Circle the Arctic 2015

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29 June 2015
Breakfast in Iceland, lunch in Greenland by a glacier, and dinner in Boston

Checking out of Iceland was an experience. They are almost militaristic about the entry and exit security processes (which is rather uncharacteristic of the friendly Icelanders). I thought the entry into Japan was thorough. The young Icelandic security guy patted me down so often that if he did it again I was going to demand dinner. Everything we were wearing that had any metal at all had to be removed and sent through the scanner. My camera/computer bag was completely emptied. When I asked why, he said the items were all electronic. A lens? Carol had to remove her fabric belt and the only metal on it was that small piece that goes into the belt holes.

We flew into a town with a population of 540 on the southwest coast of Greenland. The American military built a 10,000-foot runway there decades ago. It is now used to bring in tourists and scientists. Scientists are now in place all over Greenland studying polar and subpolar ice melt.

Anyway, we arrived only to stay for six hours, which basically meant a long drive to lunch. Carol called lunch "Grub by a Glacier in Greenland". (Carol comment: In case that name sounds too dismissive of this pretty darn amazing adventure, the lunch location by the glacier was majestic. Not only that, it was above freezing, in other words a veritable heatwave in Greenland, especially since we were up close and personal with a huge mass of long-frozen ice.)

Our lunch barbeque included musk ox, reindeer sausage, and one other unrecognizable meat as well as salads (has anyone ever had pasta with flax and pumpkin seeds in it?) There was also wine. Greenland is a now hunting/fishing destination for tourists but was a military base for a few decades a while back. Today, one of our guides said, all of the jobs in this small town are in one way or another tied to the airport.

We drove from the airport to the barbeque along the "main" road (the only road) in huge all-terrain vehicles. Unpaved. Dusty. The landscape is scraped glacial land with scattered lakes and a major river (all glacially fed). It seemed to me to be a mixture of the landscape of Iceland with, instead of lava, the terrain of the Gobi Desert (although with more water). We saw a reindeer on the way but no muskox.(Carol comment: There was new-green grass covering the hillsides, along with green bushes. Most maps of Greenland show it as solid white ice, so this was a pleasant surprise. Our guide pointed out a tiny groups of conifers and said that they had been planted as an experiment 40 years ago. Those 40-year old trees are only 8 feet high, max, after all these decades. That's a great illustration of how short the summers are and how cold and dark it is for ten months of the year.)

The scenery was raw and primitive. Just ahead of where we were to have our barbeque, there were waterfalls. Behind the waterfalls was a glacier. The glacier provided the backdrop for the lunch. We were told that the weather was 19.8 C, or around 74 F. That temperature was correct, but in town by the airport. At the barbeque site, with a steady wind blowing off the glacier, it was a bit over 40 degrees taking wind chill into account although it felt a lot warmer. The meal of deer sausage and muskox steak was unique but not particular warm when it was served. A friend we had met on a previous trip had his 79th birthday and Happy Birthday was sung to him in the native Greenland language. It was silly and fun. This was a great way to end the tour and a neat way to advertise the versatility of Private Jet travel to get to destinations that you would never, ever, book for yourself on commercial airlines.

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