The clouds begin to clear and a large mass of ice slowly fades into view. This is the edge of Greenland, the anything-but-green arctic island. From the opposite window, the lush green shores of only-slightly-less-confusingly-named Iceland are visible in the distance. I’m in an Aeroflot A330 flying from Moscow to Miami, setting eyes upon what may well be the most breathtaking view I’ve ever seen in my life. As we fly towards the white mass, I can see that the ice is not one solid sheet, but rather a sea of icebergs breaking off of the glacial tongues which snake several kilometers into the sea from their origins in rugged mountain valleys. White spots of all sizes cover the dark sea surface, arranged in swirling patters by nature’s greatest artist, the mighty wind. Beyond the shore, rugged peaks jut into the air, only their sharp rocky tips visible in the otherwise endless soft, pillowy abyss. Fresh snow rests gently between mountain peaks in absolute perfection, its mesmerizing patterns and wave-like drifts visible all the way to the horizon. No human could ever create such great beauty; this is the work of the most powerful forces on Earth.
As we continue further over the island, the mountains disappear in the distance and clouds obscure everything below from view. My entire universe consists of two colors: the bright white of the clouds below and the intense blue of the sky above. Twenty minutes pass with no change in scenery. I lean as far as I can over the window to see if there is a break in the clouds, and, sure enough, a wild mountain glimmers in the sunlight. It takes a moment to comprehend what I’m witnessing. There are no clouds; there were never clouds. The endless white is snow. The landscape visible from the window is so perfectly flat and the snow cover is so perfectly even that I didn’t believe I could possibly be looking at land.
The landscape begins to evolve as we enter another mountainous region near the southwest coast. Here the Gulf Stream meets the Arctic. The southern aspects have already melted, revealing earthy brown cliffs and vivid turquoise lakes. Glaciers encircle steep peaks, emptying into fjords and creating a radiant aquamarine to deep blue gradient in the water. Fjords fill the narrow gaps within a maze of snow-capped plateaus on mountainous islands and peninsulas, some connected by ice and some by land. As we fly over the largest glacier, its steep terminus is crystal clear; an enormous icy wall before which the glacier is frozen in perpetual motion and after which icebergs calve off in football field-sized blocks and float out to sea. The entire panorama appears in high definition under the never-setting polar sun. From here, it’s possible to see everything. The islands. The mountains. The glaciers. The sea. The colors. The textures. All laid out in front of me. This is paradise. Greenland is paradise.
Taylor Beckwith-Ferguson is a vagabond blogger with a thirst for extreme adventures in wild places. Having thus far only viewed Greenland from above, he is now set on hitchhiking a boat or plane there at the nearest possible opportunity. Follow his adventures here.