3.6.11

Day 5 – The edge of the ice

We woke up early and as the crowded hut came to life, we prepared a morning meal of hot müsli stew and chilli tea.
The four hunters warmed up the polar bear meat again and had a breakfast of boiled polar bear meat and fat.
After breakfast arkiunnguaq read his daily passage in a well read Greenlandic Bible, it may not be common knowledge but Greenlandic Inuits are very Christian and while they are Christians with a strong mix of their old native Inuit beliefs, they do tend to nurture their spiritual well being a lot more than most Europeans do.

Soon after the walrus was sliced expertly into lumps the size of a hand or so and fed to the dogs outside, they deserved a luxury meal before a long day of hunting we were told.

The sleds were quickly packed up and soon after we were on our merry way on a north-westerly heading. We were soon leaving the last Islands behind travelling on ice growing rapidly thinner and with the fiord or ocean beneath it. A blizzard became increasingly visible in the horizon, Dark storm clouds and the very classical snow trails beneath it. Another clear sign of us getting closer to the ocean between Greenland and Canada was the increasing size of the icebergs we passed on our way.
 Cracks in the ice seemed to increase both in width and numbers as we drove on, but they began to look very freshly cracked too. We were indeed moving on thinning ice.
The view however was spectacular; there was an increasing sense of open nothingness unlike anything I have ever experienced before.
A couple of times seals were spotted in the distance on the ice. And the hunters used the breathing holes created by the seals to judge how thick (or thin) the ice was, or so it seemed at least.
At one point all the sleds stopped, the four hunters all got out binoculars and crawled atop a smallish ice flake and spend a long time studying the ice, the approaching blizzard and then the ice again.




After a while we continued on a new and slightly more northerly course and as the ice grew very thin and began to groan and move under the dogsled, we began looking for walruses.

As we drove the last route on entirely fresh ice with a number of fault lines and with the visual evidence of ice sheets being broken constantly and then freeze back up, snow had disappeared from the ice too, in other words we were now driving on ice so recently formed that snow had yet to drift or fall onto it.

We made a cautious stop at a slightly more solid looking sheet of ice. We spotted a number of walruses that had breached through the ice and now lay sleeping on the ice.
 They were a little too far away to shoot a meaningful image and on too thin ice for the hunters to risk hunting for them.


As we mounted the sleds again, we saw the last of the blizzard drift to south of us and we now set a course straight North towards ice thick enough to risk spending the night on.
 A couple of hours later we chopped two big chunks of ice off a nearby Iceberg before continuing another hour before find a sheet of ice the two hunters were confident would be safe to stay on for the night.

Here the two hunters demonstrated the art of building a North Greenlandic Sled tent and having it warmed up from the -29C to 12C by the help of the two compact petroleum ovens within an hour or so. We decided to dine on dry food requiring only the water that could be boiled on the oven inside the tent that evening, as we were both very cold from the long ride exposed to the both the low temperature and the freezing cold wind that had chased us all day.




I spend an hour outside after dinner doing a little icescape photography enjoying the freezing cold sunset.

It was a real pleasure, but a little odd too, to sneak into the arctic sleeping bags knowing that we were in tent mounted on two dogsleds tied together on a sheet of ice with hundreds of meters of ocean beneath it and 5 hours drive to the nearest shoreline. The two hunters slept more or less fully clothed, only the outer anoraks were taken off, they were very alert to our surroundings and that was a thing that made sleep come easy.

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