Grønland… Oqaatsit ataasiinnaat naammanngillat

“One language is never enough.” That’s how I felt when I arrived in Greenland last week for my long study tour. As if Danish wasn’t foreign enough to me, Greenlandic sounds like clucking and gibberish. Oh well, it was a small price to pay for five days in the coolest place I’ve ever been… literally. It was negative 30 degrees.

The town we stayed in was called Kangerlussaq. If you fly into Greenland from another country, you need to fly through that airport. Because the location is good for traveling and is close to the ice sheet, scientists built the Kangerlussaq International Science Support (KISS) building for people to stay in between their excursions to and from the ice sheet and other places in Greenland. We stayed in the KISS building, and it was luckily well heated and felt a lot like a college dorm building, only with labs and science stuff.

We left Copenhagen around nine in the morning and got in at nine. That’s right… the flight was four hours and Greenland is four hours behind Denmark. It was a long day.

When we arrived in Greenland, we unpacked and headed to the store to marvel at how expensive alcohol was. To give you an example, in Copenhagen, a handle of Captain Morgan is around 140 DKK (about $25) but in Greenland it would be closer to 440 DKK ($75).

We drove around and looked at some rocks and the beautiful mountains surrounding us. Then we went to pretty much the only restaurant in town. We had reindeer for dinner, mmm. Well, technically in Greenland they are called caribou, but they are the same species.

The next day was dogsledding day! The day I had eagerly anticipated since hearing dogsledding was a possibility. We didn’t get to drive the dogsled; we had an inuit lady sitting in the front of the sled and handling all that stuff while three of us laid on top of each other in back, all cozy in the sealskin suits they lent us for the day. It was unbelievably beautiful to dogsled across a frozen fjord surrounded by rocky, snowy mountains.

That afternoon, we went to the local museum and to the house of a family for some kaffemilk and narwhal. Narwhal is a delicacy in Greenland, but I honestly don’t see why. It is cut into tiny pieces and consists of a layer of skin and a layer of blubber, with cartilage separating the two parts. I couldn’t even swallow it.

Tuesday night was the best night for seeing the Northern Lights. They were so beautiful! It was freezing cold outside obviously, but it was so worth it.

On Wednesday we had our trip to the ice sheet. It was cold. I wore wool tights, two pairs of thermal leggings, jeans, one thermal running shirt, another thermal shirt, north face fleece, puffy coat, two pairs of wool socks, mittens, scarf, boot liners, and boots. The first half hour or so on the ice was extremely miserable, as my toes and exposed skin experienced a new level of cold. Our teachers told us to check each other’s faces for white spots, as these mean that the flesh has frozen and needs to be warmed immediately. Also, as we sat outside eating our sandwiches, our sandwiches were freezing as we ate them. Each time we would bite into the sandwich, the exposed part would freeze a little so we were always munching on tiny ice crystals.

I can’t even describe the ice sheet. It was so massive and so beautiful, all frozen waves of slick blue ice spreading in front of me for miles and miles. The ice was so slippery that we had to be very careful walking. I think everyone fell at least once, and falling was not without pain. We made good use of the slippery ice, though, and would slide down the ice on our backs and also used the sleds we brought for carrying equipment. We were all acting like five-year-olds, having a great time.

On the ice sheet, we also drilled for ice cores. I have to say, I’m pretty much a natural ice core driller. Even my teacher said so. Drilling ice cores consisted of sticking a metal tube, which looked kind of like a thick corkscrew, into the ice and turning a crank so the metal would drill into the ice. Then, we would pull out the drill and slide the ice core out. We took some samples to analyze next month as well as some samples to drink with the whiskey my professors brought along later that night 🙂

That night was the Greenlandic buffet. It was so much food. There were different varieties of smoked fish, scallops, beluga whale, shrimp and prawns, fish, reindeer, muskox, and on and on. Basically it was a lot of seafood. Those who know me know I love seafood, but this was too much for my delicate stomach to handle. I started feeling a little sick to my stomach from the smoked fish overload and couldn’t eat too much more. I skipped the second course, which was meat and potatoes, but indulged in the blueberry tart, which was so good, yum!!

On Thursday we did a bunch of random things. We went on a “muskox safari” which basically was a not what I pictured a safari to be. We did get to look through binoculars to watch some muskoxen fighting on a frozen lake though, which was cool.

That night, like every night, we had a few powerpoint presentations by our professors. This night was the best for the presentations, because they both shared about their work on the ice. One of my teachers, Trevor, showed us pictures of when he went back to visit one of his old sites, which used to be an above-ground dome and is now buried under the snow and ice. Everything in the dome was slowing icing over, immortalizing the place.

On Friday we basically just went to the airport and came back! And now here I am, slowly readjusting to reality… It may have been cold, but I miss Greenland!

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