August 20th. Yesterday, we agreed to wake up late. That meant six AM in the high latitudes of the midnight sun. After a good breakfast we were ready to sail to the “mother of all glaciers”, the famous LLULISSATPeople from “Ocean Imaging” had made plans for this very special day a long time ago. Their aims were as crystal clear as the arctic water. Reach the foot of this glacier and dive along it. As simple as that. I agreed to bring Breskell as close as I felt secure to this moving wall of ice.
Two hours later, we were slowly approaching the center of this mighty glacier. Little by little, I became more confident. I got closer and closer. I never thought it would be possible to get so intimate with a living glacier. . I suppose I also got accustomed to this tight feeling in my stomach and to this special dryness in my mouth.
Was it dangerous? Probably. But crossing a busy street is also dangerous in your daily pedestrian life . I took the same preventive precautions in my sailor’s journey. I evaluated quickly the safe distance needed to avoid an obstacle. Seeing these huge walls of moving ice dominating the bay was impressive. Their anterior life began thousands of years ago, with very small and fluttering snow flakes. Already at that time, they started to march toward the slow agony that the warmer water of the far-away south were going to inflict to their offsprings. The birthday of an iceberg in this huge nursery is a messy business. First, the deep rumbling of the glacier marks the coming to life of another iceberg. By that raucous , the glacier indicates its readiness to expel the newborn. Follow a crumbling along the steep face of the wall. Finally a spectacular water-spout explodes at the surface of the bay. This noise, reverberated all around the nursery followed by the deep ripples on the water surface marks the birthday of a new “berg”.
Like a four-legged newborn animal, the iceberg needs a few stabilizing oscillations before getting its balance. It is now ready to drift into its new life.
Carefully, I chose a spot where the slope of the glacier didn’t hang directly over our head. Ready to welcome any newborn, but not directly on Breskell’s deck!
I was now very surprised to discover a strong current around the floating icebergs. A significant push of around one knot. As a matter of fact, the glacier move down slowly towards the sea, “sweating “ 55.000.000. cubic meters of water per day! This immense water-flow generates this surprising first water push on the iceberg’s.
With Breskell lying now at the foot of the “mother of all glaciers”, my part was done . Time for the team of “Ocean Imaging” to occupy the center stage.
They were carefully dressing and protecting themselves against the deadly cold for a dive at the foot of this iced wall. They had rented a highly technical photographic equipment so they could film under water.
While they were diving, I left the boat drift slowly then used the engine to come back when I was too far away. I kept a close look at their operation. Underwater diving in this environment was is an operation for the ill prepared. It was a risky business done here by real professionals. After their first dive, another actress came now on stage: Kiki, our “ice mermaid”. She jumped in the water as usual, that mean wearing nothing except her bathing suit and a pair of flippers .
Overboard for a refreshing swim she went… except that at this time, it was not the welcoming and warm water of some Caribbean island. At the foot of this glacier, the salted water was even below freezing at around 28 Fahrenheit (-2 Celsius). Have you ever tried to take a foot bath, a simple foot bath just below any glacier ? I bet not . In less than a minute, you have the feeling that some malevolent genius is trying to saw, with a rusty tool, you foot at the ankle level. Now imagine yourself naked and totally immersed in the same water? Deadly foolish! The Canadian coast guard estimates to no more than 3 minutes the greatest time you can survive without the proper suit in the Saint Laurent. A much “warmer“ river farther south!
Sure, this was not her first try. She had a serious training in this field. To date, this “bare dive in cold water” was her most challenging. To be sure she stayed safe, I “parked” very close with Breskell. This time, something for me felt wrong. No more than 3 minutes later, she called me back. I didn’t even turned the boat. On reverse, I backed as quickly as possible Breskell to lift her out of the water. She was cold, really cold after her spectacular dive into these icy waters.
Back on board, she went below deck and warmed herself close to the wood stove. She was freezing! That reassured me. Even after her awesome performance, she belonged to our human community after all! And she dove long enough for her team to make surreal and exceptional pictures of this polar mermaid swimming in this Greenland waters surrounded by mighty glaciers and newborn icebergs.
The dive now was over. They all came back onboard. They were tired and cold but had achieved their movie. They looked quite happy with what they had experienced and filmed.
Now it was time to return south to “Aasiaat”. I was not very pleased with what I saw coming from that direction. The sky looked cloudy and very dark . Nothing good coming our way.
But that’s a story for another day.