On Land in Greenland: A Photo Essay

Candice Gaukel Andrews September 12, 2017 1

For me, Greenland represents hope for a future where the world still has ice. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

Because Greenland is the largest island in the world, it makes sense that many people’s travels there are boat-based, as mine were four years ago. There is little infrastructure: roads are rare, and places to stay are few.

Now, however, there is a remote and beautiful place to stay on land. It is Natural Habitat Adventures’ Base Camp Greenland, set on the edge of Sermilik Fjord near the Greenland ice cap.

Being able to sleep and stay, at least for a while, near the Greenland ice cap sends shivers—metaphorically and, perhaps, at night sometimes physically—down my spine. The Greenland ice sheet, second in size only to Antarctica’s, stretches more than 1,500 miles from north to south, is nearly two miles deep at its thickest point and covers 80 percent of the island.

The wildly dramatic landscape along Greenland’s isolated and rarely visited East Coast is characterized by fjords that cut into mountains, capped by the world’s second-largest ice sheet. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

I am fascinated with ice because I think it is an endangered species; and here, in the pristine wilderness in East Greenland, I got to know it again. When I woke up in the morning, there were icebergs just outside my tent-cabin’s window. In some afternoons, I was able to kayak among them and peer into the crystalline waters to try to see them from the base up. In other afternoons, I could hike to a high point on the tundra and look down at them from a raven’s-eye view.

There were other advantages to staying on land. I got to experience the refreshing chills of a Greenland summer night; the intense quiet of early mornings, broken only by the sounds of slowly rolling icebergs in the fjord; and the warm heat that enters your body when you stretch out on bedrock warmed by the afternoon sun.

Roads and trails, hotels and restaurants, are still few in Greenland, I’m happy to say. In many ways, I think of Greenland as a young world, still trying to figure itself out. In many ways, I see it as a land we humans have yet to muck up.

Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,

Candy

Exposed bedrock constitutes only one-fifth of Greenland’s surface area. The rest of the island is covered by ice. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

 

Behind Sermilik Fjord’s u-shaped valley, a wall of ice stretches for 1,500 miles from north to south, blanketing 80 percent of Greenland. It has been frozen for three million years. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

 

Tidewater outlet glaciers discharge most of the Greenland ice sheet’s mass through iceberg calving, meltwater runoff and submarine melting. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

 

Icebergs, some of which have been drifting for months or even years, are driven down the coast by the strong Greenland Current. Once they reach the outer edge of Greenland’s fjords, they collide with ice that has broken off the Greenland ice sheet to form gigantic composites or mingle with brash ice to create frozen mosaics. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

 

It’s my belief that the chance to kayak among Greenland’s icebergs alone is worth the journey. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

 

Few places on Earth can equal Greenland’s magnificent scenery, clarity of air and water, and raw power of nature. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

 

Summer is prime whale-watching season. Up to 15 species visit Greenland’s waters, but the most common are fin, minke and humpback. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

 

East Greenland’s people had no contact with the outside world until the turn of the 20th century. That isolation contributed to a distinct culture. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

 

Greenland’s less populated and wild East Coast is often called “the back side” by those on the West Coast, where the country’s capital and most of its people are located. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

 

Greenland Inuit graves are not marked with names—only with crosses. Ancestors are thought to live on through subsequent generations, who will be given those names. The dead have no need of them, whereas those being born do. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

 

The Arctic climate affects the world: changes in sea ice affect ocean circulation, which, in turn, affects atmospheric circulation that then impacts the globe. Studies suggest that large swaths of the Arctic tundra will be warm enough to support lush vegetation and trees by 2050. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

 

Arctic cotton grass is a flowering plant in the sedge family. Seed heads are covered in a fluffy mass of cotton and are dispersed by the wind. In Arctic regions, the translucent fibers also serve as down—keeping reproductive organs warm during the Arctic summer by trapping solar radiation. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

 

The genes of Greenland sled dogs are highly protected; if a dog leaves Greenland, it cannot return. Over the past two decades, however, Greenland’s sled dog population—which is today about 15,000—has decreased by more than half. That means that the country’s sled dog culture and the highly specialized knowledge linked to the dogs’ training is in danger of disappearing. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

 

Vast swaths of stunning, unfenced wilderness give adventurers the freedom to wander at will. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

One Comment »

  1. Joan September 23, 2017 at 6:25 pm - Reply

    Oh, yes, Candy—it was a FABULOUS experience. One of the most beautiful and fascinating travel experiences ever. (As well as poignant, because the accelerating changes in climate may alter the ecosystem until it’s unrecognizable.)

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