I was out on deck early the morning we entered Disko Bay. Fog surrounded the ship, hazy blue-grey into infinity, light rain and calm seas. As I watched, a giant iceberg appeared through the mist, looming ominously before it faded away into oblivion. Another appeared, then yet another. Soon the ship wove carefully through a landscape of ice, each piece as unique as an individual person. “It was as if they had been borne down from a world of myth, some Gotterdammerung of noise and catastrophe”, Barry Lopez had written. “Fallen pieces of the moon”. I stared out in wonder at their silence and their magnitude.
We spent days around the ice and each one was different. One eerie night we anchored near the glacier Eqip Sermia, which thundered all night and whose jagged face gleamed blue in the morning to greet us, again enshrouded in fog. We walked a great distance to see it from above, fording river after river around the base of sweeping black mountains. We were alert that day, watching the glacier and the sea, wary of tsunamis rising up from the massive walls of ice that cracked magnificently and collapsed into the water. Our caution rewarded us, and as we crested the ridge of moraine, the fog lifted. The whole world of Eqip Sermia’s ice lay below us, galaxies of its remains floating out into the green-blue sea.
That night we stopped the ship outside the town of Ilulissat, launching our zodiacs out into the evening light. Immense walls of ice stood, fortress-like, at the mouth of Jakobshavn Icefjord. The gateway to another world. I thought of the Norwegian word isfjell - ice mountain. We slowly cruised their perimeter at a distance, watching new landscapes appearing in the spaces between the bergs. Time passed and the sky grew a brilliant purple, the ice glowing turquoise white in contrast. I looked at the colorful buildings of Ilulissat in the distance and wondered what it must be to grow up in this wondrous place, to accept such dramatic and constant change every single day. I thought perhaps it teaches you something about the nature of life, something that can be all too easy to forget at times.
The sky gleamed suddenly yellow for a brief moment, reflecting brilliant off the glassy water. Then darkness overtook the seascape, and this world of ice faded from view and into the night.
Acacia Johnson is currently aboard the Sea Explorer on our Arctic Quest Expedition.