I’m sitting on a plane floating 36,000 feet above the North Atlantic Ocean: the redeye to Reykjavik, Iceland. I can never sleep on these overnight flights, especially not this one.
I’ve been routinely checking the in-flight tracker, waiting to cross over Greenland. Sometime around 0400 local time, just as the tiny plane icon on the screen begins to cross over Greenland, the cloud cover parts.
And there it is, stretching out below, soaring upwards from the sea and fog: the southwestern corner of Greenland. Dark mountains rise from the Earth, reaching towards the sky, culminating their vertical efforts in jagged, knifelike ridges.
My face is plastered against the tiny airplane window as I crane my head for a better look. Those mountains we just flew over have been swallowed by ice, and sure enough, there below us is the Greenland Ice Sheet. Only ragged, sawtoothed arêtes emerge from the enveloping ice and snow. As we continue even the tallest mountains vanish, and it becomes difficult to distinguish the clouds from the ice.
People often ask me why I like the ice and cold so much, why I would rather spend my vacation in the Arctic than the Caribbean. I don’t really know how to explain it, but when I look below at the ice unfolding in pristine vastness, I can tell you that it captivates me in a way that pink sand beaches and palm trees never have.
I spend most of the next hour with my eyes glued to the white world unfolding below, watching the barely discernible patterns in the ice and snow. Iceland, not Greenland, is my destination for the next three weeks, but watching the midnight sun rise over the ice sheet was an incredible start to the trip.