YA Eco Mysteries, Memoirs, Novels & Travel
The Passionate Traveler Prince Christian Sound
Travels with Claire and Boris Datnow
Imagine slurping down thick, steaming-hot Dutch green pea soup on the deck of a luxury liner, gliding between sheer granite cliffs billions of years old. The sun, streaming down from a rare cloudless sky, mirrors the reflections of jagged peaks and snow-filled valleys in the calm water of Prince Christian Sound.
The sound, 66-mile long (105 kilometers), cuts the island in half from east to the west. Like a winding maze, it connects the North Atlantic with the Labrador Sea.
From the comfort and safety of our cruise ship, I try to imagine exploring this awe-inspiring sound in small wooden ships, like the Norse Vikings a thousand years ago. Even with high tech instruments, modern liners can transit Prince Christian Sound for only three months of summer before treacherous pack ice clogs the sound. Travelers from a previous voyage say that they were unable to traverse the sound because ice and dense fog had blocked the entrance.
Today, the sun radiates from a cloudless sky. And only small icebergs, known as bergy bits and growlers, float in the water. Nevertheless, early this morning a helicopter scouted the sound before giving the all clear to the ship’s captain.
Even in midsummer, it’s cold enough (around 6 C/42 F) for my husband, Boris, and I to don winter jackets, scarves, hats, and gloves. Back home, in the Heart of Dixie, it’s over 90 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity that soaks clothes in minutes.
Awed by the grandeur, passengers out on the deck, fall silent. Pivoting from side to side to photograph the unfolding vistas. Compelled to take multiple shots of the snout of a blue-white glacier grinding its way down the mountain, shedding chunks of ice into the water.
Of earth-colored minerals dripping down the cliffs, painting an ever-changing canvas on the granite rock face. Of melting icebergs, reflecting pure white, glass-green, or azure-blue twisted shapes in the sunlit water. Peaks, like whipped egg whites, created by volcanic explosions of magma, pierce the sky. Click, Click! Click!
Finally, I take a long break to gaze and to wonder what cataclysmic geological forces created this sound. The answer: fire and ice.
Geologists estimate that the four billion year old pre-Cambrian rock of Greenland is some of the oldest on earth. Part of the Laurentian Shield, it is also the same rock as that found in the Canadian shield, north of Lake Superior. In the south of Greenland, this old stone has been penetrated by more recent volcanic rock.
Glaciers that have covered Greenland for many hundreds of thousand years, have carved out deep U shaped valleys. These glaciers, feeding directly from the Greenland ice cap, are more than 2,500 feet wide and up to 140 feet high. During countless ice ages glaciers have expanded, calved (or broken off), and then receded. We can clearly see all around us how the mighty glaciers have gouged, scoured, and clawed the hard rock into amazing shapes and textures. When the glaciers retreated over the past ten thousand years the Atlantic Ocean rushed in to fill them, forming interconnect passages from west to east. The Greenland ice sheet covers 80% of the country and is the second largest in the world, after the Antarctic ice sheet. This current sheet contains ice that is roughly 100,000 years old!
By noon we are traversing the heart of the sound and gratefully accept mugs of rich, hot chocolate prepared for the guestsAs I sip my drink and contemplate the magical scene, a poem by Robert Frost floats into my mind (later, I look it up on the internet)
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
Although we are now feeling the chill, Boris and refuse to go inside for lunch so as not to miss one moment of this expedition. We order a pizza and savor it, fresh from the oven, out on the deck. Inhaling the unpolluted, pristine air is not only invigorating, but seems to make everything taste more delicious.
Late afternoon when we make our way out of the sound, the sun in these far northern reaches still gleams high in the sky.
Ten days later, on the second leg of our cruise, we are privileged to repeat the voyage in reverse from east to west. This time, however, swirling fog has blotted out the sunshine. The sheer cliffs, jagged waterfalls, and moving glaciers look eerily different in this shadowy light. Out of the fog looms a tiny village, Aappilattoq of just 200 people. Most of the year it is snowed in, and in winter is only reachable by helicopter.
That night over dinner I say, “I’ll remember this journey for the rest of my life!” We clink glasses and make a toast to help preserve this beautiful place, in any way we can, for future generations.
The sound bares witness to the mighty forces shaping our ever-evolving planet over eons of time. Traveling the sound reminded me that the lives of humans are nothing more than a blink in time. More importantly, it’s pristine beauty reminds us of our responsibility not to tamper with nature’s forces lest we destroy the only home we know.
Footnote: Visiting Prince Christian Sound has renewed my commitment to writing The Adventures of The Sizzling Six, my Eco Mystery series, which inspires youngsters to take action and become wise steward of our precious natural resources.
For more Travels visit The Passionate Traveler book series
The Passionate Traveler enhanced iBooks Vol 1-4 available now in the iBook Store
WANT TO SHARE OR COMMENT? Please click on the icons(s) of your favorite social media to share, or to comment.