About 4,500 years ago some hunters in what is now the Bering Strait region made crude skin crafts to retrieve seals harpooned from shore. Over time these crafts evolved into sophisticated kayaks.
The Inuit kayaks in the Bering Strait region feature seven or more longitudinal stringers secured in place to numerous crosspieces. These boats have rounded hulls and are proper seagoing craft. Farther east, in Central Canada, the kayaks are light weight and used mainly for hunting near shore. These have five longitudinal stringers. With just five bars the resulting cross section created is angular and allows a competent paddler to lean and turn very sharp corners when hunting. The kayaks in Western Greenland are of this style, but are in many ways more advanced in terms of performance and seaworthiness. They are also especially beautiful. Today Greenlanders no longer use these kayaks for hunting, but paddling and rolling activities have evolved as a sport and the building of these remarkable kayaks is flourishing.


When I started my first folding kayak design in the mid-1970s I had just a few basic ideas about what I wanted to do. I needed something transportable, preferably small enough when folded to fit into a large backpack. I had paddled a skin kayak as a young boy and loved the intimacy that you feel with the ocean as the soft skin reacts to every wave and ripple. Paul Theroux, who has one of our kayaks, has compared the skeleton and skin of folding kayaks to sea mammals. There is a sense of belonging with the sea that is lost with rigid hull boats. I had also learned to fly small planes and became familiar with the aluminum tubing used in their construction and realized that these tubes would be idea for my frames.


After building and paddling early boats with five bars and some cross pieces and then covering the frame with 6 ml poly I began to realize that I had no idea what cross section shape I wanted. They paddled terribly. Then I got the idea of having adjustable crossribs. I fixed the gunwales to establish overall beam width. I could move the keel up or down. The two chines on either side of the keel were totally adjustable. I was able to not only adjust the shape and then paddle the kayak but also look through the clear polyethylene sheet and see how the water flowed past. With these discoveries and many other developments we started making our first kayaks. Shortly after that my pal Eric gave me some pages that he had printed in the library from Chapelle’s drawings of West Greenland kayaks: “The Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America”, by Edwin Tappan Adney and Howard Chapelle. I was surprised to find that although my cross sections were larger, the positioning and angles of my bars were very similar to most of Chapelle’s frame drawings. I had blundered on to the right track. These cross section shapes are still central to all of the kayaks that we have made.
It slowly dawned on me how important these Inuit kayaks are. I can be a little slow on the uptake. But I came to realize that there are few, if any, current products that have such a direct connection to indigenous designs. After introducing our first K-1 in 1980 we went on to produce a number of different models, designed for different purposes. Then in 1995 I felt ready to make a Greenland kayak based on a drawing by kayak historian, H.C. Petersen. (Just the shape. My construction technique was completely different.) I was surprised that the first boat didn’t meet my expectations at all, but after considerable tweeking the kayak worked well. I used these kayaks during both trips to Greenland.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                
I feel totally in debt to the astonishing Inuit kayaks, especially those from Greenland. This trip was my big chance to visit the “motherland” of skin-on-frame kayaks and maybe meet with some of the current builders. I was also going through some tough personal problems at the time and thought that I might be able to sort things out with time on the land and sea.
Eric, aka Migratory Man, is always on the move. Since visiting him on Reid Island, we had done a few trips together, including hiking in the Nahanni National Park in the Yukon and ski traversing in the Rockies. When I suggested that we paddle together somewhere off the coast of Greenland he jumped at the chance. On the west coast of Greenland a “polynya”, or open water, forms due to the warming effects of the upwelling Gulf Stream waters combined with high pressure winds streaming off the Greenland Ice Cap, which push the sea ice offshore. My plan was to paddle from Upernavik to Uummannaq and do a lot of hiking along the way. Then, if we had time, take a boat to Kangerlussuaq and hike to the Greenland Ice Sheet. We ended up doing just that.
The climate in West Greenland in summer is surprisingly moderate. Temperatures remain well above freezing and the high pressure system that hangs over the massive ice cap usually keeps stormy low pressure fronts at bay. The arctic is changing, however. We had the pleasure of experiencing unusually wet, cool weather. During the summer a huge amount of melt water drains off the massive Greenland Ice Cap. As the arctic warms and the melting season expands this is increasing exponentially. We saw massive outflows coming off the glaciers and impassible rivers separated us from the main ice cap.
July 6, 2000, Uummannaq, 70.675, -52.126
Up at 4:30 am, flew Dash 7 to Qaarsut, then Sikorsky chopper, 10 minutes to here. Beautiful. Rugged land. This morning: T –shirt, hot. Bergs floating by. Brightly painted houses plopped on the rocks, backed by the spired mountain. A wonder, this place. We hiked quite a bit, after we were told that we couldn’t chopper to Upernavik today, it’s foggy there. Went past Santa Clause’s house on West side. Sod covered, very tight and comfy inside. The Danes tell their kids that this is where Santa lives.
Got put up here in school rooms by the airline Gronlandsfly. Also dinner at the fancy Uummannaq Hotel. Talked with Dane who has dogsledded from Ilulissat to Qanaaq (Thule) 2–3 months on sea ice, works for fish brokers.
Some insights- why few large fish boats here? They are all off in the fjords near the glaciers, where the fish are. Turbots (like small halibut- “Black Halibut”). We see them hanging to dry all over the place. Smell them too. Main cash generator.
This town started as an Inuit hunting village. Fishing is much more recent. 3 fish processors in town and 2 factory ships in the fjords. The air is super clear. I thought that the island across the way was maybe a nautical mile off. Its four NM away, looks so close.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                              Man skinning kayak with nylon fabric
 

Today blundered into a shed where a guy was making traditional style kayaks, canvas or nylon skins. His paddles were functional but a little rough. Very small volume boats, well made. Great for rolling. About 9 or so outside on a rack. They used to have to hang them high because the dogs ate the seal skins. I brought two of my Khatsalano kayaks, Greenland style boats for this trip, but higher volume. Traditionally, Greenland kayaks were for hunting. Ours have to carry our stuff. Later, after dinner a few people went out in them and did some rolls. Beautiful to see. White boats and black ones.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                   Locals from Uummannaq, playing
 

Dogs- they all look the same here. Chained. Dirty ones and dirtier. You are only allowed to keep sled dogs from Disko Bay north, no other dogs. Keep the breed pure. South: other dogs only, no teams.
Off to Upernavik: “place of springtime” small plane tomorrow if fog lifts. 72.787, -56.147.
July 9, 2000, north end of Iperaq Island, 72.534, -55.684
This place is fantastic. The rocks, shear pink or grey cliffs, vistas out of storyland.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                              Me, playing
 

Left Upernavik day before yesterday at 7 PM. Paddled 8 knots or so. It was hot. Eric wasn’t used to the drysuit and left it half on. When the wind came up he got wet and cold. No complaints, though.
As I said to Eric: “if this place were accessible, this would be a classic route”. It’s so beautiful. So far, paddling conditions have been good. Maybe lulled us a bit?
Upernavik museum had some perfectly preserved kayaks, paddles and tuiliks. For me, like the second coming. Spent all day there. Gorgeous and inspiring. Crazy that I’m a student of these designs. I owe so much. Met Harvey Golden there, who is a keen student of Inuit kayaks. He was measuring all of the kayaks on display.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                              Admiring kayak in Upernavik museum
 

You get a breeze in the evening, about 8 or so? Not sure exactly when because I’ve put away the watch. Just use it for the date. Till now we have had sun. Fog rolled in last night, it’s just above our heads.
Walking around last night, up the hill to watch the fog roll in. A few picturesque little lakes sculpted into the rock, amongst all the glacial erractics. They are warm! If they don’t have snow around them they have warmed up — we may find more for swimming/bathing. Murre and guillemot colonies, cormorants too. No seals. Some mosquitoes. I’ve been sleeping in the tent without fly. Eric outside with his bag over his head.
Last night the mist swirling around the crags reminded me of Wagner’s Valhalla. Based on Nordic myths, after all. The cliffs are massive, go right up from the beach. The first day we camped on the south end of Qaersorssuaq.. So, breakfast is over, off into the mists we go.
July 10, 2000
The realization is that we have too little time here. Too much to see, do and admire.
Today we left the fog behind a couple of hours in. Entered Proven (72.379, -55.55) and were immediately surrounded by curious children, all very young. “Qajak, Qajak”. Super looking kids. One had on a tie-very curious, but he was an urchin like the rest.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                           Kids at Proven
 

The store was closed so we had no reason to stay. Eric needs a new cup — his has split, and I thought that we would buy some fish or something to leave some money in their village. Just a bunch of colorful huts perched on a hill. A number of guys standing on the pier, doing nothing, some older gents sitting in front of a house, doing nothing. One couple playing, kissing, laughing.
Dinner: couscous flavored with beef stock, onion powder, dill, dried mushrooms, butter.
July 11, 2000 Just outside of Sondre Upernavik 72.168, -55.55
Breakfast: 12 tbsp. cornmeal, b.s.[brown sugar], coconut, pumpkin seed, butter, whole milk powder.
Lunch: nil
Dinner: Dried bell (red) pepper, dropped pkg Knorr spaghetti sauce mix into 1/4 cup powdered milk, onion powder, garlic, basil, butter, onto pasta.
Paddled a fair while today. Some wind at first, then calm. Colder, Overcast. Now rain and moskies. Were visited by about 7 people. 2 young boys, 1 girl, 2 women, 2 men. Again, most interested in our kayaks and gear. Short on teeth they were.
July 12, 2000
Still just outside Sondre Upernavik. Too windy to paddle.
Got up late, walked into town, saw a few people. Potato chips and apples, ate up a hill, in lee of boulder.
I mentioned to Eric the feeling of restlessness that we seem to share, him especially. Our ancestors were immigrants, do we feel less rooted because of that? Realizing that migrations of people have occurred since the beginning. What about indigenous people of NA? Do they feel restless? He answered that it is in his genes. I wondered: how would roaming through Scotland feel? Lousy weather, but it’s ancestral for me.
Sitting with my back to a tiny dilapidated shack, leaning towards the beach. The only shelter from the wind except for the fly, which is noisy. View of the small peninsula the other side of which is the village. The only evidence we see of it is the dirt track, the house where the trash is burnt plus the trash on the beach. The trash isn’t too bad, though, not nearly as bad as the Bahamas.
In the distance, the first point of Narsaq, I think. In between, a lot of waves that would be almost broadside, and the wind. I wish I had remembered the skegs, especially for Eric. I remember that by the time I got to know him and Margaret well they had already paddled around Vancouver Island, in skinny “Eskie” kayaks. Someone had made a bunch of these early kayaks from a mold. Too much rocker, round hull, not really suited for touring. They demanded a lot of skill.
But that was a long time ago. Since then he has spent his time as a guide in the mountains and worked a minimum number of hours doing odd jobs to support his spartan lifestyle. He doesn’t know how to roll a kayak, though, and it shows.
This place sparkles. We’re off up the nearest peak.
July 12, 2000 East side of Skalo Island. 71.87, -55.44
Last night at Sondre Upernavik was amazing. An older guy in his 60’s (looked older) a young woman, and two young men walked down the beach. Obviously to see the kayaks.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                   Kayak maker in Sondre
 

Allan spoke some English, as did the newly graduated teacher, Josef. The old guy was really taken with the kayaks, looked at them in great detail, also the paddle. He asked through Allan, “Where can I get one?” He laughed a lot. Pretended to offer a coin as payment. Turns out he has instructed the kids at Sondre Upernavik how to make skin kayaks.
Allan was interested too. He mentioned that European tourists pay big money to ride on a dog sled on the ice cap for one hour. I said that they were crazy and when the woman laughed, I realized that she had some English too, but was shy. Her grandad made the best preserved skin kayak in the first floor of the museum in Upernavik. It’s a beauty.
Allan has pretty good English, probably has something to do with tourism in Upernavik. Said he would contact me. I offered to trade a Khatsalano for a skin boat the old guy makes. He was delighted. He demonstrated some strokes with my paddle. I was thrilled by all of this. Contact.
This happened at around 11:30 PM, the wind was blowing, and we were all cold. Finally Allan said that he was freezing and he and his date left. The older guy chuckled at this, as he inspected the boat again. Then he and a strange looking short man left. That left the teacher and us. Tall, quiet spoken, not bad English, his third language.
Sondre Upernavik has just lost its economic underpinning. The state company, “Royal Greenland”, which buys all the fish, had built a fish processing plant. In 1988 the fishers got together and bought it. But earlier this year inspectors found bacteria in the building. Apparently nothing can be done about it. Perhaps the fish are in decline so there is no point. Anyway, the guys are all off fishing out of Upernavik or Uummannaq. We were told that the place is full of lonely women.
The teacher starts teaching his first class in Upernavik in the fall. He asked us if Canada has ice bears, and then: “Do you eat them?”
Dinner: soup: Knorr’s Hot and Sour. Delicious. Main: 1 cup bulgur, pkg tomato soup, heaping tsp chili powder, hand full of greasy dried fried onions, salt, butter, veg. bacon bits. Hot chocolate: Dutch cocoa powder, b.s., milk powder. 2 Hobnobs each.
Eric is a fantastic bush cook.
July 13, 2000 pressure 1020, 4 deg., rain, hail
The wind continues, S.E., in our face, stormy. I doubt the barometer on the watch.
Later in the day: Eric mentioned that when you start a walk here you seem to get drawn into it. Without time constraints you keep going. No flashlight in your pack, it’s endless. We started up the valley. As I had found on my before-breakfast hike, the ground is spongy, which slows you down.
Up we went, for hours, until we were on the island plateau. In some places the ground is rocky; there are terraces of jumbled rock, reddish often. Some places have thick mud, watch out! One sucked my leaky boot right off. I’m in my bag, drying the socks. On the plateau you have a grand choice of directions to go, perhaps depending on what view you want. Unfortunately when we were there we had driving rain and hail so we couldn’t see much. But you still had this feeling of expansiveness. Buttercups, arctic cotton, sedges, heather in bloom, a mother arctic ptarmigan protecting her chicks, drawing us away with her wounded wing dance. Rodent poo, probably lemming. Lots of wind. Rain in squalls, All 400 meters up.
Still in tent, no rain, fly open, watching clouds, the luxury of time. I sometimes permit work thoughts. This is one of those times. First, I’m amazed at what I’ve accomplished, but also at how insignificant it all is in the grander scheme. Paradoxical. The designs, the incredible fabric welding technology I’ve dreamed up and organized. The people at F.C., really good people who appreciate their jobs. Happy customers with heart- warming stories. The boats themselves. Wow. None of this will be remembered. But what fun.
July 14, 2000 evening about 11 pm. Svartenhaven 71.665, -55.65
This morning a boat came into our camp., E. side of Skalo Island. One of three jumped out. An old Inuit, the true round face. Gave me a trout. We had trouble communicating. Maybe he said that he was from a place starting with Mack… They had been heading north up the channel, first boat we’ve seen. Must have noticed our tarp. Gum boots. He asked the much younger man to help him back aboard the boat by pushing on his butt. The old woman waved, smiled a bit and off they went.
July 15, 2000 71.566, -55.6
Oh, oh, seriously stormed in. West side of Narssaq, 14 mi. north of end of peninsula.
This morning looked O.K., but a strong S.W. developed. Now wind and rain, cold.
We had thought that we might stop early, go to bed and try to take advantage of the evening calm, but tonight? This won’t go away soon. Writing difficult, under fly.
Yesterday evening Eric suggested that I go on ahead, as he was moving slowly. I declined. Shortly after he told me that his shoulder was really hurting. We shouldn’t go any further. Good thing I didn’t go on. No place to land. Had to go into the bay, very slowly.
Today he is much better, and we had to pull very hard just to make small progress. I hope that this weather changes.
This land is flat, with a gravel berm along shore for miles, lakes inshore of berm. We made soup with the water: quite brackish.
Yesterday Eric saw a fox moving up a hill. We both saw a dead one. There is Muskox poo on this peninsula, the odd whale skeleton, small. But the land is mostly empty. There appears to be enough vegetation to support a lot of muskox. With their fish livelihood diminishing I wonder whether the Greenlanders would consider managing muskox or reindeer, like the Chukchi? Maybe it’s too remote.
July 16, 2000 6.85 nm N.W. of Qinqniviup (s. end of Narssaq Penin.)
Got up early for a change, 6 AM. No wind, ate, left. Bugs galore. Wind came up around noon, so we pulled in here.
Eric’s shoulder is O.K, he’s paddling well. We call our paddling “isometrics” because we paddle close to the beach into a head wind without going anywhere.
Sitting in the kayak today, thinking of what could be, what might be. Contemplating a change fraught with difficulties. On a trip like this you have time for consideration. I often note to myself, “Oh, you’re thinking about things again. You should be in the here and now, enjoying the scenery”. But, part of the value of these trips is the introspection that you inevitably undergo. For now, I’m a husband. But later? Oh, how people change over time, or is it that they just more reveal their true selves? But drift we do. As I sit under this leaky tarp I can look at my other life as if removed.
July 19, 2000, still NW of Qingniviup on Narssaq 71.446, -55.457
Its morning, the wind still blows from S.E., about 35 knots. Had a long hike yesterday, we got up to some new snow at around 500 meters. The wind dropped for about one hour last night around 2 AM, a sucker drop. Then up she goes. We have food, but might run out before we reach Uummannaq. Eric’s boot fell apart yesterday: the sole came completely off from the mid-step back to the heel. He’s got it tied on with a webbing strap, is off hiking now. We do that to get warm, as well as for the enjoyment. The wind chills.
July 20, 2000 Tartussap, gagai. 71.374, -54.56
Wow. Was hiking alone yesterday when the wind dropped. Eric was waiting at camp. We left with almost no wind and clearing skies. Then a following sea pushed us towards the line of icebergs and then into it. The most fantastic array of shapes and sizes. About the most dramatic scenery I’ve ever paddled into. Just offshore there are hundreds of bergs. I can see them through my bug hood because this is also the most mosquito-infested place we’ve visited. Unfortunately the breeze has shifted back to S.E., in our face. What’s in store? But the gates of paradise opened and we got pushed through. In the distance are majestic snowy peaks. Closer is Ubekendt Island, which we want to head for once we’re down the coast a ways.
July 21, 2000 Kugssangassoq, near south end of Upernivik Island 71.188,-53.055
Yesterday at Tartussaq we hiked in the morning and early afternoon. The winds calmed and we left. Paddled directly across to north end of Ubekendt Island. About 20 miles. Didn’t arrive until 2:30 AM. Long day. 71.305, -53.666
Through another fantastic assortment of icebergs. Second half we had quartering seas that really tired Eric. Desperately tired. Then he didn’t sleep the rest of the morning. (I got 5 hours.) He was peeved about getting tired, but is fine now.
Today we dropped in on Igdlorssuit for some groceries. (not necessary-a reason to go to the store in the village). Very small community. On the way in a middle age Inuit couple in a skiff stopped. They had a dead seal draped over the gunwale. He just wanted to show us. Very proud. We had seen about 10 seals earlier. They travel together, more like our sea lions.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                            Successful seal hunt
 

The scenery here is incredible. Tall mountains rising straight up from the sea with glaciers spilling off them. We are camped just below the tongue of a glacier now.
July 22, 2000 same place
We got our camp down and, of course, changed our minds and decided to walk up to get on the glacier. It just sucked us up. With our stuff lying scattered on the beach we followed the tongue. Eventually we got to too many covered crevices. With fearless Eric in the lead we headed up a very unstable, steep scree slope, then a snow gulley. Anyway, it was beautiful and we got down for lunch many hours later, a super hike.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                  Eric starting up glacier
 

Windy down here at the beach, N.W., which would have blown us the 20 miles to our next camp. But we’ll stay until mañana.
Eric has said a few times, especially since the weather changed, that he must come back; this is the most impressive place that he’s ever been to. Where else can you paddle up to an immense glacier and have an awesome climb? And to the south, dominating, is the spire of Uummannaq. Such a place. Wild pink flowers, glaciers, mountains, bergs, seas. Bugs too.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                       Eric
 

Eric’s machismo: he wears the minimum amount of clothing to just get by. He has a down jacket with him, but he’s never worn it. “They’re for wussies” he said. I’ve seen him cold, huddled under the fly.
Tues. July 25, 2000. S.W. corner of Storen Island, just 4 miles east of Uummannaq. 70.657, -51.885
On 23rd paddled to Qasigissat group just north of Qeqertat Island. I was thinking of just stopping and then going on to Agpat, but there was a big berg grounded just off shore and it looked so great we camped here. 71.0215, -52.33
Then we discovered that this island is a penal colony: for dogs. Very hungry, we hung our food from a rock overhang. Real wolfish features, beautiful. Felt a little exposed to them, sleeping on my mat out in the open.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                Hungry Dogs
 

Granite outcrops, different from the gneiss and shales across the bay. Very hot crossing, no wind, over-dressed. Every campsite is so different, each has been special.
The village of Qeqertat does not exist anymore. Where were the owners of the dogs, which seemed to be on most of these islands?
On the 24th paddled here, through the strait between Sagdleq and Agpat Islands first. Choked with bergs and ice, had to pick a tortured route. Agpat abandoned long ago as well, one sod-covered hut, one wood cabin, serviceable. Graveyard, vicious bugs. Left hurriedly. Main ice cap visible, calling us.
Had a good hike on my own today, and a sit with a majestic view of the boot called Uummannak, the sea, bergs everywhere, and the remarkable pink cliffs of this island. Soaring stone ramparts. Thought about my situation, what’s liable to come, with a clear mind. We’re supposed to get the ferry tomorrow at 23:59.
July 26, 2000 Uummannaq 70.68, -52.12
The sun just came out. We’re drying our stuff, out on the grass in front of the church. No one takes notice, not even the dogs stapled to the rocks. Lots of people sitting out front of the grill, with coffee and ice cream. Guys in trucks are moving loads of rocks around. They do a lot of that here.
July 27, 2000
On board the Sarfak Ittuk. We’ve got a “cochetta” which means a small cubby-hole for 4 in the bowels of the hold. Hot, no air, hard to sleep. I’m in my bag on deck, hoping it doesn’t rain. We heard that the bad weather we experienced is quite unusual. Normally Uummannaq may get 60 cm of rain annually. During that week they got over 50. Apparently no one remembers a storm of that duration in summer. Things are changing. We left Ilulissat in drizzle, so it continues a bit. Saw a soccer game there, men’s. Good level of play. 2–1, tight game, 2 goals on penalty kicks. Sand field.
A trail runs from Ilulissat to a view of the galloping Jakobshavn glacier. It’s retreating at a dizzying rate for a glacier. It was drizzly and foggy and you couldn’t see all the way across it but it was still spectacular. All sorts of shapes, a jumble of ice forms breaking off into the sea.
July 28, 2000
Docked at Sisimiut, bigger than the other towns, more stores, and active kayak clubhouse with quite a few skin kayaks on the rack. The people show a lot of civility towards one another. No apparent aggression. Not a lot of displays of affection either. They don’t casually greet someone who is walking by, even though in most cases they must know who it is. They seem Japanese, almost, except they spit a lot. The men march around in coveralls. They are tied to the fish trade, at the plant or on the water. The store clerks are all women. But this whole scene seems to me to be precariously balanced on a fragile fish economy and subsidies from Denmark. Gas and groceries are much cheaper than in northern Canada. Is the place being over fished? They don’t get that much for their Turbot.
I just met an older guy from Denmark. He said Denmark sends a subsidy of 3 billion Krones per year. Quite a haul. Maybe $5000 to $6,000 per person per year. He also said that Greenlandic is now being pushed in schools, so the kids aren’t learning as much Danish. But to go to university you must go to Denmark. He thinks, from his Danish viewpoint, that this is unwise. Surely, though, learning your own language is a good thing. What about more schools here?
Greenlanders are Danish citizens and can move there at any time. I read a journal by an American woman traveling with her Canadian husband by boat up the coast of Greenland during the 50s. One point she made was the lack of racism by the Danes. She pointed out that quite a few Danish women chose Greenlandic men as mates. Usually only the men intermarry if prejudice exists on a large scale. I don’t know. But it seems that there is less racism here than in Canada. Greenlanders seem to be running the show here more.
The Sarfak Ittuk took us all the way up a long inlet to Kangerlussuaq and its big airport runway. The airport was built by the Americans during WW2, in 1941 and handed over to Greenland in 1992. It was used for transatlantic flights before airliners had enough range to cross the Atlantic. It is still the main hub for Greenland traffic, although the permafrost is melting underneath it and there are plans to build another airport closer to Nuuk, the capital.
We had a few days so we decided to go for a hike. On my previous trip in Kong Oscar Fjord on the east side of Greenland we were able to hike up some stunning glaciers that shunted down from the ice cap. It was breathtakingly beautiful. Eric and I had just paddled down a remarkable coast from Upernavik, but had missed the fjords with glaciers that connect to the ice. We had learned that a road was being built by a contractor for Volkswagen that connected Kangerlussuaq with the ice cap, about 22 miles away.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                               Caribou
 

The road was off limits to visitors, so we walked beside it rather than right on it. We left most of our gear, including rain clothes and rain fly and set out. The views were simply spectacular. A major river rushed off the melting ice cap and prevented us from approaching the massive ice cliffs. On the far side of the river we spotted some muskox and on our side there were plenty of caribou with huge antlers feeding on surprisingly lush meadows of grass and moss. However, by the time we got up on the ice cap and passed a guard who looked at us suspiciously, it was blowing and raining hard. Everything under foot was pooled water. Everything was melting. Oh, the memory of blue skies and gorgeous white ice!
We spent a very wet and cold night and then high-tailed it out of there. (67.1522, -50.047) Greenland definitely is melting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                         Volkswagon road on ice cap

Kayak poster, 1996.  Compare to drawing in Introduction.

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