Unless you look out the window.
When I did that on 4 November 2007, halfway between London and Denver, I saw this:
Best I could tell at the time, this was Greenland. That’s how I labeled it in this album
on Flickr. For years after that, I kept looking at Greenland maps, trying to find where, exactly …
all these mountains and glaciers were.
Then, two days ago, I found out. They were just north of the Arctic Circle
on the Cumberland Peninsula
of Baffin Island
, an Arctic landform almost twice the size of New Zealand
. I had just finished photographing everything I could of Greenland, en route from London to Los Angeles in a United 777, looking back out my dirty and frosty window near the trailing edge of the wing. After we finished crossing Davis Strait, and started seeing the islands on the Baffin Island coast, I realized that the scene was familiar. My GPS and the plane’s own map filled in the gap I’d been mulling for most of a decade.
Cutting through the center of the peninsula was a 75-mile long Yosemite-grade valley called Akshayuk Pass
, connecting the North and South Pangnirtung Fjords. Feeding into the valley were glaciers slowly sliding off ice caps. On the west side of the pass was the Penny Ice Cap, a mini-Greenland icing a spectacular cake called Auyuittuq National Park
, almost all north of the Arctic Circle, meaning that it will be in darkness around the clock a month from now, when the Winter Solstice comes.
Wikipedia: “In Inuktitut
(the language of Nunavut
people, the Inuit
), Auyuittuq (current spelling: ᐊᐅᔪᐃᑦᑐᖅ aujuittuq) means ‘the land that never melts.’” Nobody lives there.
On the first trip I was fascinated by a mountain that looked like an old tooth with fillings that had fallen out. It’s in the lower left side of this shot here:
So I recognized it instantly when I saw it again. Here’s the same scene after seven years:
The mountain is
A bit before I started shooting these scenes, a flight attendant asked me to shut my window, so others on the plane could sleep or watch their movies. Note that this was in the middle of a daytime flight, not a red-eye. When I told her I booked a window seat to look and shoot out the window, she was surprised but supportive. “That is pretty out there,” she said.
Later, when we were over Hudson Bay and the view was all clouds, I got up to visit the loo and count how many other windows had shades raised. There were eight, out of dozens in the long Economy cabin.
No wonder one cynical term used by airline people to label passengers is “walking freight.” The romance and thrill of flying has given way to rolling passengers on and off, and filling them with bad food and “content” from entertainment systems.
But there’s more than meets the shade. Much more, if you bother to look.