Greenland: Kangerlussuaq

The Arctic Desert

Greenland Ice Cap from the air.

I’ll start by observing how blessed I am to have seen a fair chunk of the world and yesterday may hold the record for the greatest single day contrast thus far.

It began at 0600 in Copenhagen in a hotel and thanks to the wonders of jet travel, ten hours later I was standing with friends on Point 660 on the Greenland Ice Cap.

That’s a long day, but very much worth it.

Kangerlussuaq (don’t ask me how to say it because I can’t) dates from 1941 when it was created by the US during the opening stages of WWII.

It was handed back to Denmark in the early 90’s and is today the hub for Air Greenland, flying their single A-330-200 back and forth between Copenhagen and here.

The same flight crew does the round trip with about a three-hour rest break in Greenland.

The pilot has been doing the run for 17 years so I guess he has the approach pretty well down.

Kangerlussuaq is above the Arctic Circle and inland a bit, at the end of a fjord.

It has a substantial runway and base where Denmark’s Arctic Aircraft Command is also quartered.

It’s an “arctic desert” with less than 150mm of rain and snow a year.

The trip up to the ice cap is a grueling two-hour bumping and swaying ride in a Mercedes high-clearance truck which had no ventilation in the passenger area on a day where the outside temperature was sunny and in the 60’s and the interior temp had to be near 80.

Layers were shed.

And then, to top it off, a backpacker spilled stove fuel–I waited, thankfully in vain, for the sound of retching.

The glaciers on the way up are immense.

The terrain is permafrost and scrub and, it turns out, filled with reindeer, musk ox and even an arctic hare.

There are several very turbid and fast rivers draining the glacier and the area is also dotted with lakes, several quite large.

It may be a desert but within 200 yards of the ice cap there was plant growth, some of it quite beautiful.

On the way we passed the site of a 1968 air force aircraft accident when a flight of T-33s on their way to Canada were unable to land at Kangerlussuaq due to bad weather and eventually the crew bailed out when they ran out of fuel.

T-33 wreckage

As you can see, the remains are quite well preserved.

We stayed at the Polar Lodge last night, (think Motel Eight with shared baths), where dinner was a microwave meal purchased at the grocery store.

If the sun went down I never saw darkness though I gave up and put on the sleep mask eventually.

Greenland is rugged, epic and filled with some very nice folks.

Cheers.

 

 

10 Comments

  • Smitty Connolly says:

    Eric,

    This is wonderful. Thanks for sharing. I don’t know much about Greenland, and your travelblog makes it so vivid and real for me. The pictures remind me of Caitlin’s and Harrison’s trek across the glaciers in Iceland last August.

    Keep the stories coming and have fun.

    Thanks.

  • Victoria Huckenpahler says:

    Thanks for report, E. Have a blast. Some of the terrain looks, in pictures at least, rather like Tibet, colorful flowers included.

    The bill of fare doesn’t sound too appetizing, but it’s worth a little sacrifice to see such unusual flora, fauna, etc.

    • Eric Lamar says:

      Yes, V–mindful of Nepal. Last night’s dinner of fresh seafood in abundance made up for the microwave dinner.

  • Mike Schwartz says:

    I appreciate the pics that accompany your smart narrative descriptions.

  • Dottie says:

    Thanks, Eric. I enjoyed your travelogue. My trip to Norway was more prosaic. It did involve many planes, trains, automobiles, and buses. For Hilton, the highlight was Oslo’s From museum of polar exploration. I enjoyed wandering around Bergen and Stananger.

  • IslaFire says:

    6 degrees of separation. I have a good friend in the fire service who is in Copenhagen now.

    Enjoy Eric. Is the Copenhagen route the shortest to Kangerlussuaq? Looks like various points in Canada are closer.

    • Eric Lamar says:

      Howdy.

      As far as I know the major option is Copenhagen though there are flights from Iceland to Nuuk,Greenland. Cpenhagen is cheaper.

      Cheers.

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