It is time to return to civilization. To come down the ice, we choose a vast glacier that calves into the fjords – the Kaarale Gletcher. As the glacier twists and turns, it hides ice falls and crevasse fields. We intuit the best path down by eyeing the fall lines and identifying the smoothest and most continuous ones. The approach succeeds – although in truth we will never know whether we found the best path. In a matter of hours we are at the snow line. Ahead of us lies a lunar landscape of sooted ice fins. It is so outrageous and unnatural I think I am looking at an algorithm-generated landscape in a video game. Only pure mathematics could come up with something like this. It is tempting to stop looking for a path in this maze and to just take any line. Matt, however, seems to have a plan and follows an invisible Ariadne thread across the dorsal fins of our ice monster. We see the ocean ahead, serene. Scattered icebergs endure the end of summer.
We know that at some point we will have to shift towards a side moraine – otherwise we will reach the edge of the glacier and look down on the icy water from a giant ice cube that could calf at any moment. Like a normal Red Bull video. One side of the glacier ultimately leads to a couple of landing points; the other side was just a cliff all the way to another glacier. These two glaciers meet each other on our chart, but they don’t now; they have retreated a couple miles and left a high-point line on the cliff, a couple of hundred feet above the current ice surface. We are going to have to update maps with the frequency of FB posts if we want to keep up with these melting monsters.
As we continue going down we hike parallel to gurgling meltwater channels. Some end in moulins, others seem to continue all the way to the sea. We run into some artifacts – a rusty necklace chain, some unidentifiable white discs. When did this amulet get lost? Where? How long has it been imprisoned in the glacier’s ice? We have a million questions and we did not bring a portable spectrometer. We are not supposed to disturb anything, so we are reduced to taking a picture. In a few years, the necklace will sink into the ocean, waiting to be found by some enterprising little submarine rover.
And we are out! No more fins – we are still walking on ice covered in a thick blanket of black dust but there are no more crevasses and we now see the scoured, smooth boulders that used to lie under the ice. The rocks’ inclusions innervate the polished surfaces into beautiful patterns. We set camp a safe distance from the calving front. A large chunk of ice can easily create a wave big enough to flood all of the nearby cove beaches. We setup the bear fence one last time – polar bears are a lot more likely now that we are back to the shore and away from the desolate heights of the glaciers.
Foolishly, I rely on the idea that I have literally all day to enjoy the views – the Sun barely sets up here and now. But when I come out of my tent in the “morning” I see nothing: coastal fog! How will we get picked up?