She’d never heard of the Isle of Hand before the six-seater plane clawed a landing out of its tiny airstrip. Winds were stopping them getting closer to their destination. ‘It’s one of the smaller islands,’ the pilot explained, ‘but it’s got somewhere to set down.’
‘Worse coming,’ Walter, sitting next to her, said. They had not met before, a tall and bearded Norwegian not part of the expedition, but he’d heard of the problems. ‘We’re not like you,’ he said when she told him what they were doing. ‘When things happen to our sea, we know about it.’
She could see the Isle was not hand shaped, with five fingers splayed out into the Arctic and ridged with laylines. It was curdled, petrified rock.
Her colleagues were standing a way off, debating whether or not to unload the kit.
She asked the pilot about it.
‘It means something else in their language,’ he said, standing with a shoulder on the wing. ‘Don’t lend anyone a hand here.’
‘It’s warm,’ she said, although she still pulled up her coat collars. ‘I thought it would be colder.’
‘It’s a strange place,’ said the pilot. ‘Look.’
Along the edges of the landing strip stood, incongruously, palm trees. But then the Gulf Stream touched this place, she knew. She looked again. The palm trees shook in the wind, as if they were lurching towards her, their long leaves gifted upwards, splayed and reaching.
She looked around. But no-one was talking about it.