the golden hours
When ‘golden hour’ lasts 5 hours and stretches from 10pm to 4am, your world slips into another reality that becomes clearly distinguishable from the one you used to know. Jeans, kale and chai tea seem like an idea I once thought I couldn’t live without, now I reflect upon a vastly different reality with a similar sense of dependency. When you step outside to greet a purple sky dancing upon a stretch of icebergs among the frozen sea ice with snow covered mountains perceivable in the distant horizon, you understand why people need this place. Despite Qaanaaq being the northern most inhabited place on the planet and more remote than most places, there is a peace throughout the land. Rather it is a magic that gently creeps inside when you’re busy trudging through the snow, a beauty unsurpassed that words fall short when attempting to capture something so indefinable. Although the terrain lends itself to beautiful panoramic images, it doesn’t come without a level of harshness.
When making our way across the sea ice to stand below the looming ice bergs, we trek across patches of ice with no snow to soften our footsteps. Slipping, sliding and narrowly escaping crashing down with our heavy packs loaded with camera’s, lenses and tripods, we are awakened to the present moment with a quickness. We keep walking, and just when I think I can relax, I remember the cracks in the ice which are barely visible below the freshly fallen snow. The cracks are simply repercussions of the moving tides below the frozen sea ice and although they don’t open to the water below, I cant help but hesitate as I leap over them. Once at our destination and our pace has slowed, the cold begins to set in. Less than one hour of shooting and our toes have gone completely numb, eyelashes fight the icy cold to keep separate but they freeze together anyways. Pulling our hands out of our mittens to change camera settings or assemble the time lapse rail becomes the biggest physical and mental challenge. There reaches a point when your fingers are so cold that the idea of cold hardly has any meaning anymore. Its more the notion of freezing that comes to mind. The trek homeward begins to pump our blood again and when we finally crawl into our sleeping bags at 3:30am, the sunshine filled night is nothing short of one amazing adventure after the next.
We are currently living with Equilina, a jovial single Inuit women who offered us her son’s bedroom while he stays with his girlfriend. Her blithe smiling face greets us as we come and go during all hours of the day. Justin and I share a small single mattress placed upon a rickety wooden box frame with pillows made from our down jackets wrapped in teeshirts. Most homes here have no shower, so we will use the communities communal showers and washing facilities if we ever make it there when its open. The owner of the only hotel in town, Hans Jensen from the Qaanaaq Hotel, has been kind enough to let us use their shower along with being a friend and answering many of our questions. As the only hotel in town, Qaanaaq Hotel has seen many visitors from global warming researchers, scientists, polar expeditions, oil and mineral profiteers, movie stars and businessmen from all over the world. Hans is a gentle and incredible patient man with many a good story. Our time here in Qaanaaq is rooted in a deep gratitude for those who have helped us thus far. David, the owner of the small pub in town has arranged three different interviews as well as a potential radio interview where people from the community can call in with opinions on the questions we ask. Qaanaaq has a small yet colorful community and each day that passes shines upon a new found piece of treasure.