"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."


By on October 25, 2017 in Travel with 0 Comments

Bonnie on an iceberg: It is really colder than it looks.

By Bonnie Orr

I told my friends that I wanted to see Greenland before it melted. I was not prepared for the “WOW.”

I went to Greenland in late summer, which meant that I would miss most of the arctic birds that already had migrated south. Usually birding is a focus of my travel, so I did not know what to expect in east Greenland as the little cruise ship sailed along the coast and up the fjords.

Of course, the icebergs greeted us shortly off shore, and we could see the glaciers running to the sea as well as those glaciers that had receded landward for several miles.

I expected to see fabulous ice, but I did not expect to see the huge icebergs striated black, grey and white that had recorded the eruption of nearly every world volcano for hundreds of thousands of years.

The ice chunks breaking from the base of the glacier were clear because the air bubbles had all been pressed out. Some icebergs are blue above the water, but the part below the water glow teal green.

The morning we woke to see the shoreline of Greenland was truly an eye-opener. The mountains are the most dramatic I have ever seen — sandstone shaped by grinding ice and violent uplifting and folding and severe erosion.

The mountains rose for thousands of feet and were pocked with remnants of ice that had carved cirques and pinnacles. When we went walking on shore, we were treated to curved and twisted red, cream and pink ribbons of sandstone that resemble the formations in “The Wave” in the Escalante Canyon area of Utah.

I felt the complex rock patterns should be translated into the most intricate weavings or perhaps a knitting pattern for a snug, woolen sweater.

Then — the most unexpected “view” of all — the tundra was in full bloom at the end of August.

Two species of trees flourish in forests that cover the bare coastal hillsides. They were easy to see because the leaves of the willow and the birch were turning autumn gold and yellow. But these hundreds-years-old trees never grow taller than five inches.

The berries were ripe on the bright fall red bilberry (huckleberry) plants that also were miniaturized to three to four inches in height.

The national flower of Greenland is our familiar fireweed. However, it does not grow waist-high with willowy, bright pink flowers but is a compact four-inch tall plant with deep pink flowers and fleshy leaves. I used my close-up lens more often than I have ever used it before to photograph the flowers.

On dry sunny days, the mosses appeared pale green and the lichens were grey and crisp. On moist days, the mosses glowed green and the lichens were soft, pliable blue green. These are Greenland’s soil builders for blooming plants and provide forage for musk ox and arctic hares and various birds.

Never have I been so happy to see another part of the world.

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