Greenland – The base and our backyard.
Landing at Constable Point invoked an instant feeling of remoteness. The airport services a local village called ittoqqortoormiit (about 5 hrs by snowmobile, or 12 minutes by helicopter). It has a population of around 469 and is one of the most remote towns in Greenland – I guess that makes it one of the most remote towns on earth? Which I guess makes us pretty remote…
The airport has a staff of about seven who keep the runway clear and the buildings operating for the 1 or 2 chartered flights a week. We are stationed next to the airport and our base comprises of four shipping containers and a Weather Haven tent. Two of the containers are storage and two are our sleeping quarters. The Weather Haven is used for our day-to-day working and operations.
We have four snowmobiles that have various towing sleds for carting fuel, equipment and supplies. These four sleds are our vehicles for accessing the vast mountains and glaciers that surround this area of Greenland.
The first few days were spend digging. Digging holes, digging trenches and excavating equipment buried in the 4m snow pack. The snow here is rock hard, wind packed crystalized particles. It’s not snow, it’s not ice – I like to call it ‘snice’ – something similar to concrete. The wind blows from the ice cap, funnels down the fjord and blasts the base camp with gusts that have reached 84km so far. It’s windy.
In contrast, the weather has also delivered blue bird, crystal clear days of no wind and a balmy -25 degrees. With all of our equipment now out of the containers and the snowmobiles running the camp is starting to take shape. We have power, heating and lights and have set up a cosy little sleeping quarters.
Some of the locals have dropped by to see how were going and our friendly helicopter pilot Pal is a regular visitor. He can be seen skiing around with a rifle on his back patrolling the outskirts for polar bears. He drops by with a big smile and reports of no bears – but lots of ice! We’re slowly convincing him to bring beer back from his next helicopter mission to the village (fingers crossed).
We have access to a building belonging to the airport which is lovingly named The Hilton. It’s the only Hilton I know of that has plastic bags for toilets – maybe this is where the –1 star rating came from. But it does have the Internet, heating and a TV so there is no complaining! We spend evenings in here briefing and debriefing on the next list of jobs and checking weather and conditions for the days ahead.
Right now we’re bunkered down in a blizzard of heavy snow, gale force winds, temps around –15 and zero visibility… Our first true Arctic storm!