Ellis Island

Just a brief post about Ellis Island. I have been to a place where millions of people were processed before, and the similarity was striking. Only this is the absolute polar opposite. While Auschvitz’s purpose was death, Ellis Island was full of hope and promise. It was the three doors at the end of the Great Hall that brought things home most strongly. Being sent to the left door, and you were off to the mainland of America. The right door, and they sent you to New York itself. But the middle door, and you were on our way to deportation to the place and life you were trying to escape. Fortunately, only 2% were sent back. Something like 1/3 of the whole population of the US have a connection with the left or right door. Amazing place.


I am 36,000 feet above the Labrador Sea, two-thirds of the way to New York. I am looking out of the window and I can see the shadow of our own vapour trail on the surface of the ocean. And I can see ice. In fact I can see lots of ice. How cool is that?

I have never seen the Arctic before. It’s pretty much the southern extent of it and I don’t really know why I am surprised, but it’s really quite weird. I was convinced that I’d seen it in the sea earlier in the flight, but dismissed it as just waves, but we are far too high to see waves in such detail. It is absolutely beautiful. It is flowing across the sea like a brilliant white paint being mixed into a Wedgewood blue base. The currents and the wind have not been able to mix it into a consistent colour, so the white stands out against the blue grey background.

As we get closer to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, the ice is getting denser and more consistent, but the edges of the sheets are exactly like a really heavy frost on a windscreen. I wonder how thick it is and how long it will last. Millions of people will have seen this sight before, many of them will have seen it hundreds of times. Do they still look out of the window looking at it with such pleasure?

I can see what looks like the edge of the real ice sheet itself. A huge cliff of ice is stretching on the horizon rising above the grey frozen water. It’s probably a snow-covered cliff above the sea on one of the outlying islands, but it’s impressive nonetheless.

We are approaching landfall now. Gander airport, that old Neville Shute favourite is to the south. The cloud is thickening below us and it’s getting a bit choppy up here, but the ice I can see through breaks in the cloud is now in huge chunks. Impossible to tell how large they are as there is no point of reference, but they must be of considerable size to be so visible from this height. What a treat. Worth coming on the trip just to see this. It makes you want to go to this part of the world and see it for yourself close at hand.

The cloud cover is complete and the show is over. It is 1,012 miles to our destination. Thought. Overnight flight on the way back. Arctic. Winter. North. Lights. On-line later to see if I can move our seats to the port side of the plane in the way back.