Axel Heiberg

Axel Heiberg. An Arctic water wonderland. Natural and unfettered. A land that flows. Water under our feet. Water frozen solid trapped in grand ice sheets and glaciers. Water vaporized in the air. Solid, liquid and gas. Rivers, streams, and fjords. Wetlands and Geothermal springs. Nothing to stop, dam, divert or constrain it other than rocks colorful in their mineral make up, and mountains. With only a thin veneer of soil on this earth supporting the brief summer when plants flower.

Water so pure you can drink this unadulterated elixir wherever it emerges and flows. You dunk your head into the streams letting the refreshing liquid penetrate and purify your mind and seep into your being. It is what is nature intended – and we can come to this place, reverent and realizing how precious this land is.

This water-land is what we have left and needs to be preserved. “People have destroyed 87% of the world’s wetlands since 1700, dammed almost two-thirds of the world’s largest rivers3, and doubled the area covered by cities since 1992.” Scientific American Erica Gies December 13, 2022

With this realization that what we were seeing, immersed in unconstrained flowing water, be it in rivers, streams, soils, wetlands, glaciers is rare, special and is nature as it was and should be.

We camped on the edge of Exhibition sound – a vast fjord opening into Strand Bay fed by the Thomson Glacier, part of the Hidden Icefield – looking out at Queen Elizabeth islands. The only place to touch down in our Twin Otter with its huge Tundra tires. The original location was too wet. But a silver lining as we were by ourselves 79 degrees 23 minutes north with the magnetic pole south of us and within 740 miles from the North pole.

Days of base camp and hikes – our first day stopped by the rising waters of Wolf Creek (a river anywhere else). No matter, a change in destination to Wolf canyon, then across the tundra covered hills with their outcrops of gabbro and shale deposits. Discovering petrified tree trunks and cannon ball sized concretions. Happily, submerged in a moisture laden world of rain, fog and clouds, which would freeze over soon enough when the earth tilted back, and the sun was no longer perpetually above it.

How to explain this place? Quantify or qualify?

There is the science of an arctic panorama. Colors vibrant from unique atomic structures of the mineral lattice and unique to each molecule absorbing specific visible light. Hypothesis and theories about the patterned ground and hexagonal polygons shapes. Freeze and thaw cycles that crystalize the water and break up the matrix of solid ground. Natural selection driven by the short arctic summer with every plant trying to be a standout.

Science can explain a lot of things. What it cannot do is explain the why of what we are seeing, we see as beauty. Awe inspiring. Soul satisfying. The purification. The silence brought about interrupted only by the thundering of the glacier calving in the late evening.

Bringing comfort to our very being. The scale which makes us realize we are but a part of a larger universe. Because it is undisturbed. A natural system. Where water still runs free.

Or as Johnny Lewis Hart the late cartoonist of B.C. quipped “Water, water ubiquitous”

An Arctic Vista The view from above The ice glacier as a rock unbending but To this place I invite you to experience the vastness, the frozen and unfrozen waters that permeate this land. To imagine the water as it flows in its’ different forms all around you.

To this place I invite you to experience the vastness, the frozen and unfrozen waters that permeate this land. To imagine the water as it flows in its’ different forms all around you.

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