We rarely travel with tour groups. A guided tour makes sense in a place like Greenland, if you want to see a lot in a little amount of time. So, off we go, on a four and one-half-hour flight from Copenhagen, Denmark to Kangerlussuaq (which we call the “K town”), Greenland, for a three-night stay in a hostel with shared bathrooms. From here, we’ll fly north to Ilulissat (the “I town”) for four nights in a hotel with private bath. Our first sighting of Greenland’s ice cap comes from the plane on this clear day.
“Albatros” and “World of Greenland” tour companies take over our lives for the next activity-filled eight days, with little time to rest. Our core group consists of a couple from Australia, a couple from Denmark, another couple with a twelve-year-old from Denmark, and the two of us.
Relationships are awkward the first few days, especially standing in line for the “toilette” (they don’t understand why we call it a bathroom in the US). We see each other constantly. Everywhere. A bit embarrassing and irritating at first, but soon we engage one another, sharing the wonder, as well as jokes about forced intimacy.
Let’s go see some stuff. Hop aboard the studded tire bus for a brief ride around the small “K” town, which would not exist on the World’s largest island if not for WWII. Greenland is an autonomous constituent country of the Kingdom of Denmark. The United States built a military air base here in “K town” that among other duties would refuel planes during the war. They built the infrastructure of roads, housing, plumbing, and of course, a bar. The 500 or so population would not be here if not for that, outside of the original inhabitants, the Greenlandic Inuit people.
After the war, and during the cold war, the base was used for radar surveillance on Russia. After the cold war ended, the US sold the base to Denmark for one dollar, under conditions that they would do no clean-up, and can use it in the future if WWIII starts.
The melting season has begun. The slush of the day turns to ice within minutes during sundown, but temperatures range in a “balmy” 25 degrees F to 35 degrees F. Mare and I sleep for ten hours this night in our tiny dorm room, waking to a crowded breakfast of bread and cheese, and most importantly, coffee.
Off to ice fishing on the frozen, sea-covered fjord. This morning our guides, Claus and Thomas, pile us into an “Armageddon” machine with chained tires. We drive to the main dock, wearing six layers of clothing which must contain at least twenty-five pockets.
The wind whips our jackets while we stand and fish through freshly drilled holes in the ice. Cod dominates the catching this time of year.
Our group catches two minnow-size cod fish, which the guides keep. I catch nothing. That’s why they call it fishing instead of catching.
After meat sandwiches instead of fish, we hop into the “Armageddon” for a fascinating several-hour drive up through frozen, tundra-carpeted mountains. The road passes the Russell Glacier, and large Aajuitsup Tasia freshwater lake where the UNESCO World Heritage Site starts.
Tears roll down Marilynn’s cheeks from the awe and inspiration of our first sighting of Greenland’s Ice Sheet, which covers around 85% of this island, and looks like a frozen, stormy ocean.
We disembark the bus and walk a mile to the Ice Sheet, which is also called an Ice Cap. This walk used to be short, but the ice has melted so fast during the past twelve years, that the walk is now much longer. To witness the ice melt with the naked eye proves to be more formidable than just reading just about it.
Here’s a few mind-blowing stats: the ice sheet covers 1,710,000 square miles (4428879,67 K). It’s 1500 miles long (2414,016 K), and 680 miles wide (1094,354 K).
It’s the second largest body of ice on earth after the Antarctic Sheet, and runs 6,600 feet (2011,68 M) to 9,800 feet (2987, 04 M) deep.
It covers about 85% of Greenland, not counting the 68,000 square miles (176119,192 K) of isolated glaciers and ice caps.
We stare into the eerie infinity of black ice, which is void of all air. It sinks ships, as it’s invisible in water. Incredibly dense, melting snow exposes more of the black ice, which is void of color, but absorbs it when exposed to the sun. Currently, about 25% of sea level rise comes from this melting sheet of ice.
On a lighter note, the twisty road is very bumpy. So bumpy that the ride registered 35,000 steps on my cell phone! The Volkswagen car company initially built this road to secretly test vehicles under harsh conditions. It made for great press. Once “industrial spies” caught on, they shut down operations.
Back at Old Camp Hostel, ready to bed down, we witness a taste of Northern Lights. What a fascinating day. We literally saw some cool stuff!
What a great trip! Soooooooooo cold🥶
We finally got to use the clothing we bought for Antarctica many years ago!
That is so amazing! I’m so happy for both of you. 💗
Thanks Tammy. Your retirement day is coming!
Amazing stories… amazing cold!!!
No doubt, this is one special place!
No doubt, this is one amazing place!
We didn’t have to go to Greenland for cold this year, 7+ weeks of -25C to -38C at night, global warming my butt. (: D. & G
Haha! We’ll call it climate change! Haines, Alaska got no snow, and winter rained like spring. They usually depend on 13 feet each winter. Crazy. Good to hear from you you and hope that you are doing well.
Gotta hand it to ya brother you guys certainly don’t let ANY weather conditions get in your way of exploring the world. Buddy you would NEVER get me out there in those conditions. I’m strictly about sun and sand and beaches hahaha. I’m constantly amazed at the different places you guys visit. Definitely off the beaten path. You both live life to its fullest potential and not many can say that. Never a dull moment for you guys. Enjoy your adventure and look forward to seeing what’s next. Stay safe you guys.
Thanks so much for those heartfelt words, Glenn. Sometimes we think that we’re just both crazy and restless, but at least we have the same affliction!
Great read and pics u guys rock
Thank you, Mark. This place exceeded our expectations for sure. Wait until you see the next town!
Hi Ron and Marilyn
We are so pleased to have met you and injoyed your company on the tour. Aalso nice to read your impressions and see the very good pictures.
We look forward to read the next chapter 😉
All the best
Birthe and Henrik
Such an honor to hear from you, Birthe and Henrik. We enjoyed your company as well. Remember how lucky we are to have had this fascinating experience! Good health and good luck to both of you. Ron and Marilynn.
Amazing! It’s such an honor to know the both of you and how so many people get to experience the world thru your story telling and pictures. Thank you both for this. Happy trails my friends, can’t wait to see chapter 2!
Thank you for such, nice words to hear. You and Connie would love seeing this place as well!
Good for you!! You are so lucky to have found one another….ENJOY YOUR ADVENTURES AND EACH OTHER!! LOVE MA & PA
We are indeed lucky and so are the two of you!
Looks awe inspiring! As always great photos and great writing, thanks for sharing the adventure.
Thank you, Jay and it’s fun to share with anyone who appreciates travel. You guys would love this place too!
Love reading about your adventures as usual and those photos! Also love that you both can still be awestruck by the wonder of the world even after all you’ve seen. Yes, looking forward to the next post too!
There is always something different to see, love seeing as much as we can while we can. I know that you understand!
My God!! I always wanted to read a full fledged descreption of a greenland visit. This is fascinating. I was really dumbstruck. I am not understanding what to say after reading your words and seeing your pictures. My screen was stable at this post for continuous 15 minutes or a bit more. This is awesome, amazing, wonderful and unlimited praises.
Wow, we are so honored by your gracious praises. However, the fantastic island of Greenland deserves all the praise, as it’s unique beauty makes the writing and photos much easier. So glad that you enjoyed the posts!
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You are a talented and creative writer. I don’t engage in the blog games though, nothing against it, just not my nature.😊
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Impressed with your blog. I came here for the first time and this post forced me to click the Follow button.
Thank you so much, Riya Gupta!