step back
on frozen shores

There are places on earth that, from the air at least, appear untouched. Any such place holds the promise of an alien land. Here, in a rare break of cloud, I can see a frozen, uninhabited shore.

the southern tip of Greenland as seen from the sky

As with any distant world, I picture myself standing there. I walk along the iced, obsidian shingle, staring at the blue, glacial distances, wearing only the clothes I'm currently wearing, but somehow miraculously shielded from the cold. Every pebble is sharp and fringed with ice. Water, whether frozen or not, is perfectly still. The shore itself could be the crash site of some newly formed moon. The beauty and the danger are staggering. There is nowhere to sleep or rest. Night would spell the end of everything.

I look out for tracks, or lines, or geometric shapes - anything that might denote human or animal life. I remember doing the same thing many years ago when flying over what must have been the Arabian desert. I was looking for patterns - roads, shelters, irrigation canals - anything that might spoil the landscape and show that we had been there. I was met with endless sand; this time, endless snow.

I do, on this occasion, spot what has to be a human structure - a single, rectangular block, pressed low to the frozen ground, perhaps a mile or so from the shoreline. I can't help but think of the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey - so out of place, so patently 'not from here', and similarly impossible to decode. I can't make out any windows, antennae, surrounding infrastructure, power lines, doors - nothing that might confirm it as a functioning, human outpost.

I wonder what it is - a substation, a landing pad, a bunker or laboratory of some form? Is it there to monitor the land? Is it broadcasting a signal to be read elsewhere? It's the only thing I see that isn't land itself; the only thing that isn't, in a straightforward way, an extension of our natural earth. I'd like to know who put it there, and why, but as with any question asked of strange forms on distant shores, I'm fine with no clear answers.

Above the southern tip of Greenland 290224