Bipolar. That’s what they call people who have traveled to both the north and sound ends of the Earth. No surprise – you have to be a bit manic to even think of going there.
It began in Alaska.
I was invited to participate in a Native American grant that sent authors to schools in Alaska bush towns. My “town” was Barrow – the northernmost city in the United States. It’s 320 miles north of the Arctic Circle, bordered by the Arctic Ocean and frozen tundra. Nearby is the largest oil field in the U.S. – Prudhoe Bay.
I arrived when the long, dark winter was waning. Outside, it was -40 degrees. Inside, the children painted happy-face suns on the school windows with the words, “Welcome Back Sun.”
The people were warm and friendly, the polar opposite of their environment. I stayed with a teacher who brought me down a dead end road to experience the Northern Lights. The night filled with swirls of yellow, green, and red, changing constantly like a live abstract painting.
Other teachers took me on a snowmobile on the frozen Arctic Ocean, where the wind chill was roughly -100 degrees. We took this photo (see below) in front of the famous Barrow, Alaska sign.
I was smitten
A few years later I had to head south to Antarctica.
Our winter is their summer. I left the snow at home and traveled with my husband on the Lindblad/National Geographic expedition ship, Explorer.
No one lives in Antarctica. Instead of visiting towns, we hung out with the penguins, and watched whales and 1300-pound seals frolicking among the ice floes. I experienced a world untouched by human hands.
It was breathtaking.
I was at the bottom of the world; learning about Earth; and deepening my love of Polar Regions. I vowed to see the opposite – the top of the world.
A few months ago I made it official.
My husband and I just completed a Lindblad/National Geographic expedition to the Arctic – the polar north. Once again, we traveled on their ice-breaking expedition ship, Explorer.
We started in Iceland and followed the Viking route to Greenland. It was nothing like I expected.
Ironically, the names are mixed up. Iceland, which has more people, trees, and wild geological formations, is far greener than Greenland. Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark and covered by the second largest ice sheet in the world (the largest is in Antarctica). It’s about 80% ice, although that is quickly shrinking with climate change.
Erik the Red, father of Leif Erikson (the explorer who first discovered North America) established two colonies on the southwest coast in 985. Legend says that Erik the Red gave the new land an appealing name to convince people to settle there – Grænland or “green land.”
Greenland is Earth’s largest island with mostly barren, inhospitable land. The majority of people live outside the ice sheet, along the fjord-lined coast. Today about 56,000 people live in Greenland; Nuuk, the country’s capital, is the smallest in the world with 16,000 people.
During prehistoric times, before the Vikings and Scandinavians, Greenland was the home to several Paleo-Eskimo cultures. Today, like Erik the Red, the residents paint their homes in bright, cheerful colors, cheering up the environment.
It’s not unusual to see a simple red house, with laundry on the clothesline and an iceberg in the backyard.
Greenland is a mix of the old, the traditional, and the modern. There’s internet and television; motorcycles, cars, and trucks; and Viking ruins, small museums filled with very old artifacts, and reconstructions of the past.
From the water, summer clouds, sun, mountains, and ice create a stunning panorama of the world at the top of the planet.
Now it’s official. I’m bipolar and planning my next icy trip.
Editor’s Notes: You can visit contributor Dr. Jeri Fink at her website, HauntedFamilyTrees.com. She believes “after fifty” is a creative, exciting time to grow and explore new ideas, places, and media – defying those creaky myths of aging. A recent project – Broken – is a seven-book series of thrillers that involves all ages, from baby boomers to new adults. She tells us: “I challenged the art of storytelling by merging fact, fiction, and photography into riveting, bestselling novels. It emerges from my work as a Family Therapist; expertise in family psychology and history; research into psychopaths and The Psychopathic Spectrum; and passion in photography and photo analysis. My 28 published books, hundreds of articles and blogs, speaking engagements around the country, and active online presence all reflect my many life experiences.”
Subscribe to her e-mail lists on photo insights and haunted family trees; read her blogs ranging from photo analysis, psychopaths, facts about who we are, and inside the author’s head. Visit www.hauntedfamilytrees.com where you’ll read cutting-edge psychology; discover the secrets of haunted family trees – from the infamous to your own; and experience photo insights at their best. Share her life-changing expeditions to places like Antarctica and the Arctic on scribd.com (all completed after turning 60). She and her husband of 46 years absolutely cherish their four grandchildren, along with a pair of very rambunctious dogs.