Today, i saw a glacier for the first time. And an iceberg. And two new continents. I dreamt of Shackleton, trudging over the ice floes, virtually heard the creaking of the ice as it groaned and strained under my feet. I felt the imaginary icy breeze, saw the spindrift and felt the terror as a lead opened up in front of me. I relived a hundred moments of joy, terror and achievement as i revisited the journeys of my polar heroes, Shackleton, Ranulph Fiennes, Scott and Peary.
As we flew over Greenland, the clouds parted and i saw thousands of miles of mountains, ice floes, fragmented and divided channels, i dreamt of Endeavour, trapped in the ice, of overwintering and seal blubber. I have read these things, seen the photographs, but never seen such a view with my own eyes, until today.
I was uncertain if it was the most beautiful view i’d ever seen, or if i was indifferent. It was a strange feeling. The sensation of viewing something known, yet never seen, for the first time. I had learnt so much about it, but strangely knew nothing of it.
I guess from 38,000 feet, i still know nothing of it, but i do feel one step closer. It’s odd the difference between seeing and imagining. On the one hand, actually viewing the floes stretching into the distance added nothing to what i already knew; trackless frozen wastes, myriad black cracks, shattered planes of whiteness. On the other, i perceived the distance, saw with my own eyes the distances, saw the way the edges of the floes lined up, saw the fault lines, saw the mountains plunge into the black seas, saw the calmness, saw the distance, saw the incredible emptiness. It was a fleeting glimpse, maybe an hour of watching it, but seeing the distances, experiencing the scale and imagining what it would be like to stand down there.
There is a difference between learning and experiencing. Sometimes it might not be great, at others, it’s almost immeasurable. I don’t know the cause of my apparent indifference; maybe because i knew what to expect? Maybe apathy because i’d seen if on the television before? Maybe because it was so abstract from the plane. It certainly was beautiful though. Maybe i should go back.