Expedition Greenland – Desperate times.
We arrived in Greenland over a month ago and in that time snow has fallen only once. It arrived early in our trip and was delivered with 85km/hr winds. Needless to say the mountains were left with less snow cover than before the storm. We awake daily to the sight of beautiful clear skies and a desolate, inhospitable and un-skiable wind scoured landscape.
Desperate times call for desperate measures and after weeks of willing, praying and hoping for snow we finally decided it was time to shred the sastrugi. For those of you that don’t know, sastrugi is the word used to describe wind packed snow that has been blasted with strong wind, sometimes carrying sand and ice particles, into a concrete like substance. It looks like sharp irregular grooves or ridges on the snow surface and is the furthest thing from powder snow. Basically – it’s a snowboarders nightmare!
Not to be discouraged we donned our split boards, skinned up to the top of a nearby glacier and got a few turns in… only a few.
Determined to understand more about snow conditions and the climate here we’ve spoken to the locals to find our whether these conditions are normal, and if we can expect to get any powder turns while we are here!?
What we’ve discovered is shocking to us as both snowboarders and scientists. We’re here in one of the leanest snow years on record and were horrified to hear that this follows one of the first years ever that the entire Greenland icecap experienced melt. This melt is suspected to have had a follow-on effect this year with water trapped beneath the ice rising and causing accelerated melt to the snow that has fallen this year. This has far further reaching and more serious consequences that just a few powder turns for us.
Endangered species like the polar bear depend on sea ice for a winter hunting season to sustain them for the summer – with accelerated melt, these hunting seasons are getting shorter and pushing bears into smaller and new regions in search of food. Subsequently their contact with humans increases and needless to say in this part of the world as we discovered in the village a few days ago, it’s the animals that come off second best.
Our search for snow will continue for the next month as will our data collection from satellite images, locals and what we see for ourselves. One thing is for sure – things don’t seem to be ‘normal’.