Endangered killers picnic at the edge of the world

Robyn Hitchcock, one of the great contemporary musical talents of the world, provides a poetic recounting for some of the sights that he encounters on his arctic trip. We hope you enjoy.

“I cannot begin to start or stop describing this place. To say something is grey means little, it is green also. And white. What we imply by ‘god’ is a being with no perspective, no point of view, but eyes that peer from everywhere. This ship is full of eyes. It docked today in Qeqertarsuaq, a fishing town at the southern tip of Disko Island.

This morning my spectacles fell off my head into the sea as I clambered aboard a zodiac (a low-in-the-water black rubber boat that seats 12 and one helmsman).

The boat rolls on the rolling sea. Lemn wonders if we are going somewhere or is it only the sea that is moving? We are going one way and the sea is going another, I assume – and we have to make that work, to get to our destination.

Which is Jakobshavn, tomorrow, where a great glacier has infinitesimally crumbled into the sea over the centuries; less infinitesimally of late – the glacier has lost 15 km over the last 10 years. It becomes thousands of luminous blue icebergs. One of them appeared outside our porthole, in the sea, this morning. We all photographed it, as if it was a firstborn child. Now the icebergs pepper the horizon, squeezed out like gorgeous, lethal children, never to return. They must float till they dissolve.

So far, I know, this is Arctic Lite – we are as yet below the 70th parallel; it isn’t necessary to wear thermal underwear and our breath does not crackle in the air. There are no polar bears, cute and deadly, and the giant ‘bergs are yet to come. This endangered world can still slay us, but we humans are lining it up to kill in our sights; have already pulled the trigger, it seems, whilst aiming for something else.

The oily green-grey sea swells to the blue-grey, pregnant sky. The luminescent icebergs, magically lit from within, patrol the waves. We photograph them as the ship sways. In the bar we sit like generals, tapping our memoirs out on the laptops that click as they inherit the earth and tell you what you’ve misspelt. As the ocean growls and some folks’ stomachs do likewise, Ray LaMontagne and the Doves play to us in our cosy warren. Such a thin line between being and not being. As you reach the border, life lights up. It gets more vivid as you near the edge, and picnic there.

Today we walked around Godhavn, at the bottom of Disko Island: blue, green and lilac-painted houses, with their washing drying in the rain, roost at the foot of heather-clad hills that rise up into the clouds. From afar, the heather is rust-coloured`; from close up, it is purple, pink, and orange, shot through with miniature green plants that look like Arctic cacti, and red & yellow leaves from boot-level micro-shrubs. Springy underfoot, interlaced with icy streams and minute ponds. Above us, pterodactyls soared around the snowy crags, and as I looked back to the bay, a lone plesiosaur thrust its tubular neck and blunt head through the bonsai waves among the icebergs and turned to face the shore. As Nathan and I watched, it yawned open its capacious mouth and then dove back underwater before Nathan could adjust his telephoto lens.

Later, as Marcus, Michèle, Hannah & I discussed Chuck Norris and ate sandwiches on a stone out-crop, the clouds began to dissolve, revealing snow-patterned hills that looked hallucinatory in the still cold air. Out in the bay, the icebergs clustered as if they needed feeding; up on the hill we sat, endangered killers – like the polar bear and the iceberg – enjoying a picnic at the edge of the world.”

By Robyn Hitchcock

Read the second part [www.sundance.tv] of Robyn Hitchcock’s views on the arctic part of the world.