Greenland – the “green” country
With an area of 2,166,086 km2 and a length of 2,800 km, Greenland is the biggest island on Earth.
It is around six times larger than Germany but has one of the lowest population densities in the world with 55,984 inhabitants.
Politically speaking, Greenland belongs to Denmark, but is ruled independently by its own government. People from Greenland have a Danish passport and use the Danish krone. The official language is Greenlandic.
Tasiilaq65° 36′ 49″ N, 37° 37′ 52″ W
The history of Tasiilaq
Most people in Tasiilaq make a living from fishing or hunting. More recently, some have been employed in municipal administration. The town was founded by a Danish discoverer in 1894 and named Ammassalik: the place of lots of small fish. The region further south of the town was also called this by the locals. The inhabitants of the town continued to call the area Tasiilaq, and the area was recently renamed.
Water generated from snow is normal in Greenland. Only soft drinks and alcohol can be bought from the supermarket. Drinking water either comes from the tap or is taken from outside and melted.
Supply vessels with provisions generally only come to Tasiilaq two to three times a year and during the summer months, and this is a major event every single time. Some inhabitants on boats lead the ships in and welcome them with three cannon shots. Unloading takes place as follows: fruit and vegetables first of all as they have the highest priority. Confectionery comes next.
We use the first few hours to get to know our surroundings: the small “Red House” hotel is managed by Robert Peroni. Robert comes from South Tyrol, but has lived in Greenland for 30 years. He is a great and entertaining host, and a legend in expedition and mountaineering circles. He also goes out of his way to make his guests feel welcome. Whatever the supermarket has to offer is always transformed into fresh and tasty, Italian-inspired dishes. Particular praise goes to the huge breakfast buffet that has ten(!) sorts of salami.
Comfort ranges from simple to moderate depending on which guest house and room you find yourself in. The worst case scenario is that you don’t have running water, and electricity is only available sporadically. I’m luckier than other team members – I’ve got both!
Our first walk through Tasiilaq reveals the following: a bar, a supermarket, and lots of children who can sled really well. The latter are very trusting and are definitely pleased to see new faces. We go sledding with them and put them on our shoulders as we trudge through the snow. There is a remarkable amount of containers everywhere that form part of the townscape. We found out that everything that the town needs for the winter months is delivered during the three summer months: including food, machines, and even building materials – just about anything and everything! Spare parts are usually ordered in different sizes, so that if anything breaks, there’s sure to be something that fits.
People are used to living with shortages – it’s a part of everyday life – but it’s by no means an emergency. Being able to improvise, persevere, and put up with things are characteristic features of the people here, and not necessarily typically German virtues.
We’ve yet to really get a taste of this over the next few days. Due to organisational reasons, the dog sledding tour has to start a day later than we’d planned. The helicopter has broken down and there’s another group of people who want to go back home but are stranded. It could happen to us too. Anything can happen here – nature calls the shots. I’m excited!
Extra warmth for extra cold days. The ROCKY SHORE is an extremely warm parka from our 3-in-1 collection.
I wonder what the hills look like in summer. Wonderfully green or full of rubbish after the snow has melted?
Greenland dogs, Huskies, are true working animals, and are by no means pets.
They sleep outside the whole year round and their thick winter fur means that they can comfortably withstand temperatures of up to -50°C.
Thanks to their overwhelming energy and their enjoyment in running, they are the main means of transportation in Greenland in spite of snowmobiles. Training to become a sled dog begins when they are just puppies. They mainly eat fresh seal meat.
Nowadays, sleds are mainly made of wood, and parts are made of plastic. They have been a means of transportation for people and goods in Greenland for hundreds of years. The driver of the sled (musher) stands on the back runners and guides the sled by shifting weight, shouting special commands to the lead dog.
Taking a short photo break by a fjord in Greenland.
I wish I hadn't been quite so cold. I might have enjoyed it more
The second biggest ice formation in the world is in Greenland. The ice is up to 3,400 m thick, which is only exceeded by Antarctica, where ice is up to 4,700 m thick. The enormous formations of ice are constantly moving, creating icebergs stretching over several kilometres. If the entire Greenland ice sheet were to melt, the global sea level would increase by six to seven metres.
Icebergs are large ice masses that float in the sea and are made of freshwater with air bubbles. Approximately 90% of an iceberg is underneath the surface of the water. The part that can be seen sticking out of the water seems huge, but is still only a fraction of the entire size. Icebergs are created by pieces breaking off from a glacier or ice shelf.
And then there’s a ridiculously high iceberg towering in front of you: bright turquoise and deafeningly loud when it’s cracking and creaking.
The alarm starts ringing in the middle of the night. Not everyone had a relaxing sleep and the snoring continues to be a topic of debate. But as no one had expected a thorough night’s rest, the atmosphere is slightly sleepy, but good nevertheless!
The tent is dismantled, and the luggage is strapped once more onto the sleds. In the meantime, we know how to do it and are almost a well-coordinated team. The huskies are finally given their LED collars and we are able to set off.
What a sight: the brave dogs run and run, glowing in red and green before us, as we head into the sunrise. Even if my superlatives have already long been used up: this sled ride offers innumerable unique views!
Back in Tasiilaq, there is some sobering news. We learn that the helicopter, which had already been down for several days, has still not been repaired. As this is the only helicopter on the east coast, the replacement parts have not yet been brought over from Kusuluk to Tasiilaq.
The only other alternative for getting to Kusuluk is to cross the open sea with a boat. This possibility only really exists in theory, as such a journey at this time of the year genuinely poses a risk of death. For us, this means that the journey back home has to be delayed for an indefinite period of time.
Back in Germany for Easter? We'll have to wait and see, but for the moment it’s not looking likely. Anyway, we’re back in the Red House and Robert is trying his best to make our unexpectedly long stay as pleasant as possible. We get the Yahtzee dice out, yet again, and visit the local sauna. I can't remember having ever enjoyed the warmth of a sauna so much!
The day finally arrives three days later when the helicopter has been repaired and we board for the journey back home. So what more is to be said? I’ve had the adventure of a lifetime. Every one of us will take the same unforgettable memories back home, even if the highlights vary from person to person.
My favourite moments are undoubtedly the dog-sled tour and the kayak journey, even if I was pushed to the limits on both occasions. Apart from that, I am full of amazement for how people that live with such joy and serenity in these extreme places on Earth are able to master their lives, day after day. Thanks for everything!
Reliable insulation for adventures in the snow. The ICESHIELD is one of the warmest insulated jackets in our collection.
More snow for more tea!