From the air, the evidence of climate change is striking

A A A

The airport in Greenland's capital, Nuuk, doesn't look like any other airport. Outside, the tiny runway accommodates a lone helicopter. Inside the waiting room, the chairs are upholstered in seal skin.

This otherworldliness was expected, as Greenland has little in common with any other place on the planet. The largest island in the world, it is weighed down by its immense ice cap that in winter covers almost its entire land mass. In summer, the ice retreats to reveal a savage landscape of fjords and jagged rocks. And, at the end of this summer, it has revealed more than ever.

Flying low, fast and north into the interior, the mind's eye expects a scene of endless winter but the reality is worryingly different. There is little to prepare you for the summer spectacle of Greenland's fjords. It feels like a confusion of geography. At once as familiar as Scottish lochs, they present a problem of scale. The dark mountains that frame the deep lakes rise so high that they push through the cloud clover and on to snow caps that are rarely if ever seen from the shore. And then there are the icebergs, floating in brilliant white squadrons, trailing pale tails of melt water for miles behind.

But on the shore this is now a genuinely green land. One where Arctic barley, radishes and potatoes are growing for the first time in centuries.

The remote outpost of Kapisillit, Greenlandic for salmon, is testament to the speed of these changes. Seen from the air, the settlement has a defensive aspect, its largely windowless wooden houses, home to fewer than 80 people, seem to huddle together. But in bright sunshine the defence seems pointless and the light instead catches the primary colours that the houses are painted to cheer the dark days and nights of winter.

At the far end of Nuuk's fjord, flying through a rock canyon barely the width of a helicopter blade, we are confronted with the first sight of the glaciers. The ice that fills an entire valley is majestic. The force of the glacier has carved the earth itself and wrinkled the slopes of the mountains. The violence of its movement is visible on the cracked surface of the glacier where the ice rises like thousands of sheets of broken glass all stood on edge.

Even this far inland, in this changed climate, we are witnessing a dying glacier. Separated by the rising temperatures from its source on the ice cap, it is collapsing at extraordinary speed, feeding roaring rivers which in turn pour into the fjords beyond. The spectacle is both beautiful and wrong.

Glacial ice does not look like any other ice. It is a haunting blue, as its density absorbs every other colour of the spectrum. That density itself is a product of its age and the large ice crystals that scatter blue light to incredible effect.

This natural show of light and colour is seen to best effect in the collapsing ice caves that stud the disintegrating tongue of the glacier. Hollowed out from below by melt water, these holes, large enough to fly a helicopter into, form perfect expanding circles, with spiralling blue canals that carry pools of water from the glacier's surface and out, eventually, into the rising seas beyond.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Administrator

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are a world leadin...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral