EuropePolarVirtual Travel Tales


Rocky hill and icebergs in bay

Leroy and I had originally planned to spend today in the US but, when it came time to narrow it down to where and what, we just looked at each other and said NOPE. And then Leroy suggested Greenland instead.

So, here we are in Ilulissat, 250km north of the Arctic Circle and shivering in the sub-zero temperatures. A rude awakening after the warm, mosquito-filled days of South America, but absolutely worth it. The bay, officially known as the Ilulissat Icefjord, is jammed with icebergs that have calved from the biggest glacier outside Antarctica. Behind us on the hill are brightly painted houses straight from a fairy tale involving fishermen and seals. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Greenland, like Tuvalu, is the canary in the climate change mine. Making the most of our seven hours of daylight, we visited the second largest ice-sheet in the world, accessible from remote Kangerlussuaq. Scientists are really worried about the rate the sheet is melting – from underneath – and what that might mean for sea level rise.

We also visited the sinister Cold War atomic camp that is resurfacing as the ice melts. It was part of top secret US Project Iceworm, where they planned to bury missile launchers in the ice. It was kept secret from Denmark and the cover story for tunnelling through the ice was that they were building a research station named ‘Camp Century’. Horrifying. As a positive side effect, though, actual climate scientists were able to study ice core samples extracted during the construction process.

Hunting and dog sledding – traditional Inuit activities – have been offered to us, along with more touristy things like sea kayaking and rock-climbing, but the sun is due to set at 3.40pm and I’m pretty keen to move indoors and defrost. Instead we might head to the famed Restaurant Ulo, known for Greenlandic dishes featuring halibut and muskox, angelica root, crowberries and foraged thyme. And then maybe on to a bar in a converted chicken farm. Leroy’s keen for a billiards showdown with Ivaana and Malik, a couple of locals we met this morning.

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