Greenland is a complicated place. Mostly, though, my fascination with it centers on the ice. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews
Of all the places I’ve traveled to, Greenland is the most complicated, I think. While there are commonalities with other spots in the world, Greenland always seems to put its own, special twist on things.
For example, much like what I found in Yellowstone National Park, Greenland plays with your linear sense of time. But added to that feeling of calendar displacement, time here has another dimension; it’s tied to light: four months of dark, four months of light and two seasons of twilight.
And, similar to my discoveries in Antarctica, Greenland is a place of ice. I’ve mentioned my fixation with ice and the world’s cold places in this column before, mostly because I’m convinced that winter is an endangered “species.” But unlike in Antarctica—and almost every other place on the planet—the loss of ice here, some say, could open up a more prosperous, independent and brighter future for people. The retreat of the Greenland ice cap has unveiled previously inaccessible mineral deposits, such as copper, diamonds, gold, iron, uranium, zinc and other rare earth metals that are crucial for new technologies and military guidance systems.
Although you’d be tempted to call Greenland a continent, it is the largest island in the world; and surprisingly, a self-governing state within the Kingdom of Denmark. Another facet of this place’s perplexing nature is that even though ice covers 80 to 85 percent of the island, people have lived here for about 5,000 years. That other land of ice—the Great White Continent—at the other pole has no ancient human history. But in Greenland, Independence I, Saqqaq, Independence II, Dorset and Inuit peoples have built a rich and multilayered human culture. And again unlike in so many other places today, the indigenous people make up the majority of Greenland’s population: about 80 percent are Inuit and most of the rest are Danish.
Mostly, though, my fascination with Greenland comes back to the ice. The country’s great ice sheet, suspended atop bedrock, holds 8 to 10 percent of the Earth’s freshwater. If it were to melt entirely, global sea levels would rise 23 feet. For me, then, Greenland represents hope for a future where the world still has ice.
My dream is that Greenland will never separate measurements of time from complements of light, will never bury its indigenous culture and will never let go of its grip on the ice.
Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,
In Greenland, the mountains, valleys, rivers and gigantic ice sheet are practically virgin land. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews
Icebergs look white because the ice is full of tiny air bubbles, which reflect white light, giving the iceberg an overall white appearance. Ice that is bubble-free has a blue tint. Blue, bubble-free ice is made when meltwater fills crevasses formed in a moving glacier and then quickly freezes without any air bubbles having a chance to form. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews
Astoundingly beautiful glaciers are not an uncommon sight in Greenland, due to the ice cap that covers most of the country. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews
While a few North Atlantic icebergs originate in the eastern Canadian Arctic islands, the majority come from about 100 iceberg-producing glaciers along the Greenland coast. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews
Western Greenland’s glaciers are some of the fastest moving in the world, traveling about 4.5 miles per year. In 2012-2013, however, Greenland’s Jakobshavn Glacier reached a speed of 10.5 miles per year, the fastest ever recorded. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews
Diamonds, gold, iron, lead, uranium and zinc are under Greenland’s ice sheet. A warming climate may make these minerals accessible for the first time. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews
According to the Icelandic Sagas, Erik the Red chose the name “Greenland” to entice settlers from Iceland. In fact, Greenland has far more ice cover (about 80 to 85 percent of its surface area) than Iceland, but the southern coasts the Vikings settled were likely green in summer during the Medieval Warm Period. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews
In all, there are only about 74 towns and settlements in Greenland. Dotted along the coasts, most of them feature brightly colored, wooden houses that stand on the rocky periphery of the massive, interior ice sheet. No roads exist between them. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews
The Greenland dog is an ancient breed, thought to be directly descended from those brought to the island by the first Inuit settlers. As is common among sled dogs, Greenland dogs are able to traverse very difficult terrain with ease and are valued for their physical strength and endurance. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews
The world’s biggest noncontinental island has the world’s sparsest population: only 57,000. You are truly on your own as soon as you leave one of the small towns and settlements. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews
About 90 percent of an iceberg is hidden below the surface of the sea and, usually, an iceberg is 20 to 30 percent longer than it appears from above the surface. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews
Annually, about 40,000 medium- to large-sized icebergs calve in Greenland. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews
An estimated two million seals live in Greenlandic waters. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews
Time in Greenland is tied to light: four months of dark, four months of light and two seasons of twilight. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews
At one point in the summer of 2012, 97 percent of the surface of Greenland’s massive ice sheet was melting. At current rates, scientists say Arctic waters could be ice-free in summer by the end of the decade. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews
It’s said that Greenlanders once used icebergs to distinguish the seasons and even to identify towns. Nature plays a large part in Greenlandic culture. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews
I hope that Greenland always holds on tight to its ice. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews
Thanks for share the information about travels in greenland. I really appreciate with your blog and website information. Your photos give the complete view of greenland.
Spectacular. Thanks for sharing.They have inspired me to keep aspiring for such spectacular images. I can only imagine such beauty and splendour. You do the natural beauty lots of justice. That is a gift afforded to only a few, please keep sharing. Ciao. M
Stunning photos, bit disturbing that climate change may make precious minerals/metals more available. Does this mean more attempts at rape and pillage of our precious untouched landscapes?? 🙁
Stunning photography and informative commentary. Thank you for sharing your work. It is difficult to comprehend that life as we know it is so quickly becoming life as we knew it. Sad.
Absolutely Beautiful! On the Bucket List. Thanks.
Beautiful pictures of what would seem a beautiful place. I have not seen any photo’s of Greenland before and these are stunning. Wonderfully written words to compliment such an essay of photographs, thank you for making the world a nicer place.
Absolute best ever. The commentary with each photo is capturing. Thank very much.
Quite wonderful. I’m very impressed with your work.
Thank you very much, Candice, for your perfect presentation of Greenland!
Beautiful pics, love em. Makes me want to visit, though I don’t really like living in cold weather. Indeed, let’s hope the culture & ice remain for a long time/permanently as these things make the area very unique.
Beautiful photos! Thank you.
Great article, and stunning photographs. Thanks Candice!
Gracias por darnos a conocer a Greenland.
Amazing place Candice! beautiful photos!
I would really like some information about traveling in Greenland. I know you get there by plane from Iceland. I have been to Iceland and plan on going back with a trip to Greenland included.
Natural Habitat Adventures has these two trips to Greenland: https://www.nathab.com/alaska-northern-adventures/greenland-nature-adventure/ and https://www.nathab.com/antarctica-and-arctic/greenland-the-canadian-arctic/.
Check them out. I hope you get there; it’s an amazing place.
You’ve lived the adventure that’s close to the top of my list. Your photographs are breathtaking and your narrative blends with the topography. This is one of the best photography essays I have read. Congratulations.
Thank you for such high praise!
Incredible pictures once again-thank you Candy!
Breathtaking photos Candy – they have to be some of your best ever!!!! And fascinating article. Thx
Thank you, Mary. I really appreciate it! —C.G.A.