PHOTO GALLERY: Greenland in Black & White

Greenland’s saturated sunsets and deep blue waters can challenge even the best painter’s palette, but Greenland can also be quite stunning in black and white. The chiaroscuro effect adds an element of mystery and enchantment, and at times it can be downright eerie!

So, as a complement to the photo gallery, Colourful Greenland, here I present to you some of my best black and white shots. They are old, but evergreen.

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Kangeq, 21 April 2013 (Abandoned settlement near Nuuk where the Danish colonists tried to make it for 7 years (1721-1728) before moving the short distance to the mainland, where Nuuk stands today)

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Nuuk Fjord, 21 April 2013 (Sermitsiaq in background)

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Ilulissat Ice Fjord, UNESCO World Heritage Site, 8 April 2013

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Ilulissat Ice Fjord, UNESCO World Heritage Site, 8 April 2013

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Ilulissat Ice Fjord, UNESCO World Heritage Site, 8 April 2013

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Ilulissat Ice Fjord, UNESCO World Heritage Site, 8 April 2013

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Ilulissat Ice Fjord, UNESCO World Heritage Site, 8 April 2013

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Ilulissat Ice Fjord, UNESCO World Heritage Site, 8 April 2013

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Ilulissat Ice Fjord, UNESCO World Heritage Site, 8 April 2013

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Tasiilaq, 27 April 2013 (Piteraq)

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Tasiilaq, 27 April 2013 (Piteraq)

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Between Kulusuk and Tasiilaq, 28 April 2013

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Between Kulusuk and Tasiilaq, 28 April 2013

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Tasiilaq, 24 April 2013

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Tasiilaq, 24 April 2013

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Tasiilaq, 27 April 2013

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Between Kulusuk and Tasiilaq, 24 April 2013

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Between Kulusuk and Tasiilaq, 24 April 2013

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Kulusuk, 24 April 2013

Do you know about the Big Arctic Five?

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If you can only do five things in Greenland, make it the Big Arctic Five! They are tried and true – every single memorable experience I have had in Greenland includes some combination of these essential elements!

Meet Pioneering People – At the center of everything are the people who live in and love this country!

Experience Ice and Snow with all 5 senses – Be it glaciers, floating icebergs, or the massive Ice Sheet, you are never far from this element!

Traverse landscape via Dogsled – Thanks to the Greenlandic Dog, who lives to run/pull a sled, you can get to places you could never dream of reaching on foot.

Gaze at the Northern Lights – Sunlight may be fleeting in wintertime, but the sky is far from dark. Watch the sky come alive as a vision of green and purple!

Go Whale-watching – Spot these majestic summer visitors during a sailing tour or maybe even from the comfort of your own balcony!

Also, stay tuned for upcoming posts about my personal experiences with each of the Big Arctic Five! Just select “Big Arctic Five” in the Category menu on the Home page!

A Little Lesson About Ice

(From 25 March 2013)

Since I am gearing up to travel to Ilulissat, the town whose very name means “icebergs”, I figure there is no better time to give a small lesson about ice and icebergs in Greenland. As a disclaimer, I am no glaciologist, so please do not take everything I say to be scientifically precise J But I do know enough from what I have learned in Greenland to provide some useful information. If anybody is interested in a truly spectacular and awe-some portrayal of glaciers, do check out Chasing Ice, a big-screen documentary (by James Balog, National Geographic photographer/cinematographer) that artistically displays how glaciers flow, depress, and calve over time. The images document glaciers in Greenland, Iceland, and the United States.

One may ask: Are there not icebergs all over Greenland? Why does Ilulissat have the pleasure of being the namesake town for icebergs? The answer is: Yes, there are icebergs all over Greenland. Icebergs originate from glaciers that flow into a body of water, creating a tongue that floats on the water whose front breaks off (“calves”) in pieces of all shapes and sizes – the icebergs. When I say that glaciers flow, one may think of liquid water; but a glacier is frozen ice. It flows due to its own weight, and it is not detectable by the human eye just standing and watching for a short period of time. The Greenland Ice Sheet is itself one huge glacier, and it flows into the water in hundreds of places all over Greenland. Therefore, there are icebergs all over Greenland.

Ilulissat is especially well known for icebergs because the glaciers in its immediate area (Sermeq Kujalleq and Eqip Sermia) are especially active. They move faster, and thus calve more frequently creating more icebergs, than other glaciers in Greenland and in the whole world! Sermeq Kujalleq, more commonly just called Kangia or the Ilulissat Ice Fjord, is one of the fastest flowing glaciers in the world. It currently flows about 35 meters a DAY while other glaciers in the world only move that far in a year!

However, despite the glacier’s fast pace, it is currently in a state of rapid retreat (moving closer and closer toward land). Glacial retreat IS a natural occurrence, but the rate at which Sermeq Kujalleq is currently retreating is what is unprecedented. Sermeq Kujalleq has actually been slowly retreating since about 1850. But in 1998, the glacier suddenly started flowing twice as fast as before, its surface level depressed, and its floating glacial tongue calved off entirely. In just 10 years, the glacier retreated 15 km (9 miles) when previously it took 80+ years to retreat that far. The Ilulissat Ice Fjord was granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2004, so the area is now protected.

This is a picture of the Ilulissat Ice Fjord, taken in August 2012.

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This is a picture of Eqip Sermia, a glacier just north of Ilulissat that calves very frequently, taken in June 2012. It is an extremely popular attraction for tourists. There are sailing tours to view it from the water, and there is also the possibility to stay overnight in small huts/lodges on land close by.

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This is a picture of Narsap Sermia, a glacier just north of Nuuk, take in July 2012… and an iceberg that originated from it.

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Greenland Ice Sheet (67*N 50*W)

(From Thursday, 14 March 2013)

Thanks to the camaraderie of a new friend, Otto, I found myself on the Greenland Ice Sheet yesterday afternoon for a MOST unique experience! Otto brought Støt Grønland (an organization that supports the healthy growth of children and youth in Greenland through the sport of football (a.k.a. soccer)) to Kangerlussuaq this weekend, and he invited me to be a spectator at his event. Støt Grønland’s primary activity is playing football games in the most unique places in the world. This year, the game was homeward bound and took place on Greenland’s Inland Ice, of all places! It will certainly be hard to top this location for next year’s game!

To promote the event, Greenland-raised singer, Julie Berthelsen, recorded a song and music video with the soccer team, which was put on YouTube and iTunes. Not to mention, she was there, in the flesh, playing Goalie for Team Greenland! The organization raised 1 million Danish kroner, which will be distributed evenly in the form of new football balls between the four municipalities in Greenland: Qaasuitsup, Qeqqa, Sermersooq, and Kujalleq. In some towns, this means that every single child will receive a new football ball. Overall, the event garnered a lot of attention – Greenlandic and Danish media were present, in addition to many friends of Støt Grønland!

Getting to the Inland Ice is an experience on its own! There is one 15 mile- / 25 km-long (bumpy) gravel road from Kangerlussuaq directly to the Inland Ice; you literally almost drive onto the ice! The road itself has an interesting story. Volkswagen built it in 2001 in order to access the Inland Ice and to create a test-driving course on it. In exchange for the right to build, Volkswagen granted Kangerlussuaq tourism businesses the right to use the road in the future. The road runs parallel to the Inland Ice about half the time, so you can actually spot different portions of the glacier before you officially arrive at the edge of the ice.

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Also along the way, there is the chance to see the Greenlandic wildlife like reindeer and muskox. I had really hoped to spot a muskox, but I settled for reindeer instead. It was nice to see them, though, because I witnessed natural selection at work! In summertime, the reindeer had brown fur but now they have much whiter fur – for camouflage. But unfortunately for this guy here, it has been unseasonably warm, so without snow on the ground, his white fur had the opposite effect!

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Depending on what type of vehicle you are in (either a private car or one of World of Greenland Arctic Circle’s large all-terrain vehicles), it takes 1-1.5 hours to traverse the road. I had the option to ride with the football players and get the full tourist experience of a guided driving tour and perhaps stopping to take photographs, but in all honestly, I was selfish and did not want to remember my first trip to the Inland Ice being packed like sardines with a bunch of rowdy Danish football players!

So when we arrived to the edge of the ice, we just had a few minutes’ walk with some  gear…

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… and then we were officially on the Inland Ice!

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It was very wide, and I could see quite far. I think it was deceiving how far I could actually see since there was not any drastic variation in the color or shape where we were. For all I know, I could have been seeing dozens of miles into the distance! The best part about standing on the Inland Ice was knowing that there was ice and snow and air pockets far beneath my feet that have existed for thousands of years! Some of the terrain was ice – extremely slippery and blue and transparent – and some of the terrain was snow – fairly hard packed, but still soft enough that a man’s weight would make his shoes sink in a little bit.

Also, in the icy portions you can see black specks suspended in the ice – they are pollution particles that enter the atmosphere from all over the world and then fall once they become too heavy to stay in the air. Their existence on the Inland Ice is a great catalyst to its rapid melting because, as basic science goes, dark colors absorb more heat than light colors absorb. So, the more pollution particles there are on the ice, the more melting there is around those spots… which in turn creates more dark areas, because blue water is darker than white snow, and around and around it goes!

You know, I have seen the movie “Chasing Ice”, I have read articles about “The Vanishing North”, and I have even witnessed global warming in my own backyard, but to physically be there on one of the most iconic pieces of historical and modern science is just amazing. And scary. So for me, standing on the Inland Ice was mostly an experience to witness science with my own eyes. It was also to get a grasp on immense time rather than immense size. In order to wrap my head around the size of the Inland Ice, I much prefer experiencing it from the air.

Having said all of that, the short disclaimer I must now make is that yes, as a graduate student in Sustainable Tourism, I am fully aware of the fact that my travel to and around Greenland is one of the very things which causes the melting of the Inland Ice. I am also aware that my standing on the Inland Ice and a full-blown football game being played on the Inland Ice is not exactly of benefit to it…

So, after “setting up the football field” (i.e. marking its boundaries with a few posts), we had some hot cocoa and waited for the players to arrive…

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Game on!

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After two shorter-than-regulation halves, Team Greenland won 3-1! I have to admit, I was very appreciative of the decision to play a shorter game! After a few hours of standing around, it got a bit chilly. In fact, I might have liked to get out on the “field” to keep warm 🙂 My thoughts went to the many tourists who purchase the 2 day/1 night camping trip on the Inland Ice; I hope they are prepared enough for the cold! Not to mention the Extreme Adventurers who cross the Inland Ice from coast to coast (nearly) – a month-long adventure!

Eqi Ice Camp (Taste of Greenland)

(From Sunday 24 June 2012)

This morning, the Taste of Greenland film crew, Ace & Ace, and I left first thing in the morning to sail to our next destination: Eqi Ice Camp next to the very actively calving Eqi Sermia Glacier. I should clarify that when I say we sailed I do not mean we were on a sailboat.  In Greenland, any trip is called sailing even if the boat has a motor!  We sailed northwest around the Nussuaq peninsula and made a stop at the furthest most western tip to see an ancient polar bear trap!  There would be delicious smelling and tasting meat inside the structure to lure the polar bear close.  The entranceway was quite small so that the polar bear had to wedge its way through to get to the meat.  The movement and struggle would cause a large boulder, positioned in the roof, to fall at the entranceway and trap the polar bear inside.  The structure looked like a small, square stone house, but the way you could tell it was not a house is because there were no windows, and also, the walls were far thicker than a house would have had.  They were thick so that the angry trapped polar bear could not break through.

(Note: the picture below is not the polar bear trap, but is at the same location!)

The next stop we made was near the abandoned coal-mining settlement on the east coast of Disko Island called Qulissat.  It was built in the 1920’s and had been abandoned by the 1970’s because the coal ran out, although this fact was anticipated from the beginning.  Some say that it was a blessing the inhabitants left when they did because not long after, a very large piece of the mountain directly behind the settlement broke off and toppled to the bay, causing a large tsunami-like wave to wash over the land and destroy a sizable portion of the settlement.  Forty years later though, what is left of this settlement is preserved in near-perfect condition!  A few of the houses are leaning and deteriorating, but most are still standing.  It was as if the town was empty only because everybody was out in the mine or out on the water for the afternoon!  There is scheduled to be a celebratory reunion of sorts in the settlement starting on 6 July.

It was here, in the waters between Disko Island and Nussuaq that we met a large crab boat to film with.  The film crew got shots of the boat from far away, from close up, appearing from around an iceberg, disappearing behind an iceberg, with Chris on the boat, with Chris off the boat, and shots of the entire crabbing process… essentially we spent a few good hours more or less stationary!  Around this area, we also saw a pair of humpback whales!  They blew a couple of times and did some deep dives to show their dorsal fins and tail flukes!  I, unfortunately, was unable to get a picture – with a handful of other people crowding around to get pictures and video for the show, I was definitely low man on the totem pole for getting a decent spot to stand!

After close to twelve hours on the boat, we finally reached Eqi!  The water was, well, glacial blue because of the extremely cold temperature of the water, and it was so filled with small icebergs that we had to sail slowly in order to weave our way through the maze of ice.

 

We sailed right up to the rocks at the base of Eqi Ice Camp, unloaded filming gear and luggage, and then carried it all up the hill to our cabins.  The camp is owned by a local tour operator, World of Greenland, and consists of 18 huts and a kitchen cabin.  Four of the huts are newly renovated and called “Comfort Cabins” because they have amenities like running water and electricity.  Chris got a comfort cabin, as did the girls (Anne Mette, Yuki, and I), and everybody else (Anders, Esben, Eskil, and Finn) was in a standard hut.  The standard huts are very basic, with no running water or electricity.  The comfort cabins, on the other hand, are basically just like a hotel.  Four twin beds with very comfortable linens and pillows, a small seating area with a fully stocked wet bar, a private restroom, hot running water, three electrical outlets, a private balcony with chairs covered in muskox furs… oh yeah, and not a single thing blocking the million-dollar view of Eqi Glacier!

  

Despite the extra amenities of these accommodations, there are two things about the location that not even luxury can overcome.  First, there are literally hundreds of mosquitos around, but some good “Mozzie Cream” (as the Ace & Ace guys call it) and a mosquito net for the head pretty much remedy that situation.

Second, since the cabins are oriented westward in order to have a direct view of the glacier, the “setting” sun shone directly through the great windows that practically take up the entire wall.  It was so incredibly hot most of the night that it was difficult to sleep comfortably.  To be fair, though, I would say that the thunder-like sound of the glacier calving all night, and then waking up to look directly at the magnificent view without even getting out of bed, 95% made up for the down sides!

Also, the group of thirteen very cute Arctic Fox that scurried around the camp left a good impression 🙂

(From Monday 25 June 2012)

Today was another cooking scene – this time to cook up the crab that was caught yesterday near Qulissat.  The film crew selected a site not far from the Ice Camp that gave a great view of the Eqi Glacier behind Chris as he prepared and cooked his Crab Risotto!  A few times the glacier calved during filming which was perfect!

 

The mosquitos were definitely problematic for shooting this scene because they were rampant around the camera and the food.  So what did we do?  We doused the finished plate in mosquito spray with hopes that the mosquitos would stay away long enough to take some still photos of the final dish without seeing little black dots all over the white plate!  I joked that we should do a outtake called “Taste of DEET”!

Since there were no tourists to interview in Uummannaq, and only three to interview at Eqi (one of which declined to participate), I ended up returning to Ilulissat a day early in an attempt to make up for lost time.  So while the rest of the Taste of Greenland crew took a private boat charter to Oqaatsut (Rode Bay) for the night, I hopped on the Disko Line tourist boat and sailed five hours back to Ilulissat.