G R E E N L A N D
In 2013, while I was fresh back from running around with my Platoon in Afghanistan, a friend of mine lead an expedition to cross part of Greenland for the British Arctic Survey. Days into the trip he and his team were caught in a horrendous storm that, despite all efforts, claimed the life of his best friend Philip. In 2017 a small group went back to Greenland in an attempt to locate and recover the campsite with the ultimate goal of finding their expedition diary buried in the ice.
We were based out of the coastal village of Tasiilaq, a place well known to many who have ventured out on to the Polar Ice Cap for science or adventure. It was a dream come true for me as we flew in to the ice-locked harbour in early May. Looking down at the colourfull houses land and ice seemed inseperable from each other as we watched fisherman walking out on the ice and teams of huskies gliding back in from visiting other villages along the coastline.
I was humbled by the welcome we recieved and the huge generosity from all we met, as well as the incredible moments of fate that struck us on the trip. For my friend it was an important return; our first walk out on to the snow and ice surrounding the village, rifle in hand to ward off polar bears, was exhilarating for me and reaffirming for him. Toward the end of our stay there the weather was right to land on the ice cap at the location we thought the camp would be (buried by years of snow and subject to drift). Frustratingly the metal detector we had hired was left behind due (to a last minute and callous extreme price hike by its owner), so we dug down in blind hope but sadly nothing was to be found.
We spent a while in that barren, beautfiful place absorbing the moment and passing round a bottle of Philip's favourite whiskey in his memory. Remarkably, the pilot and medic with us were the same pair who had flown out against all regulations in an effort to rescue the team back in 2013. Fighting ferocious winds they somehow managed to not only find, but recover the team of three; Finn, the medic, describing how all they had seen of them was a lone red glove reaching in to the sky through the snow that had buried them.
It is a trip that I will always remember for its camaraderie, the warmth of the locals and the stunning enviroment that was a privelage to see first hand. It was also startling to hear from direct witnesses about how their environment was changing all around them with winter freeze and spring thaw happening earlier later and earlier every year and how that was effecting travel by sled up the coastlines (we went out with a sled team and literally sank!).