Endangered killers picnic at the edge of the world

Tags: Robyn Hitchcock

Robyn Hitchcock

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 and 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.


  1. jon.plowman

    Posted Monday 29 Sep at 11:03 | Permalink

    Thank you for transforming my monday morning with pterodactyls and plesiosaurs .
    Good Luck

  2. john noach

    Posted Monday 29 Sep at 13:04 | Permalink

    Any sign of Barry or Fletch yet? Watch out for chill – proof dental floss
    Love John (and Sharon)

  3. Scott McCaughey

    Posted Monday 29 Sep at 15:50 | Permalink

    Great reportage, Robyn! Sounds quite different from southern Spain, where there is a distinct lack of icebergs to battle the condos that seemingly rise from the sea. I will look for your specs should they wash up on the shore. Scott

  4. Tony Clarke-Ears-Worboys

    Posted Monday 29 Sep at 18:30 | Permalink

    Yo Robyn, I drifted off into another life there for a moment, reading your words.Even thought I wouldn’t mind being a plankton.
    Was luckily awakened to reality by a ring at the door. Looking forward to reading more of your amazing journey.
    A fitting influenced colour, the ice-burg bench.
    For now, much Love to you and Min,et Bon Voyage.
    Tone Clarke-Ears-Worboys

  5. Toby Jeffries

    Posted Monday 29 Sep at 22:15 | Permalink


    The sea comments reminds me a little of L S Lowrys quote:
    “What if [the sea] suddenly changed its mind and didn’t turn the tide…if it didn’t stay and come on end… That would be the end of it all”

    Pleased about the wildlife spotted; if you see a trilobite, say hello from mine

  6. Su Scotting

    Posted Tuesday 30 Sep at 12:37 | Permalink

    last time we saw you, you were at the End of the Road in wellies…now you’re at the edge of the world in a great hat…bon chance..it all sounds very luminous and tremulous up there.

  7. The Modesto Kid

    Posted Tuesday 30 Sep at 17:20 | Permalink

    where a great glacier has infinitesimally crumbled into the sea over the centuries

    I’m reminded of your observations (from “Storefront Hitchcock” IIRC) about the cliff on the Isle of Wight, where out to see a little ways are Edwardian and Victorian ghosts, progressing further you get mediaeval ghosts and ghosts of picts, further out there are Cro-Magnon ghosts clubbing each other to death — and maybe some more of those inland.

  8. laurence arnold

    Posted Tuesday 30 Sep at 18:20 | Permalink

    lovely hat, although i do have my eye on the orange ones from the last trip.

    your plight reminded me of the Hegley poem about having a spare pair of specs, i do hope you have yours.

    take care.

  9. Tom Clark

    Posted Wednesday 1 Oct at 06:10 | Permalink

    Probably the best arctic imagery on record. Care for yourself and your friends – we’re looking forward to seeing you (relatively) warm and comfortable in SF in November.

  10. John Parr

    Posted Wednesday 1 Oct at 16:31 | Permalink

    Hitchcock, you knob!! Why didn’t you have one of those stringy things on the arms of your specs? I envy you all and am getting great vicarous enjoyment from this site. Love, John

  11. Ruby

    Posted Wednesday 1 Oct at 17:31 | Permalink

    Oh no Vol! Specs in the sea? Put your hat on, that’s what I say.

  12. Josie Darling

    Posted Thursday 2 Oct at 10:15 | Permalink

    It sounds even more surreal than the Cenred. Can’t wait for the next installment. Are you having jolly singsongs?

  13. Joanna Graham

    Posted Thursday 2 Oct at 14:47 | Permalink

    Yikes, I imagine your errant spectacles are currently perched nobly on the nose of your doppelganger in polar bear form, reading the newspaper, sucking the end of a pencil, he is considering the crossword. Or cross words.

    Should they have sunk to a watery groove, they will undoubtedly reincarnate as this years literal look for any natty arctic cod out to impress the amphipods.

    Either way, you don’t need them, your vision remains as splendid as ever without them.
    Keep up the great writing and righting.