Day 15–Impressions

May 27, 2010 12:35pm

Late afternoon sun over the sastrugi

Greenland is, for the most part, one giant ice mass, reaching two miles in depth at its thickest, and hugged by mountains along its coasts. Its interior was first explored by Nansen who made a “do or die” traverse from East to West in 1888. The ice sheet slowly rises from just about sea level to an average elevation of around 7500 feet. The interior is an endless succession of rolling hills. The top of any of these yields commanding views of ice, in all directions, stretching as far as the eyes can see. And given the barren nature of this context, the best visual analogy is that of a frozen sea. Riding those hills is like going up and down massive frozen swells. In the troth, the wind tends to accelerate, following the incline of the terrain. Upon approaching the crest, it is not unusual for the wind to pull back some, and sometimes stall. Dropping back down has the added benefit of gravity accelerating the speed of travel. When fully powered on a kite, and surfing these giant waves on skis, the ocean comparison is uncanny. With exception, of course, to the sastrugi–the features on the ice surface created by the winds. At speed, those irregularities can rattle your fillings, and give your knees the taste of old age! After twelve hours of riding, walking without skis feels more like a wobble!

Still, the serene feeling of being deeply immersed in this magnificent barren landscape, riding for hours relying only the wind’s power, leaves room for much contemplation. In the right context, it doesn’t take much to be fulfilled.

Last night, in spite of the deep chill, nature was displaying some of its classic, grandest spectacle. From the bottom of a hill, the sun would set over the crest enflaming the sky in oranges and reds. The over riding cool hues of the ice would take hold of the shadows in the valleys. But the kite, from the top of its 25 meters of line, would still get blasted by the golden glow of the setting sun. Upon reaching the top of the hill again, the sun would reappear for another round of the same. Given the high latitude and this time of the year, the arc of the sun hovers longer over the horizon. This gave us almost an hour of this colorful dance.

By the time the sun finally sank below view, an almost full moon was rising 180 degrees across from it. The wind died. It was midnight. And the silence was so profound, you could hear your brain cells clatter from the night’s chill! At this elevation (8400 feet) it does get cold at night, at around minus 20C degrees.

We woke up to a still, glorious sunny day, with hardly a breeze. What a relief to finally sleep in silence!

It is now 9 PM; we have waited for wind all day. We are about to set off and expect a breeze to grow after sunset, in one hour or so. In which case we will ride through the night and turn the clock. Today was restful, and quiet.
Let’s hope the night brings wind, to make up those lost miles. One thing we can depend on: it will be cold!

3 Responses to “Day 15–Impressions”

  1. Alexandra says:

    Hello up North,

    I’m glad to hear the wind stopped allowing you to continue your voyage and give some respite to your heads. Continue with your updates it is wonderful to read your daily blog and look at the photo.

  2. sophie says:

    Oh yes! The picture is wonderful. And you have a poetic and funny way to tell your story. Everyday, I like read your update. Fabulous adventure of yours.

  3. TMAC says:

    Excellent ‘ol chap, nice to that the story is moving forward, at high speed …………at times, i know you need to close the gap ! warm thoughts, great writings…….

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