First Impressions of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland (67*N 50*W)

(Post from Monday, 11 March 2013)

Hello from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland!  I had intended to write on the first night I arrived to describe my first impressions and all.  But to my dismay, I had a number of school assignment deadlines to meet over the first few days.  Friday was the last day before Spring Break started, so naturally my professors made a concerted effort to keep us fully ‘engaged’ right to the last minute!

Well first, the Air Greenland experience from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq was just lovely, and I distinctly remember thinking the same thing last summer when I flew from Reykjavik to Nuuk.  It is a 4.5-hour flight, but they give so much in-flight service; it is fantastic!  I have never experienced anything like it on a domestic American flight, nor on Icelandair.  Now, I have never flown first-class or even business class in the States, so perhaps that is why I am missing out, but this is what I imagine it to be like!  We got complimentary juice, then a complimentary beverage and hot meal of scrambled eggs, hash brown, bread with butter and jam, and a muffin, then complimentary coffee or tea, then a small Toblerone chocolate, and endless water and tea refills!  I made friends with the woman sitting next to me.  Somehow between my limited Danish, her limited English, our mutual knowledge of Ilulissat, and much hand gesturing, we were able to keep the conversation going!

It was brilliant to fly in over the Ice Sheet / Inland Ice on a fairly clear day!

You can see down to the ripples and crevices in the ice and to the mountain peaks, and you can really get a sense of the scale of this island.  I have seen this view a few times, but it is never any less spectacular!  It is fascinating to know that there are people (tourists) that cross the Ice Cap from one coast to the other on foot or with dogsledge!  It is just so vast and so bare, with nothing but snow and frozen water to sustain human life.  I am sure this sounds so clichéd, and in fact, tourists have said this very thing to me – but when you see the Inland Ice, you get a sense of how tiny one human being is.  And when you know that some of that ice has existed for millions of years, you get a sense of how the human life span of 80 years or so is just a millisecond compared to the history of the Earth!

Anyhow, when we came through the clouds to land in Kangerlussuaq, there was less snow than I imagined there would be.  There is some snow, perhaps 6” or so, but there are a lot of exposed rocks on the mountains.  Either way, it still looked quite different from summertime!

Once we stopped, everybody started dressing for the cold weather.  I have never really experienced temperatures any colder than about -8*C / 18*F, so I really did not know what to expect.  The temperature was about -18*C / 0*F when we landed around 10 AM, but it truthfully did not feel cold.  I was bracing myself to basically freeze mid-stride, but that was not the case.  The only thing that was a new experience was that the moisture in my nose froze instantaneously!  Imagine taking a deep breath in through your nose and feeling small ice crystals on your nose hairs!  Quite ticklish, really!

Having now been here for a few days, I can say that as long as you have the proper clothing, you can stand to be outside for quite an extended period of time.  The other day I did a 3-mile / 5-km walk from the airport out to one of the lodgings called Old Camp and back.  In total, I was outside for an hour, and everything that was covered was just fine!  My cheeks were the only things that were exposed, and they did get quite cold and rosy.  In fact, when I got inside to the warmth I had to do a few mouth exercises to get the blood flowing again!  I did bring a full-coverage ski mask, and I use that if I plan to be outside for a long time after the sun has gone down – like to watch the Northern Lights.  When I go outside, all I wear is: wool hat, gloves with glove liners, two thermal shirts, long underwear/running pants, sweatpants or jeans, windproof pants, puffy down coat, wool socks, and lined winter boots.  You know, that’s all J But this week it is supposed to be extremely warm – up to 7*C / 45*F the forecast says!


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