The worldwide Augustana College experience

Crossing the Arctic Circle

June 29


And it remains for all of us, forever, to discover as though for the first time how beautiful the sunrise is, and the moon, and the night , and plain and mountains, land and sea, and man and woman; how beautiful life is. And whether we pursue discovery in the environment at home which is familiar to us all, or abroad in the remoter and less-known regions of the earth, we’ll find the field still unexplored and rich in undiscovered beauty.

– Rockwell Kent, landscape artist, 1935


After nearly 9,000 miles of travel from Rock Island to Newfoundland to Churchill to the Yukon, we crossed the Arctic Circle, while driving the Dempster Highway. This being about the time of the summer solstice, we are in the Land of the Midnight Sun.
Some assume the tundra above the Arctic Circle to be sterile. It isn’t. Its wide open beauty leaves a stunning impression that lasts a lifetime.

Right now, fields of blooming cotton grass stretch for miles, giving the impression that the ground is covered with a summer snow. Pingos, which are tundra-covered hills made of ice, define the topography of the coast along the Arctic Ocean. Aufeis, sheets of ice from frozen lakes, brighten the tundra, even on a cloudy day. From a bush plane, we could see that frozen tundra polygons near the Arctic Ocean create patterns like a giant puzzle. And the tundra is home to so many bird and plant species that it’s both a garden and an aviary.
Socrates said that if a person sees something alone, it is his nature to find someone to share it with to validate his discoveries. I am grateful that I have discovered the raw beauty of the Arctic and even more grateful that I am sharing those discoveries with my spouse of 35 years.
(See also Jane Bahls’ Arctic Adventures blog).

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