At first I thought it was a boat. Or a white spot of reflection from inside the plane. It wasn’t. It was an ice berg. Then there were others, more and
more sharp edged pure flecks on the sea below.

We had hit bad turbulence heading over the water east of Canada, and I had thankfully managed to drift to sleep in the middle of it. I had forgone the easy leg stretches afforded by an aisle seat on our 9 hour flight from New York to Moscow in the hope of seeing Greenland, but I as we jounced around inside fog at 40,000 feet, I figured sleep (and thus escape from my fear of turbulence) would be more pleasant than staying awake. But now, looking down just after waking (to blissfully smooth air) I found Greenland. That first lone iceberg, then others, with tiny barren islands rising out of a cold pixelated smoke which was smaller ice held in sweeping patterns by the tide.

Southern Greenland

Southern Greenland

Greenland was there. Most of the plane was asleep, most of the windows closed, but luckily it was dim outside (night is not dark here at this time of year) and so no flight attendant had made me close mine. Icebergs turned into ice-choked fjords, edged with razor peaks and cliffs that seemed monstrous even from the plane’s height. Gray-brown rock, ice-fields lapping white over their edges to form defined, meandering glaciers. And then back into fjords, ice, and finally open sea.

It’s not that I’ve never seen mountains, snow, and ice from a plane. Flying out of my home in Juneau, Alaska, the view is always spectacular. But this was different. Partly from waking up just in time, partly from the luck of suddenly clear skies. Mostly because I’m not just sightseeing now. I’m on my way to a place where I get to look for answers, to try to understand a piece of the Arctic. Greenland is two continents away from the Kolyma, but their fates are intertwined, and looking down on the flecks of ice and unfathomably tall cliffs I felt quiet with responsibility to listen to and to fight for such sublime places. This month is of course going to be exiting and a great deal of fun, and will make many good stories for future telling, but it is also a chance for me to do something more real than anything I’ve ever done. Granted it’s just a beginning student’s first project. But it is a beginning. And I am eager to begin.

One Response to “Beginnings”

  1. July 03, 2014 at 2:54 am, Mary Wood said:

    Hello Megan,
    Your description of everything you saw put a very clear picture in my head. What a wonderful experience this is for you. I look forward to reading more of your blogs.
    Thank you!
    Mary Wood (John’s wife)