After the relative lushness of southern Greenland, the first glimpses of the north of the island are shocking. Here about 1400 kilometers from the North Pole is a virtual polar desert. Ice cascades off the top of barren rock domes, glowing gown to the sea as glaciers that sometimes become sudden turbulent rivers for a brief span. In the sea, tall icebergs sail past, not as thickly packed as in Ilulissat, but still hazardous to shipping. We’re sitting now just offshore of Qaanaq, a community of about a hundred buildings perched on what seems to be the single patch of greenery.
Our mission for this second leg is not so much to interact with the communities – there is only one tiny community north of here, and our only Greenlandic speaker has just left the boat. Our mission instead is to explore this edge of the last ice area.
The ice at present is only several kilometers to our north, where we hope it will stay, not just this year, but for many years to come. We will explore around the edges of it, to see how much life is using it now. We’ve heard that we may see both narwhal and walrus in the area. In the days to come, we will try to track these elusive creatures, and watch the Arctic desert come alive.