A Viking Summer – Greenland July 2013


Hallo all. I have resurfaced a stone’s throw from the arctic circle, having hopscotched from Reykjavik, Iceland to southern Greenland. While more than eighty percent of Greenland is covered in permanent ice mass, the coastal fjords transform to grassy peninsulas covered in wildflowers in the summer. My Scandinavian adventure for the next month begins with a 10 day hike around the steep fjords and glaciers of south Greenland. A three hour flight on a twin propeller plane transported us from Reykjavik in perfectly clear weather across the north Atlantic Ocean.  As we dropped down for the final ascent we had our first introduction to a landscape of glittering ice and snow broken up by the fjords – fingers of indigo sea flanked by steep black granite escarpments. Broken floes of sea ice floated in turquoise open sea, the white specks growing with our descent into aqua tinged icebergs. Mountain ranges peeked through an enormous snow blanket and grey wrinkles marked the advancing folds of glaciers spilling down through valleys to the open sea.

With only a handful of small villages and farms scattered across coastal Greenland we´ve hiked between small farm homesteads to crisscross several of the peninsulas in the Narsarsuaq and Igaliku regions in the south. Each day´s reward has usually been a summit or ridge with panoramic views over several glaciers and a frozen jigsaw puzzle of icebergs drifting in the blue fjords below. The terrain is green but unfamiliar – stunted arctic trees spread like ground cover barely ankle or knee height – miniaturized hardy versions of birch, willow and juniper ´bonsai´ trees intersperse with sponge-like mounds of mosses and lichens. The most delightful has been the explosion of wildflowers basking in the brief summer sunshine – vivid pinks, reds yellows and purples of wild thyme, arctic heather and poppies, harebells and alpine gentian.

We´ve explored the ruins from ancient Norse settlements and visited some modern Greenlandic villages – brightly painted cottages with white window frames and doors huddle beneath towering granite cliffs.  The masts of fishing trawlers mark the harbour front and the long grey warehouse fish factories line the slipways and shores of larger towns. Although an autonomous Danish state the resident population are resoundingly of Inuit (eskimo) origin and retain the culture and arts that revolve around subsistence seal and reindeer hunting, creating beautiful soapstone and antler carvings.

It´s been a strenuous experience to explore but a portion of this rugged and mostly inhospitable land. One of the highlights has been trekking to the base of Kuussuup Sermia glacier and stepping out onto the melting tongue of the massive ribbon of ice. It rose in massive waves above us – white peaks and folds, and deep blue dips and crevasses within the millennium old ice. The occasional crack resounding through the valley reminds you of its continual motion across the land. And so from here the compass is set back to Iceland to continue the Viking Summer.

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