Camping in Greenland
Rupe held up his hand. Even those of us who didn’t speak Finnish, understood that we were to stop while he conferred with Mary about the route. We were following a traditional dog sled route but, being Summer, there was no traces left as they had melted away with the ice and snow. The tundra flora also grows quickly to take full advantage of the short Summer. We didn’t argue as it was wearing to walk over such rough, rocky ground carrying all our supplies from the boat, so we were glad to sit down and slide the rucksack straps off. We sat there in the afternoon sunshine enthralled by all that we could see.
We had left Tasilaq that morning after spending the last few days walking further and higher each day to get our “polar fitness legs working”. Each night had been spent back in the Hotel Nansen where we prepared the food for the group in turns. We had spent the previous evening paring down our kit to the essentials and taking as much food as we could carry. Our guides were Rupe and Mary, who would guide us on the trek after we had crossed the Polar Stream of Sermilik Fjord from Tasilaq to Isetoq – Ice Bay – on the mainland. It is well named because, even in September, it was choked with ice floes. There were twelve of us in the trekking Group, fourteen including Rupe and Mary. There were two open boats to carry us, gear and food across part of the North Atlantic so we were dressed for cold and wet. In the event the weather was kind and the sea fairly calm – allowing us a perfect view of the leviathans making their stately ways down to the Atlantic Ocean to slowly shrink to their melted death.
Death of an iceberg
I am an ice child of the Arctic North,
calved from my mother into alien waters.
A sibling procession down the Polar Stream.
We are Leviathan, Behemoth, Titanic and Growler.
( This way up—-> )
Sweat trickles down my icy flanks as I heat in the sun.
My bottom is licked away by warm ripples
until I topple to reveal old tidemarks
as I shrink to a melted
After some discussion about the right inlet to take, we entered Ice Bay and dodged our way through the smaller icebergs at slow speed. We realised why when we looked down through the clear blue water to the underwater shelves sticking out like hydrofoils from the ‘bergs. We dipped our hands into the water and scooped up handfuls of ice to taste – ice that had fallen as snow fifteen thousand years before.
We eventually found a possible landing point. Dinas kept the engines running to keep the boat in strong contact with the rocks as we unloaded ourselves and our baggage. When all was onshore we waved Dinas and his mate off and the silence slowly draped itself around us. After the cold boat trip we felt we needed a warm drink so we got out the stove and brewed up a mug of tea each. We stood there on the edge of the inlet, looking at the mass of icebergs jammed together in the bay. It was unreal to see that a seal was sunbathing on one of them while keeping a close eye on us.
Suddenly the seal slipped off into the water and we saw that the ‘berg the seal had been laying on was starting to rotate. There was a grinding noise and we realised that the ‘seal ‘berg’ was rolling over and grinding against another as it did so. There were then a series of waves as the bergs jostled for a new position. Eventually the bay returned to a contented equilibrium. We thought it was amazing that it should have happened just while we were there to see it, but Rupe explained to us that most ice bergs were unstable as they were melted more by the sea water under them than by the warmth of the sun above. That is why it is best to keep well away from them as they can roll over on top of boats.
It was time to get our packs sorted and loaded up ready to clamber up the rocky wall to the rough, landscape above. It was difficult to pick up the packs so we used the Army system. Lay your pack on the ground with the front facing up. Lay down on the pack and do all the straps up tight. The get your mate to pull you up on to your feet – simples!
We started the trek to find a camp site for the next few nights. It took a while to get used to the heavy packs and the rocky tundra. We eventually got to an area that we voted as our camp site – our home for the next few days.
The sound of the quiet was overwhelming. It was as far below silence as standing by Heathrow airport runway while a 747 takes off is above it. No traffic, no aircraft, no animals, no birds. Then as your ears became more sensitive to the unfamiliar lack of noise, we could hear a gentle tinkling of the glacier lake trickling down its outlet channel on the way to Ice Bay.
We quickly set up our tents on the tundra while the cooks for the day constructed the kitchen and put the water on to boil for the pasta. We all tasted the water from the stream coming from the lake. It was icy cold, fresh and had a wonderful taste. The lake was clear of any vegetation and had the usual glacier flour diminishing its etherial blue clarity.
We sat on the rocks by the stream gazing along the lake as we sipped a mug of tea while waiting for our dinner to cook. We looked towards to the glint of the ‘Inland Ice’ – the Greenland ice cap that we could see the sun setting over at the head of the lake. What a wonderful place to be.
We had our meal and all helped with the clearing up. We then stood in a circle sipping a mug of tea for our now traditional evening talk about the day, what we had seen and what we planned for the following day. The many moths fluttered around our heads, so we put on our head nets – luckily there didn’t seem to be any biting insects. Rupe told us that we were now at least 15 miles away from the nearest human being. We decided to go for a trek the following day along the bouldery shoreline of the lake, Isertupimiq, towards the Inland Ice.
The temperature was dropping with the sunset so it was time to burrow into our sleeping bags and listen to the peace before dropping off to sleep.
© Eorodraca 2019