Holmes Ø and the Greenland Ice Sheet

Sep 04, 2018 - National Geographic Explorer


Are there superlatives enough to describe our day? Spectacular? Wonderful? Best ever?

Sunrise was fire behind Djævelens Tommelfinger (thumb of the devil) followed by subtle layering in the land as we approached Holms Ø. Icebergs changed from pastel pinks and blues to sparkling whites. Golden light followed us to land where we meandered among lush tundra vegetation or sat and looked far off over an inland lake where the water lapped gently on the shore. Our eyes roamed over distant vistas where glacial erratics perched. Beneath our feet, the details of miniature landscapes awaited our perusal. 

Ice has been with us for many days. The sea ice of far northern latitudes has shared the limelight with massive drifting bergs and smaller bergy bits. We’ve consistently questioned where these white leviathans originated. Was it this glacier or that? Were they the progeny of the Greenland ice sheet or of a smaller cap of ice growing upon the land? From above, Greenland is a world of ice that seems to flow down valleys like an ancient river. Somehow, we never dreamt that we would find ourselves walking on top of the blanket of ice that holds a good portion of the planet’s fresh water stores. But we did, and it was glorious! Jewels of ice, macroscopic crystals crunched beneath our feet as we rose higher and higher onto the rolling terrain. Here and there, patches of gray betrayed the slippery areas and in crevices, blue light bounced around. As far as the eye could see, ice reached out to the horizon and we could imagine the difficulty of crossing this land on foot.

It seemed only appropriate that the day’s events be celebrated. Beer and sandwiches were consumed in pleasantly sunny weather. And then more food appeared at a traditional Pinoy buffet. Back on board, the lounge began to rock to the live music of the ship’s own Spice Boys band.

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About the Author

Karen Copeland

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Born and raised in Canada, Karen received her B.Sc. in biology from the University of Waterloo, her M.D. from the University of Western Ontario and interned at McMaster University in Hamilton. Detouring from hospital hallways, Karen soon became a whitewater guide and published photographer, fulfilling a passion for knowledge that began with botany and led to geology and ornithology.

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