meditation tapes. The sound of operating water is by some means a grounding presence that speaks on to our souls. But that is after I first discover the distinct sound of ice, at first considering it a second smaller stream. The insistence and tempo of the effervescent sound are magnified on this little island bay alongside the huge fjord of ice with echoing mountains, giving us encompass sound just like the best live performance corridor. We gratefully take heed to this quick, mild symphony nearby of slowly grinding glaciers and the seemingly peaceable blanket of the Greenland ice sheet. If we may converse the language of those delicately bursting ice sounds, would they inform us they’re grateful or afraid to be launched from their ice slumber?

Icy giant iceberg Greenland calm waters serene natural beauty

© Colby Brokvist

In our 10 minutes of silence, most shut their eyes. I do know this as a result of after I pay attention some time to the ice symphony, I can not resist a take a look at my associates, curious to see if there’s bodily proof of how they’re affected by this place and this second. I understand various ranges of embrace for this quiet; of consolation with group silence. Our bodies give away indicators of full rest, of giving as much as the setting on this second. Different our bodies trace at states of prepared activation, these whose minds are processing the act of stillness whereas ready for the sign to maneuver. How in a different way do folks worth moments of stillness, I ponder? How do folks be taught to sit down with their environment, slightly than feeling obliged to attempt to form them?

Greenland massive iceberg with bright blue green water beneath illuminating the sheer magnetism

© Ralph Lee Hopkins

We get near small icebergs. Locals name them ‘bergies.’ They’re no menace to our boat. Up shut, you may see how a lot ice lives under the water’s floor, the sides of the submerged ice usually wider than the protruding high which has been diminished by wave and wind. Refractions of sunshine waves make some elements of the ice shiny blue. The ice beneath the water has a distinct coloration, as if it desires to precise itself as distinct from the seen peak. Ice teaches us classes about human limitations and about nature’s goal path.

Iceberg bright blue water areal footage

© Ralph Lee Hopkins

The Titanic involves thoughts first, a lesson in hubris and under-estimation; additionally a lesson about care and a spotlight, and never making assumptions about your house on the planet at any second. Polar bears want ice, a specific amount in sure locations at sure occasions of the yr. There may be a lot certainty and uncertainty tied to the survival of a species. Ice that blocks human passage and disappearing ice that will open new passage; passage that may end in both new conquest or new cooperation amongst people who are likely to see solely newly open water and its prospects. Most don’t mirror on what was misplaced.

Nat Hab & wwf travels embark on a zodiac boat ride on the calm arctic waters back to Base Camp Greenland

The group returns to Base Camp Greenland for relaxation and reflection after a day of exploring! © Colby Brokvist



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