Day 4 – Towards Herbert Island

Waking up on this first day of our dogsledding adventure was easy. We quickly freshened up and got the last things stuffed in the bags. Next was the classic travel breakfast – hot müsli stew and sweet chilli tea.

We then slowly began getting sled dog adventure ready, first a warm woollen inner layer and a slightly warmer middle layer, before jumping into the Polar bear fur pants and sledding anorak, thick woollen socks and arctic expedition boots, two layer woollen beanie, and triple layered gloves.

Shortly after getting dressed we were picked up by Arkiunnguaq and Arii, in a beaten up red Toyota Tercel and after loading the bags in the trunk we drowe the short distance to the sled dog yards.
Louise and Arii was dropped off at his sled dog yard before Arkiunnguaq and myself continued to his sled dog yard.

He dropped me and my bag off and left with the words “Car, House” and a gesture I assumed was an indication that he would hurry back.
What I quickly noticed while waiting was the size of the sleds, sleds build for travelling on sea ice is much larger than the terrain sleds I have grown accustomed to. The reason is that they do not climb much terrain and need the size to navigate across the sometimes large cracks in the sea ice that would be difficult to pass on a smaller sled.

Another thing I could not help noticing was that two of the female dogs were in the heat, a fact that can turn even the most well behaving pack of dogs into a chaos of fighting and humping dogs, in practical terms this would just mean that the males in this pack would fight each other over the two female dogs whenever they could get away with it and that there would likely be produced a lot of new sled dogs as well.
Arkiunnguaq returned surprisingly fast and we quickly pack up the sled and harnessed the dogs, before arkiunnguaq lead the dogs over the crest of ice always present at the shoreline and onto the ice.

From here the course was set via open sea ice and among ice flakes and small icebergs towards northwest tip of Herbert Island.

We were in for a visually impressive ride and the short tea breaks to get the body moving a bit and to untangle the lines to the dogs, gave us some good opportunities to see the two hunters display how perfectly easy it was for them to handle the dogs, even the span with the females in the heat behaved surprisingly well. The wind was fairly mild so the-24C was not too bad, only the last short ride in the shade of the tall mountains at Herbert Island was a bit on the cold side, as the wind picked up on this stretch. Luckily one can grab the “opstander” and run a bit behind the sled to get warm. Getting of the sled and up there and securely back on to the sled requires a little practise though and the larger sleds used up here means one has to be rather fast doing it.

Arrival at the small hunters hut that we would stay in for the night was amazing, an old totally weatherworn hut, with an interior well every bit as worn.
A low “shelf” covered a third of the back of the hut and was with room enough for five people to squeeze down and sleep and another one person cot near the one of the walls, that aside nothing but and old chair, a myriad of string spun across the ceiling, from where all gloves, anoraks, kamiks and socs soon were hung to dry.
Two portable high power petroleum ovens were brought inside from the sleds as well as two ancient but very efficient petroleum stoves and in 15 minutes the temperature in the hut rose from -24C to 25C

We started melting chunks of ice chopped of a nearby building sized ice flake, stuck in the ice and soon everybody was busy cooking dinner and tea.
On our part dinner was a simple meal of rice and meat balls in paprika sauce, served with the usual chilli tea. The hunters we dining on boiled Polar bear meat and fat. As the Polar bear has a diet of mainly seal fat, it is rather fatty meat, but we both agreed that it was something we would not mind have for dinner some time.

As we finished up dinner two other local hunters stopped by the hut they were on their way to the walrus hunting areas near the edge of the sea ice. They brought a huge chunk of frozen walrus meat inside and hung it to warm up in a corner with a big plastic bowl under it and soon the smell of walrus meat slowly warming up filled the hut alongside the sound of blood and water dripping from the meat into the bowl.

They were invited on boiled polar bear and consumed it while sharpening a number of very large and well worn hunting knifes, to be used the next morning.

One of the other hunters spoke decent Danish and we got some much welcome updates on the weather, on hunting traditions and other stuff from him.
We both drifted to sleep to the sound of hunting stories told in north Greenlandic a dialect of Greenlandic we did not understand a word of.

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