Birdseye view of the North

Flying from England to Alaska is a visual treat, not because of the latest movie showing on your seat back tv, no, because of the views out of the window. Flights usually fly over the Greenland icecap, across Davis Straight and clip the bottom of Baffin Island before continueing across Canada.

As we drift over the terrain I am fascinated by its enormity, often peering down with binoculars trying to gain a purchase, find something human scale amongst the disorientating abstracts, even a single tree would give me my bearings. I marvel at how few people may have visited the valley, the mountain, the glacier below – in the absence of clues it’s easy for imagination to roam, to speculate that it was perhaps a long time ago, perhaps a hunting party from a culture that has left little trace today.

The landscapes become softer as we meet the tree line and from a European perspective slightly more intelligeable as a place of shelter and sustenance. Whilst there is certainly a larger human presence it’s still a place for extremophiles, not least the ingenuous native cultures and in more recent history the tough frontiersmen, mostly fur trappers and prospectors who went on to translate their experiences into cash and some classics of literature – the kind of book I think I’m going to read on a long flight North, Samuel Hearne, Robert Service, Jack London, et al, but really the view out the window is more telling and compelling.

As the hours go by what started out as the odd incongruous straight line bisecting the forest steadfastly increases to a zany maze of hieroglyphs. I have no idea what this one represents, strangely there were no buildings in all those cleared patches of forest.

Louise and the Chena River

And this is the forest for real a few miles out of Fairbanks, Alaska, ideal for stretching your legs after a long flight!

Robert Hategan That strange and zany maze of hieroglyphs are in fact Oil & Gas well sites. The north western Canadian landscape is dotted with them.

Angus Mill Thanks Robert, good to confirm that, I have always wondered what they were–as much as I strained my eyes downwards I could never quite see enough!

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