Day 44 – Disko Bay Epilogue

June 25, 2010 3:29pm

The glacier here advances at rates of 40 meters per day

AM on the bay, basking in twenty four hour sun–no bathing suit though

Ilulissat, Greenland
Arriving in Ilulissat spells a very different Greenland experience than what we have had so far. It has paved roads, hotels, souvenir shops, and tour operators. And were it not for the multitude of sled dogs everywhere to remind us that this is still–at its core–a working Inuit town–Ilulissat would begin to feel like Niagara falls: a tourist destination. As well it would be: a Unesco certified World Heritage site, the icefjord of Ilulissat (which literally translates to “iceberg”) is one of the more arresting ice landscape anywhere in the world. Disko Bay which dominates it, is littered with the largest icebergs I have seen anywhere. The Ilulissat glacier is the most active in the northern hemisphere, advancing at speeds that are confounding, particularly as they have been exponentially growing. The accelerator here, as can be expected, is climate change. In 2001, the glacier moved at the rate of 20 meters a day. By 2004, that number had astoundingly increased to 40 meters per day. The cause is universally accepted to be warmer air and warmer water: the glacier loses in thickness, and the water erodes the base below the surface, precipitating the pour. Aside from other consequences, this contributes directly to ocean rise. It has been said by most professor studying climate up here, but if you want to know what will happen in the world in terms of climate change within the next generation, look to the changes taking place in the arctic over the next five to ten years. It is that drastic. Changes happen here at rates two to three times those of the rest of the word. It is a local fact of life: everyone here is keenly aware of it, and will discuss it openly with grave concern; from Inuit hunters and fishermen to the local tourist operators. It is the trait of an unfortunate partisan mentality but to hear naysayers back home militantly claim for this to be a hoax. This is not a matter of opinion–it is a condition. To reject it is like claiming that cancer is not a sickness: you can say that, but it won’t make it go away…
On our first night here, I hiked to the mouth of the glacier. It was late, and I was tired. But again, the conditions were where I like them for shooting ice: overcast, with high, heavy clouds. Not sure if I would score these again, I took off after dinner and walked through the night. (Though strong wind disturbed the water surface, I was right at least with the weather: it has been clear and sunny since). Though about a thousand kilometers south of Qaanaaq, Ilulissat is still two hundred kilometers inside the arctic circle, and definitely on twenty four hour daylight.
I put Eric in the plane at 8 AM, and went to bed for a few hours.
I monitored the conditions all day, and by evening the wind had all but died. The sun here is lower on the horizon in the evening, and cast a warm glow over the bay. I went to the harbor and approached a fisherman to take me out in the bay to get close to the giants. We left at 11PM in near still water: ideal for shooting ice. Though the sun made it almost too postcard perfect for fine art photography, the impact of getting close to these icecubes measuring multi story buildings is undeniably powerful. The ice really speaks–if one listens.
We cruised at low speed amongst them for a few hours, often turning the skiff’s engine off–the deafening silence broken only by the occasional low rumble of the ice advancing; or the explosive sound of calving. I would not claim Disko Bay to be the best fine art environment for shooting ice (unlike my colleague Lynn Davis), but to witness ice at its most powerful–I can’t think of any better.
This was a nice way to wrap the expedition: comfortable, restful, and remarkably scenic. I will board a plane for Copenhagen on my way back to full re-integration. As I write this, from the balcony of my hotel cabin over looking the bay, I see icebergs floating by in front of me basking in the warm glow of the evening’s sun and life feels complete.
Thank you for having kept with these travels. And until the next one: Antarctica–The Amundsen Centennial, November 2010-February 2011…
See you there!

One Response to “Day 44 – Disko Bay Epilogue”

  1. Free Porn says:

    You make blogging look like a walk in the park! I’ve been trying to blog daily but I just cant find writing material.. you’re an inspiration to me and i’m sure many others!

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