Alpine Ski Touring in Greenland

17242714991_ebea910138_k Photo by: Mads Pihl / Visit Greenland

Adventure in Greenland comes in all varieties – backcountry hiking and cultural exploration in summer & autumn to exciting snow sports like snowmobiling and ski touring in winter & spring. I might be here a while if I tried to list the full extent of things to do in Greenland!

Today a very special shout-out goes to Icelandic Mountain Guides out of Reykjavík whose video, “Alpine Ski Touring in East Greenland” just won the Adventure in Motion film contest put on by the Adventure Travel Trade Association – with over 24,000 votes!! It will be shown to hundreds of global tourism gurus at the upcoming Adventure Travel World Summit event in Chile.

WATCH THE VIDEO HERE!

And check out more breathtaking photos of skiing in Greenland.

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Through the Airplane Window: Videos of Flying in Greenland

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Come fly with me!

Do you like flight videos? Are you the kind of person that likes to visualize what it looks like to land in a country before you travel there? Are you just daydreaming of Greenland?

Well, if you can look past the foggy windows (figuratively, that is) and, at times, shaky filming, then these videos of landing and taking off from various airports and heliports around Greenland (and at different times of the year) can give you the right impression that Greenland is the most majestic place on this earth!

Disclaimer: Every time I shoot one of these videos, I have the highest and most earnest hopes to edit them, add great music, etc. but it just never happens. So I’m abandoning those dreams and simply putting the videos here in their rawest form – take it or leave it! 🙂

The videos are ordered alphabetically by town name.

Illorsuit

Late Spring arrival to Illorsuit, Greenland via Air Greenland (settlement in North Greenland)

Ilulissat

Late Spring departure from Ilulissat, Greenland via Air Greenland (town in North Greenland, International Airport)

Kangerlussuaq

Late Spring arrival to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland via Air Greenland (settlement in Destination Arctic Circle, International Airport)

Kulusuk

Late Winter arrival to Kulusuk, Greenland via Air Iceland (settlement in East Greenland, International Airport)

Mid Spring departure from Kulusuk, Greenland via Air Iceland (settlement in East Greenland, International Airport)

Early Summer departure from Kulusuk, Greenland via Air Iceland (settlement in East Greenland, International Airport)

Narsaq

Late Winter arrival to Narsaq, Greenland via Air Greenland (settlement in South Greenland)

Narsarsuaq

Late Winter arrival to Narsarsuaq, Greenland via Air Greenland (settlement in South Greenland, International Airport)

Nugaatsiaq

Late Spring arrival to Nugaatsiaq, Greenland via Air Greenland (settlement in North Greenland)

Nuuk

Mid Winter departure from Nuuk, Greenland via Air Iceland (capital city, International Airport)

Late Spring arrival to Nuuk, Greenland via Air Greenland (capital city, International Airport)

Qaarsut

Late Spring departure from Qaarsut, Greenland via Air Greenland (settlement in North Greenland)

Qaqortoq

Late Winter arrival to Qaqortoq, Greenland via Air Greenland (town in South Greenland)

Tasiilaq

Early summer departure from Tasiilaq, Greenland via Air Greenland (town in East Greenland)

Uummannaq

Late Spring arrival to Uummannaq, Greenland via Air Greenland (town in North Greenland)

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Mid Winter flying over East Greenland and Greenland Ice Sheet via Icelandair (no landing)

Early Spring flying over Greenland Ice Sheet and West Greenland via Icelandair (no landing)

Early Summer flying over West Greenland via Icelandair (no landing)

Greenland: Summer versus Winter Photos

It truly is difficult for me to decide when Greenland is most beautiful during the year. Summer is fantastic with long days full of ever-changing light, water that sparkles like diamonds, and clear blue fjords. But winter is also extremely striking with lots of snow juxtaposed by colorful houses.

I’ll let you be the judge! Here are a few photos to compare Greenland towns in both summer and winter versions.

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Kangerlussuaq has an Arctic desert climate and goes through an incredible costume change between summer and winter. Due to the settlement’s close proximity to the Greenland Ice Sheet, it can be one of the colder places in Greenland in winter, easily reaching -30*C / -22*F. Oddly enough, though, it can also be one of the warmest places in Greenland in summer, approaching 25*C / 77*F.

In winter, one can go dogsledding and snowmobiling and watch the Northern Lights. In summer, the activities transform to hiking, kayaking, and seeing the Midnight Sun. The Greenland Ice Sheet is a favorite all year round.

Read more about Kangerlussuaq on Greenland.com.

Here is Kangerlussuaq in winter version and summer version, looking westward from the top of Kitchen Mountain behind the airport. Which is more beautiful?

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Nuuk, Greenland’s capital, is a coastal city and usually has a fairly mild environment. However, climate change has made extreme temperatures, hot and cold, less surprising when they happen. This year, winter/spring was very long and very cold with snow showers still into April and May.

In winter, one can delve into city culture at Katuaq Culture House, the Greenland National Museum, and fine restaurants. In summer, it’s all about spending time in Nuuk Fjord, whale watching for 3 dedicated Humpback whales that return year after year, or walking in the mountains that surround the city.

Read more about Nuuk on Greenland.com.

Here is Nuuk in winter version and summer version, looking toward Colonial Harbor, the area where Danish colonists first settled in 1729. Which is more beautiful?

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Ilulissat is home to Greenland’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, comprising Sermermiut (ancient settlement grounds) and the Ilulissat Icefjord. Winter is full of Northern Lights watching, dog sledding, and snowshoeing while summer gives ample opportunity to sail around the Icefjord and to small settlements, bask in the Midnight Sun, and kayak.

Read more about Ilulissat at Greenland.com.

Here is the UNESCO World Heritage Site in winter and summer version, looking south over the Ilulissat Icefjord. Which is more beautiful?

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Tasiilaq is the only town in East Greenland, and is home to 60% of East Greenlanders. All others live in settlements of just 79 – 426 inhabitants. Winter is great for snowshoeing, heliskiing, and dog sledding. Summer is ideal for hiking through the Valley of Flowers and sailing through iceberg-filled waters.

Read more about Tasiilaq at Greenland.com.

Here is Tasiilaq in winter and summer version, looking north across the water at the Polheim Mountain. Which is more beautiful?

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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 direct follow-up to yesterday’s photo gallery, Colorful Greenland, today I present to you my best black and white shots.

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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

Dogsledding in Greenland

In spring 2013, I spent 6 weeks in Greenlandic Dog territory (which is above the Arctic Circle on the west coast and everywhere on the east coast) so I was extremely excited about the possibilities to try dogsledding for the first time! I finally got my chance in late April in Tasiilaq, on the east coast.

PS – For more pictures of Greenlandic sledge dogs, see my photo post and the Visit Greenland flickr account.

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On the morning of the tour, I made my way to a designated spot right at the edge of land and frozen sea to meet the musher. It was actively snowing on this particular day, so the land, the ice, and the sky were completely white! All I could see were some small figures in the snowy wonderland, so I took a wild guess that this was my team!

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Gudmund, the musher, was preparing the sledge for the trip by polishing the tracks. (Jumping ahead a bit, I quickly understood that this was a necessary step as the dogs’ leads often get caught under the sledge, and this makes it easier to get them unstuck. Not to mention it makes the sledge glide effortlessly over the snow.) Gudmund already had the dogs harnessed and connected to the sledge, and they were ready to get moving! They were howling and hopping over each other, and some were growling at one another to confirm the pack hierarchy. The only thing preventing them from pulling the sledge away without Gudmund and me on board was a snow hook in the ground!

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Once the sledge was ready, Gudmund flipped it over and we were ready to go. I hung my bag on the back and took my seat on the platform. The platform was covered in a warm reindeer skin that made the ride quite cozy. Gudmund sat at the front and I sat at the back.

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The day’s destination was Tsangeraddaddaajaa, a.k.a. “The Coffee Bar”. It is a point with 3 small huts approximately 25 km (15 mi) north of Tasiilaq, and it is halfway between the town of Tasiilaq and the village of Tiniteqilaaq. It should take 2.5-3 hours to get to that point, so we planned to go there, stop for a bit, then return to Tasiilaq.

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So we took off! In the beginning we met some other sledge traffic…

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But soon it was just the dogs, Gudmund, and I headed north into a white abyss! I was glad they knew the route because I certainly could not see the way!

Want to see dogsledding in motion? See my personal YouTube Video of Dogsledding in Greenland.

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The pictures I took do not do justice to the beauty of Tasiilaq’s backcountry. Actually, in Greenland, even a white abyss can be so majestic you could cry! It is extremely special to know that this landscape is some of the most untouched land in the world, yet there you are – one single human being – standing in its midst. Sometimes I have to pinch myself and ask, “Is this real ?!”

My favorite part of the whole trip was getting to talk one-on-one with Gudmund the entire time! He spoke English fairly well, so we were able to communicate comfortably about his life in Tasiilaq, the landscape around us, the commands he used toward the dogs, and the characteristics of the pack – who is leader, who is oldest, what role each dog plays for the team. Plus, being me, I jumped at the chance to get a free lesson in the East Greenlandic language! So our communication was some crazy combination of English, Danish, West Greenlandic, East Greenlandic, and body language. It was heaven for me!

When we got to Tsangeraddaddaajaa it really was just three small huts!

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Gudmund put the snow hook into the ground and started to “fix” the dogs for a break. He went to each dog and pulled one of its legs up into the harness so that it became a three-legged creature! He said it was to give the dominant leg a break; others have said they do it when they know many other sledges will be near – it debilitates the dogs a bit so they are less inclined to try to pull toward the incoming sledges.

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During the break, Gudmund’s pack was very playful and loving toward each other, and they were curious about me, too. I asked Gudmund if I could touch them, and he gave me the green light!

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Less than 10 minutes passed before a few other sledges came through the thick wall of snow into sight. As new sledges approached, Gudmund and the other mushers had to be on high alert because the dogs all began barking, pulling, and creating a lot of tension. The mushers all got out the whips and motioned them in a way that kept the teams separate. They have such incredible control over their packs purely with voice commands, whip movements (without having to touch the dogs), and body language!

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Well, the Coffee Bar did not get its name for no reason. No, there is not a barista waiting there with Café Lattes, but everyone did seem to stop there, sit on their sledges, and warm up with a thermos of coffee and some chocolate. After this quick fuel, we turned around and took the same route back to Tasiilaq.

This is Gudmund driving us back toward town. You can see the buildings getting clearer and clearer as we approach.

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The trip ended with a bit of “urban sledding” so that Gudmund could return the dogs to their chains and doghouses.

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Tourist Information:

What to Wear/Bring

  • Always be prepared for any weather – sun, rain/snow, fog, wind, etc. Dress in layers and always have some extra layers in your pack.
  • I suggest wearing thermal base layers, warm clothes (wool is nice), and outer layers that are both windproof and waterproof. Also wear a warm hat, gloves, breathable socks, and boots.
  • As with any other snow sport, wear sunscreen and sunglasses! The reflection of the sun on the snow can be fierce.
  • Bring your camera and perhaps extra batteries, memory cards, etc., Keep them close to your body to keep them warm. Cold temperatures can often affect the proper function of electronics.
  • You may like to bring a thermos of coffee or tea for the ride. Sometimes, this is included with the tour – check with your tour operator to confirm.

Etiquette Tips

  • Greenlandic Dog temperaments range from nearly wild to almost playful – but every single dog is different. Always ask the musher before approaching a dog! (This also goes for walking near dogs in the towns. No matter the age, do not touch them unless you have specifically been told you can do it.)
  • The musher will most likely jump off the sledge to stand on the back of it. He/She does this to work the brake, especially when going downhill. Unless the musher says otherwise, you should stay seated on the sledge.

Dog Handling

  • This point is worth repeating over and over… Do NOT touch a dog, old or young, unless you have specifically been told you can do it. This goes for the dogs you meet during a tour and those you meet around town.
  • Greenlandic Dogs are not pets – they are working animals. They have an extreme amount of energy and instinct to run/pull a sledge. The musher uses verbal and physical commands toward the pack. At times they may seem harsh, but understand that they are necessary to control the pack.
  • Greenlandic Dogs are contained when they are not working. Mushers keep them on sturdy chains close to doghouses with ample food and water supply. The musher visits them daily. Sometimes, dogs are kept in a pen, but usually they are still on chains inside the pen. The chains are for the dogs’ protection. They keep the dogs from wandering loose in the town; dogs can legally be shot if they are deemed problematic toward people. The chains also keep the dogs a safe distance from each other as hierarchical fighting is common.

Winter versus Summer Life

  • Dogsledding season is typically from October – April, depending on the town, snow cover, and sea ice conditions. During this time, dogsledding is used as a method of transportation for residents and as an entertaining excursion for tourists.
  • Greenlandic Dogs look quite different in the two seasons. In winter, their fur is thick and full, but in summer they shed a lot and look much thinner.
  • Greenlandic dogs are chained whether it is winter or summer. Depending on where the musher lives, the dogs may be on grass, rocks, or dirt. You will always see that they are close to doghouses and ample food and water supply.
  • In summer, many tourists “judge a book by its cover”. They see the dogs on chains and looking thin, so they assume the dogs are poorly treated. For those thinking this way, I suggest they take a “Sledge Dog Life” tour. While it is not possible to do a dogsledding tour in summer, it is possible to meet mushers and get a firsthand insider-look into how they care for their dogs.

For statistics on sledge dogs by Statistics Greenland, see here.

60-Second Tourism Evaluation of Kulusuk & Tasiilaq ! (65*N 37*W)

(From 30 April 2013) I had often heard East Greenland called the “forgotten side” of Greenland – so few residents, such harsh landscape, and all the way across that huge Ice Sheet! One might get the impression that it is a totally different country over here. Well, I am here to dispel that myth! At the end of the day, East Greenland is still Greenland! There are still quaint settlements to explore by boat, dogsledge, snowmobile, or ski (depending on the season). There are still smiling and happy people that provide great company and the most genuine service. There aregradual hills, steep mountains, and valleys of flowers to walk through or climb up, whatever you fancy. There are deep fjords with such still, striking blue water that you swear you are in a dream. And all of that is just 2 hours from Reykjavik, Iceland! So, “forgotten side”? Not quite!

PHOTO GALLERY: Greenland Towns & Settlements

Here is a one stop shop for town photos of every town and settlement I have visited, plus some quick facts! The order is clockwise, starting with East Greenland and finishing with North Greenland.

Sources: Wikipedia for coordinates… bank.stat.gl for population statistics 

Greenland // 2012 Population: 56,749 (Combined Greenland-born and other)

Greenland // 2022 Projected Population: 56,755 (Combined Greenland-born and other) // 2032 Projected Population: 56,184 (” “) // 2040 Projected Population: 55,386 (” “)

Tasiilaq // 65*N 37*W // 2012 Population: 2,004 (Town) // Photos date: 24-26 April 2013

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Kulusuk // 65*N 37*W // 2012 Population: 280 (Settlement) // Photo date: 28 April 2013

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Qaqortoq // 60*N 46*W // 2012 Population: 3,297 (Town) // Photo date: No Photo

Narsaq // 60*N 46*W // 2012 Population: 1,581 (Town) // Photo date: 15 August 2012

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Arsuk // 61*N 48*W // 2012 Population: 128 (Settlement) // Photo date: 15-16 August 2012

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Paamiut // 61*N 49*W // 2012 Population: 1,568 (Town) // Photo date: 16 August 2012

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Qeqertarsuatsiaat // 63*N 50*W // 2012 Population: 196 (Settlement) // Photo date: 14-17 August 2012

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Kangeq // 64*N 52*W // 2012 Population: 0 (Ruins) // Photo date: 21 April 2013

See here for summer pictures and a fun story about my friend’s afternoon in Kangeq. Her summer trip there was considerably more pleasant than mine!

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Nuuk // 64*N 51*W // 2012 Population: 16,181 (Town) // Photo date: 1 June-12 August 2012, 11 June 2013

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Qoornoq // 64*N 51*W // 2012 Population: 0 (Summer settlement) // Photo date: 3 July 2012

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Maniitsoq // 65*N 52*W // 2012 Population: 2,715 (Town) // Photo date: 18 August 2012

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Kangaamiut // 65*N 53*W // 2012 Population: 351 (Settlement) // Photo date: 20 August 2012

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Sisimiut // 66*N 53*W // 2012 Population: 5,571 (Town) // Photo date: 18 August 2012

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Kangerlussuaq // 67*N 50*W // 2012 Population: 513 (Settlement) // Photo date: 8-13 March 2013

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Aasiaat // 68*N 52*W // 2012 Population: 3,146 (Town) // Photo date: 19 August 2012

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Ilimanaq // 69*N 51*W // 2012 Population: 61 (Settlement) // Photo date: 8 April 2013, 11 June 2013

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Ilulissat // 69*N 51*W // 2012 Population: 4,621 (Town) // Photo date: 27 June 2012, 26 March-10 April 2013

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Oqaatsut // 69*N 51*W // 2012 Population: 50 (Settlement) // Photo date: 30 June 2012, 11 June 2013

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Qullissat // 70*N 53*W // 2012 Population: 0 (Abandoned) // Photo date: 24 June 2012

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Qaarsut // 70*N 52*W // 2012 Population: 171 (Settlement) // Photo date: No Photo

Uummannaq // 70*N 52*W // 2012 Population: 1,280 (Town) // Photo date: 22 June 2012, 5-6 June 2013

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The Piteraq – A Tribute to Greenland Icecap-Crossing Expedition 2013 (A-13-22)

(Introduction written 3 June 2013) / (Reproduced account written 29 April 2013)

Greenland has been nothing but smiles, love, and happiness for me since Day 1.  But in East Greenland I was reminded that this land is still very wild and can be brutal to human life…

If there is one point to take away from Greenland, it is that one’s everyday existence is always at nature’s mercy.  This is a lesson that one British expedition team learned the hard way and which gave me a jolt of reality while I was on the east coast.  Though I only knew these men for about a day, I was still shocked and emotionally affected to learn that their expedition failed because of an extreme windstorm called a Piteraq.

Below is a very revealing account of my experience on Sunday 28 April 2013 – the day after the Piteraq hit East Greenland.  I originally wrote this for one of the expedition members’ family only. But, as I tried to write more about my time on the east coast for this blog, I realized that this tell-all account was the only thing that could do justice to the experience.  And so I asked the family if they would be willing to let me share it here.  It is possibly the first negative experience I have ever written about, and in fact, I debated whether to include it at all.  But ultimately, I think it is imperative to represent Greenland in a realistic light and to not sugarcoat anything.

So, my personal account is copied here with the permission of the family.

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The Piteraq on Saturday 27 April 2013 had grounded all passenger flights in the Angmagssalik district, so everyone had to stay put until further notice.  Everyone whose flight was cancelled had been told that Air Greenland most likely would not fly until Monday, so it was settled that Sunday would be a quiet day with no air traffic and no events…

Around 0715, I was awoken by the unmistakable thumping heartbeat of a helicopter.  I thought to myself that I must be mistaken since there were not supposed to be any passenger flights until the next day.  I got out of bed and opened the window for a better look.  I could hear it, but I could not see it.  These steep East Greenland mountains capture sound so well that one can practically hear the helicopters the entire 26 km (16 miles) from Kulusuk to Tasiilaq!

Many minutes passed before I could actually see the machine as a speck on the horizon.  As it continued to approach, I could see that it was no ordinary Bell 212, and instantly I started to feel sick.  The machine landing at Tasiilaq was the massive Sikorsky S-61 helicopter.  It was retired for passenger flights at the end of 2012, and now only operates for Search and Rescue (SAR) missions and other special events.  So it is not necessarily a good thing to see this machine coming in.  My thoughts went immediately to the three British men I had met just days ago.  They were only four days into the expedition and I feared it was already coming to an end.  I later learned that the S-61 had flown all through the night from Kangerlussuaq, down the entire west coast, around the south, and finally over to the east.  The Piteraq was still too fierce for it to fly directly over the Inland Ice.

I only took a moment to dress and ran out the door down to the heliport.  Perhaps some people may question why I was so interested, so involved, so emotionally charged, but how could I not be?!  Just three and four days earlier I was eating dinner with these men, talking and laughing for hours, playing Foosball with [the expedition leader], photographing them the morning they got into the helicopter to go up to the Ice, saying good luck to them and that I looked forward to following the Live Tracking on their expedition website… It is true – I knew them for less than 24 hours, but sometimes time is just an arbitrary number.  When you feel that another human being is in trouble – you instinctually react!

When I got to the heliport, there were police out front, and I asked them what was happening.  They told me they were going to the Inland Ice to rescue an expedition team.  I asked them which expedition they were going after, but they did not seem to understand my question.  I offered the men’s nationality, the number of team members, the specific expedition name/ID number, even the men’s names… but nothing seemed familiar to the policemen.  Finally, when I repeated [the expedition leader’s name] that sparked recognition, and one of the policemen said, “Yes, that’s him!”  There were so many things going through my head that I could not think coherently or ask questions in the correct order.  I think maybe I was even stupid enough to ask if I could go with them on the rescue!

Once the S-61 departed at 0744 and I had some time to think, I considered the options of why the expedition was being rescued.  [The expedition leader] had told me that one of his previous expeditions was pulled because the Greenland government deemed it too dangerous.  I thought this was probably not the reason for this rescue, though, because by Sunday morning the Piteraq had subsided, so why would the government see any harm in letting them continue?  Finally, I concluded that what MUST have happened was that they lost a lot of their gear and could not continue for another 30 days on what they had left.  I never once considered that they were in mortal danger.

To prove that I never considered this option, the entire time I waited for the S-61 to return I was imagining watching the men walk off the helicopter and into the heliport and asking them what on Earth happened up on the Ice!!  Unfortunately, walking off the helicopter was the furthest thing from what the men were physically capable of doing.  This realization did not actually hit me until I saw the S-61 return just before 0900 but continue past the heliport.  I took half a second to wonder where it was going, and then I heard the bells tolling.  It was going to the hospital.  I wanted to kick myself for how little I was thinking, and again ran out the door and over to the hospital.  When I got there the S-61 was perched on the snow, so huge and massive in comparison to the buildings and residences close by.  There were a few locals standing on their front steps trying to see what was happening, but other than that there was nobody around and only silence in the air.

Members of the SAR team were already on the ground around the helicopter but it was unclear to me whether they had already unloaded the men or not.  I waited still, and then I saw the edge of a stretcher appear at the top of the helicopter stairs.  I held my breath and braced myself because I did not know what I was about to see.  The stretcher continued out the doorway and what I saw was a person strapped to the stretcher and wrapped from head to toe in a bright, gold, and blindingly shiny thermal bag.  I could not see who it was, and I could not hear anybody saying the person’s name.  The SAR team went directly inside the hospital and I did not see that person again.  Having arrived to the hospital a little bit after the helicopter landed, I was unsure whether I was seeing the first person come off the helicopter or the last person.  So still I waited to see what would happen next, and eventually a second person came off the helicopter in the same condition as the first – strapped to a stretcher and wrapped head to toe in a gold thermal bag.  Nobody else came off the helicopter, so I assumed that I had seen the third of the three men get unloaded, and I went inside.

At 0930, the doctor passed in the hallway, and I asked him if he could give me any information at all.  He was hesitant, asked if I was a family member, and I said, “No, just somebody who cares”.  He told me I would have to ask the police instead.  When the policemen passed in the hallway, I saw that it was the same officers as I had spoken with outside the heliport, and I asked them if they could give me any information.  They [mentioned two of the expedition members by name and said they were okay].  I said, “And what about [the third man]?”  They would not say another word.  My heart sank, and my gut feeling was that [the third member] was in big trouble, but still I was holding out hope that he was alive and just in very critical condition.  I stayed at the hospital for probably an hour or more watching the doctor, nurses, and SAR team go in and out of one of the treatment rooms with IVs, blankets, and medical supplies.  At one point I could actually hear one of the men speaking saying that he felt numb and that he could not feel anything, and then he got sick over and over again.  But it was a relief just to hear a voice.  I have no idea what was happening inside that room, but I can only imagine it was a nightmare.  Eventually, I had to return to The Red House to pack my bag and catch my helicopter to Kulusuk.  It was so hard for me to walk away from the hospital, and I definitely did not want to leave the town.  I desperately just wanted to stay in Tasiilaq and wait for any piece of news, no matter how big or small.

When I got back to The Red House around 1030, the air was silent and heavy.  The Polish ice climbers, the Austrian film crew, the solo French backpacker, the staff at The Red House… everyone was holding their breath waiting for news.  Like me, none of these people knew the men for more than a week, but yet there was still so much love and support in the room.  It was very special.

They had all heard about the SAR mission, but in fact they had heard incorrect information.  They were under the impression that [everyone in] Greenland Icecap-Crossing Expedition A-13-22 was deceased.  It was at this point that I realized that I was probably the only one who knew what was happening in real time – and even I knew very little.  But I knew that I had seen two men come off the S-61 alive, and I knew I could even hear one of them speaking inside the treatment room.  And I knew the police were confident in telling me that [two of the expedition members] were alive.  So I shared the few facts that I knew and nothing else.  Then we all sat with our thoughts and nobody said a word.  When I left The Red House at 1215 to catch my helicopter, the air was just as silent and heavy.  At that time it was still unclear what [the third man’s] condition was.  It was even unclear whether he had actually been rescued from the Ice or not.  I hoped and prayed that he was alive.

It was not until Sunday evening in Kulusuk that I heard the official word that [the third man] had passed…  Since then, I have not been able to stop looking at the pictures I took of the expedition team the morning they left up to the Ice.  Again, some people may question why I was so interested, so involved, so emotionally charged, but how could I not be?!  There is something about knowing you were one of the last people to spend time with the expedition team before they went to the Ice.  There is something eerie about looking at some of the last pictures of [the third man] alive and well.  Even more eerie is getting a Facebook notification that you are now friends with [him] because his family has logged onto his account to make an official post about his passing…

My heart is heavy 😦 Greenland has been nothing but smiles, love, and happiness for me since Day 1.  But now I am reminded that this land is still very wild and can be brutal to human life.

Digidduaritsi! Welcome to East Greenland! (65*N 37*W)

(From Wednesday 24 April 2013)

Today I finally returned to the famed East Coast!  First I flew from Nuuk to Kulusuk (less than 2 hours flight time), and from Kulusuk I took a helicopter to Tasiilaq (10 minutes flight time). Both are Air Greenland flights.  You know you are getting close to the east coast when you see steep, sharp peaks and frozen sea ice 🙂

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When I walked into the Kulusuk airport, it was full of life!  Packed with film crews and tourists on their way to Reykjavik and beyond…  Packed with ice cap crossers, heliskiers, and extreme adventurers ready to get started on journeys of a lifetime!  Though Greenland gets a fraction of the tourists that other worldly destinations get, the tourists that are here are very special!  Very passionate about seeing the world; very curious about a life different from their own…  It is inspiring to be surrounded by such people every day!  I think tourists to Greenland must feel a little bit like they are members of a secret club – only others who have been here really know its majesty and the feelings it evokes.

With some hours to kill before catching my helicopter to Tasiilaq, I interviewed as many tourists as possible, and then I walked around to shoot photographs.  When I went out the door to the road, my first thought was, “Wow! There is a lot of snow here!”  Now, I fully understand the irony of this statement.  I am in Greenland… in winter/spring.  Of course there is snow!  But to be completely honest, this was the first place that I was seeing a large amount of it.  The unseasonably warm temperatures had melted every single flake in Kangerlussuaq in March.  There was some snow on the ground when I was in Ilulissat and Nuuk, but it was not more than I had seen before in Washington, D.C.  And, it was pretty dirty and rocky – also similar to Washington, D.C.  So, when I walked outside and saw pristine, white snowdrifts 3 meters (10 feet) high to create a road, I was impressed!

Here are some pictures of the snowdrifts.  Picture 1 is right outside the airport.  Picture 2 is closer to the settlement of Kulusuk; the trench in the foreground is the road 🙂 For reference in Picture 3, I am only 157 centimeters (5’2″) tall!

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One of the novel aspects of traveling to small towns and settlements is flying in a helicopter!  But it is a shame the trips do not last so long – approximately 15 minutes!  This was my second helicopter trip, but I was just as excited about it as the first!  Helicopters fly lower and slower than the small fixed-wing planes, so the view and photo-ops are fantastic!  Here are some photos I shot while airborne between Kulusuk and Tasiilaq.

Settlement of Kulusuk. The snow between town and the mountains is on land.  The snow between the town and me is actually sea ice.

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If you look closely at the snow, you will see dogsledge and snowmobile tracks. In fact, there is a dogsledge down there (sans dogs). Can you spot it?

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Easily the tallest freestanding iceberg I have laid eyes on thus far.

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One of my favorite things about transportation in Greenland is how simple and relaxing it is!  To juxtapose, it is nothing like arriving to an American or European airport where you are instantly in a rush to walk/run a mile or two to baggage claim, passing through door after door, going down hallway after hallway, making sure to keep your gaggle of family members relatively close by as you weave between others.  On the contrary, I stand behind the statement that transportation with Air Greenland is nothing like that!  Save for maybe Kangerlussuaq Airport during a holiday.

The heliport in Tasiilaq is truly just a small little bull’s-eye nestled right along the harbor amongst the tall East Greenland mountains.  When you land and the helicopter door opens, a rush of crisp, fresh air hits you and you step down and just feel happy!  The Arctic Calm is all around you.  You are on the east coast of Greenland!  You are alive!  Just look at how beautiful this place is!  There is no rushing around, and there is no need to frantically find a map before you take a single step more. There is only one road in / out, so take your pick! (Though there is a map outside on the door of the heliport 🙂 )

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From first impressions alone, Tasiilaq could easily be one of my Top 3 favorite towns in Greenland. I even sent an SMS to a friend that said, “I love it! I think I could be an East Coast woman!”