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Greenland In Winter

Feb. 2011

Northern Lights, Dog Sledding & The Greenland Ice Cap

For a long time I've wanted to visit Greenland and since my specialty is exploring extreme environments, the most appropriate time to go was in the middle of winter. The location of Kangerlussuaq was perfect, with just enough winter daylight to allow me to capture images during the day, yet still have darkness for the Aurora Borealis. The temperatures were freezing cold (down to -35C at night) and I don't speak a word of Danish (Greenland is an independent country within the kingdom of Denmark), but all worked out well. It is a land of rugged beauty, harsh conditions and infinite opportunity for exploration.
Greenland 2011 You Tube

 

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The sunsets were long because in February, the sun never really gets to rise very high in the sky.

Orange sky and ice on the Kangerlussuaq fjord in western Greenland.

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Bright sunshine makes the -25C temperatures a little more bearable.

A solar halo around the sun. These are caused by 6 sided ice crystals in the atmosphere.

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Looking down on Kangerlussuaq at night. The two halves of town are split by the airport runway.

Some overflow water on a part of the fjord where the water level heaves up and down.

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Kellyville, a small research outpost... Population: 7

The entire Greenland winter landscape is dominated by snow and mountains.

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Beyond these mountains is one of the largest sheets of ice on the planet.

The road to Kangerlussuaq. All the roads here are dead-ends since there is nowhere else to drive to. None of the towns in Greenland are connected together by roads.

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A musk ox skull

Many of the houses & cabins are painted bright colors.

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A tuft of grass pokes through the mid-winter snow cover.

Long icicles hang from the rooftops around town.

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More, spectacular landscapes

Wind driven snow, and lots of it.

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A road sign I never see at home: Watch out for musk ox on the road.

Just chillin' out. The signs are left over from the old Air Force base and that gray canister is an old JATO rocket (Jet Assisted Take Off) They are sometimes strapped to large cargo planes that have to take off from short runways.

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Reindeer antlers and a speed limit sign that is riddled with bullet holes.

An old snow-tracked vehicle. I'm sure it spent many a day on the ice cap... Back in the 1970's

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Snowmobile is a popular, and practical way to get around in the winter. You just have to make sure that you have no exposed skin or frostbite could occur in minutes.

The mercury hovering around the -30C mark. At night, it dropped even lower.

 

Dog Sledding

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Here comes my ride!

One of our sled dogs gives himself a bit of a shake and is ready to go.

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On the sled and heading out onto the fjord.

The dogs take a well deserved break. Before snowmobiles became widely used, dog sled travel was the only way to get around in the winter.

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Another couple of dog sled teams heading out behind us.

If you're not the lead dog, the view rarely changes.

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As the sun sinks lower and the temperature starts to drop, it's time to head back.

Frosty dogs. These guys love to run and get very excited when they know that it's time to get harnessed up.

 

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Another 22 degree halo around the sun. Ice crystals in the cold air refract light to cause the circular ring.

A warning to not stray off the path due to the un-detonated explosives that are found in the area. The Danish and U.S. air forces both used this site as a air base.

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A crashed plane that went down in 1968 in bad weather. One of 3 planes in that squadron that crashed.

The crew ejected before the plane went down and all of them survived.

 

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In Greenland, you need a serious vehicle to get around.

A wild reindeer along a mountain pass.

 

The Greenland Ice Cap

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The Russell glacier at the very edge of the massive Greenland ice sheet.

A couple of heavy duty vehicles bring groups of Danish travelers to the glacier.

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At the edge of the ice cap. Once on top, I was standing on 600 feet of ice. At some points, the ice is over 3 km thick!

High winds and blowing snow on top of the ice sheet as katabatic winds blow down from the ice sheet. These gale force, very cold winds were blowing hard enough to make walking difficult.

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Cold, katabatic winds create blizzard-like conditions at the edge of the ice sheet.

Behind all that blowing snow is the dirt road... Somewhere.

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The signpost at Kangerlussuaq airport.

 

Northern Lights - Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

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With clear, cold conditions, and some solar flare activity, the northern lights were in full display.

Situated just north of the Arctic Circle, Kangerlussuaq is a great spot to see the Aurora Borealis.

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northern lights over a house.

Every night that was clear, we saw the northern lights.

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Sometimes it appeared as a line in the sky, other times it would dance around.

 

Greenland Panoramic Photos

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