Of all the places I’ve traveled to, Greenland is the most complicated, I think. While there are commonalities with other spots in the world, Greenland always seems to put its own, special twist on things.
For example, much like what I found in Yellowstone National Park, Greenland plays with your linear sense of time. But added to that feeling of calendar displacement, time here has another dimension; it’s tied to light: four months of dark, four months of light and two seasons of twilight.
And, similar to my discoveries in Antarctica, Greenland is a place of ice. I’ve mentioned my fixation with ice and the world’s cold places in this column before, mostly because I’m convinced that winter is an endangered “species.” But unlike in Antarctica—and almost every other place on the planet—the loss of ice here, some say, could open up a more prosperous, independent and brighter future for people. The retreat of the Greenland ice cap has unveiled previously inaccessible mineral deposits, such as copper, diamonds, gold, iron, uranium, zinc and other rare earth metals that are crucial for new technologies and military guidance systems.
Although you’d be tempted to call Greenland a continent, it is the largest island in the world; and surprisingly, a self-governing state within the Kingdom of Denmark. Another facet of this place’s perplexing nature is that even though ice covers 80 to 85 percent of the island, people have lived here for about 5,000 years. That other land of ice—the Great White Continent—at the other pole has no ancient human history. But in Greenland, Independence I, Saqqaq, Independence II, Dorset and Inuit peoples have built a rich and multilayered human culture. And again unlike in so many other places today, the indigenous people make up the majority of Greenland’s population: about 80 percent are Inuit and most of the rest are Danish.
Mostly, though, my fascination with Greenland comes back to the ice. The country’s great ice sheet, suspended atop bedrock, holds 8 to 10 percent of the Earth’s freshwater. If it were to melt entirely, global sea levels would rise 23 feet. For me, then, Greenland represents hope for a future where the world still has ice.
My dream is that Greenland will never separate measurements of time from complements of light, will never bury its indigenous culture and will never let go of its grip on the ice.
Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,
A multiple award-winning author and writer specializing in nature-travel topics and environmental issues, Candice has traveled around the world, from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica, and from New Zealand to Scotland's far northern, remote regions. Her assignments have been equally diverse, from covering Alaska’s Yukon Quest dogsled race to writing a history of the Galapagos Islands to describing and photographing the national snow-sculpting competition in her home state of Wisconsin.In addition to being a five-time book author, Candice's work has also appeared in several national and international publications, such as "The Huffington Post" and "Outside Magazine Online." To read her web columns and see samples of her nature photography, visit her website at www.candiceandrews.com and like her Nature Traveler Facebook page at www.facebook.com/naturetraveler.
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