10:40 pm early April and the sun sits well above the horizon. Teasing its inhabitants on land with the thought of night fall, midnight sun is now upon northern Greenland. No matter how many times I glance at the clock, the minutes tick steady on as sunshine continues to pour through the glass windows. Qaanaaq, also known as Thule, is a small town of 600 inhabitants at the top of the world. In Latin, Thule means ‘last place’. The Inuit prefer a more descriptive meaning, noting Thule as the ‘northern most inhabited place in the world’. Qaanaaq now holds that title. It is said that Thule has had many different destinations throughout history. The Inuit migrated to Greenland from 2500 BC to 1000 AD, and as settlements moved further north, Thule continued to follow the northern most established town. Where it currently resides is a place of beauty that consumes and silences those who take their first steps here and those who take their last. The sea is frozen a meter thick and ice sheets stretch far beyond the eyes perception. Rising up everywhere across the vast desert of frozen sea are icebergs glistening blue in the beating midnight sun. During the winter, the community gets water by slicing off pieces of nearby icebergs and melting the ice into drinking water. Realizing that the water in my glass is pure glacier ice water taken from the iceberg 15 kilometers away brings a smile that fills my whole body. In the summer, once the icebergs have moved out into the greater ocean or slowly melted away, the Inuit gather water from a running stream that flows from the glacier head. Read more
When we sat at the airport in Reykjavik one week ago, I browsed through a nearby magazine about Greenland. One featured title caught my eye, ‘Greenland is place that was made so it could be photographed’. Although confident that there is more to mothers nature divine purpose, it becomes increasingly easy to agree with this bold yet undeniable statement. We weren’t properly dressed for an extended icy evening hike, but when the clouds parted during an afternoon stroll, we headed towards the small harbor outside of town to capture the sun kissed horizon. The light descends slowly this time of year, and it draws out that delicious moment when your eyes couldn’t possibly believe another hour of sunset glow. When it lingers, Justin can be found racing up a nearby mountain top or climbing downward to meet the waters edge to catch the perfect angle. Floating in my own reality, I hike, write, take photos and quietly watch the sea ice drift by. Read more
Christina Biilmann is a mother, granddaughter, Greenlandic chef, maid, front desk receptionist and now, our friend. Beyond her external classifications, she is a women of compassion and conviction with a kindness that’s settled deep within her chocolate eyes. We met Christina upon the first day of arrival to Ilulissat where she works at World of Greenland, an adventure tour company. Frequenting the shop with questions and requests for more maps, we quickly became friends. When she invited us to a ‘coffee-meet’, a traditional Greenlandic event in which family and friends come by for coffee, cakes and authentic Greenlandic food, we were honored to take part in her celebration. It was her Grandfathers 76th birthday party, and we soon found ourselves welcomed into a beautiful home along the outskirts of town with a spanning view of the valley and lively city below. Simmering on the stove were three pots of stew, two types of whale soup and one pot of reindeer soup. Read more
It seems that everything will start again anew. After many days of perpetual dismal darkness, a slice of sky emerged just long enough to paint the ice a turquoise shade of perfection. In most other terrains, rushing out to catch the evening light would be a simple routine. When it takes forethought to dress, space to put on pac boots half the size of your legs and dexterity to zip up the Canada Goose expedition weight jacket with two pairs of liner gloves on, you swiftly learn the necessity of equanimity. The days have been filled with stunning beauty and two independent journeys towards acclimatizing to this world apart. The petite room in which we call home has two bunk beds, a small table and a narrow standing closet. The square window sits above a Danish oil heater mounted to the wall, and despite our gear stacked and strategically placed, we inevitably dance around one another to arrange for the day ahead. The communal kitchen serves as a refuge from the cold and an alternative to dining out. The markets have little fresh produce, notably cabbage, onions, and apples, but they do service an ever hungry hiker with cereal, cheese and dehydrated tomato soup.
There is a calmness and silence that drifts through the air in Greenland. It is a current of irresistible energy that draws you closer to the heart of nature. If you still your mind, you can hear the ice break apart and shift with the current of the North Atlantic Ocean. When walking out to the edge, your legs disappear into the snow up to your knee caps as you sludge through a layer of snow, a layer of ice frozen atop another layer of snow. The ice tricks you, what appears to be frozen solid is merely a thin layer masking the ocean just below. Its volatile nature humbles even the bravest of travelers.
It is said that Greenland means ‘the land of man’. To the Greenlandic natives, it is home, where the dark days and sunlit nights demand the human spirit to endure at all costs. As foreigners, it is the land of ice, where the snow never melts and icebergs float at the top of the world. No matter who you are, Greenland is an island of unparalleled beauty, where nature and humans have made peace in the harshest of places. Read more
Southbound, somewhere along the i5, a rainbow emerged from the storm clad clouds. Promising a taste of something newly exposed from the winter rain, you couldn’t stop the humbling feeling of chemistry becoming natures beauty right before your eyes. A token of color to remember as the days begin to move at an ever accelerating pace. Our project started like most everything else, an idea. Six months later we are in the final stages of preparing for a year long expedition. North pole to south pole, ice to desert, mountain top to the deep blue sea, traversing high and low to discover what tomorrow holds. Environmentally, we are in pursuit of first world effects upon 7 unique and fragile ecosystems. Consciously, we hope to capture the human thread that weaves across cultures and through generations. As we embark upon 2012 with a fierce excitement and two duffel bags full of anticipated adventure, ‘we are free as the birds that fly with weightless souls’.
Nothing beats a backpacking trip through some of the largest and oldest trees on the western coast. Four friends, four days, and countless memories. If you ever have the chance to visit this place of wonder, it leaves you transformed. This park is has survived and thrived for hundreds of years, ever growing and always changing.
Sometimes you have to just pack your car and hit the open road, even if it means throwing caution to the wind. Theres something about the spontaneous nature of a hearts wild desire that always leads you to a place of magic. For us, it’s usually found in nature. On a gloomy afternoon in Sausalito, we decided we needed sun, and we needed a lot of it. One flat tire and seven hours later we placed our barefoot soles onto the chilled desert sand. Joshua Tree. Truly a world unlike others as the basin of desert supports larger than life boulders and pointed cactus trees. Time slowed down quietly and the fall crisp air was fresh and sharp upon my face. Stretching our legs we found a open space to rest for the night, illegally camping among the rocks that took shape into people and places I’ve seen before. Piled under six blankets we had drug with us from the car a ways off, I closed my eyes and let the night sky take my dreams. There is a silence that exists in the expansive basin surrounding us. But even in the quietest of places, there is a whole world of life. We awoke just before the morning light spilled into the valley, slowly warming up what the night had cooled. Morning had come, but the wind still twirled its chill around the landscape. I climbed up a ladder of boulders until I reached the top. Lowering myself down, I wrapped a blanket around me, and closed my eyes. Paradise at last.