Heaven, Hell & Christ On Ice by Allan Carlson


Heaven, Hell & Christ On Ice

What I Encountered During a Geological Expedition in Greenland
by Allan Carlson

Quassitilua, August 1: I write from paradise . . . if such a label might still allow for healthy swarms of gnats and mosquitoes. I sit in south Greenland, on a plateau overlooking a seldom-visited fjord running to the north from the larger Bredesfjord. The latter had welcomed Erik the Red and his fellow Norse, or Viking, colonists from Iceland in the early 980s.

I look and listen in one direction and find two waterfalls tumbling down a 700-foot rocky slope. I look in another direction, and see the fjord itself, filled with icebergs. Many of these are "blue ice," the product of pressures found in the "mother" glaciers. Their rich and ethereal glow defies both camera and description. I look in a third direction and face the massive wall of ice that forms the great Greenland Ice Sheet; it looms like a giant cloudbank. Beside me flows a small whitewater stream, the liquid pure and cold. I cup my hands and drink deeply. A third waterfall begins a few yards downstream, falling another 200 feet to feed into the fjord.

In the warmth of an early August sun, the flora and fauna seem to step out of Edward Hicks's Peaceable Kingdom. While treeless, the landscape is green, with scrub willow and birch, blueberry plants, and a grand display of wildflowers. A few are familiar—harebells and buttercups. Most are unique to this place: pinks, purples, yellows, blues, and reds. A caribou occasionally wanders by, little concerned about my presence. Trout jump in a nearby lake. A peregrine falcon hovers overhead. At one point I look toward a rock pile about 40 feet away and spy an arctic fox sitting there, studying me. White in the winter months, his coat is now dark. After about ten minutes, his curiosity apparently satisfied, he ambles away and joins his mate up a hillock.


Allan C. Carlson is the John Howard Distinguished Senior Fellow at the International Organization for the Family. His most recent book is Family Cycles: Strength, Decline & Renewal in American Domestic Life, 1630-2000 (Transaction, 2016). He and his wife have four grown children and nine grandchildren. A "cradle Lutheran," he worships in a congregation of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. He is a senior editor for Touchstone.

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