Qajaq & Icebergs – Greenland 2011

In Augustus 2011 we travelled to Greenland. Travelling to and within Kalaallit Nunaat  is quite an experience. Right after take-off from Copenhagen, the Captain said that the visibility in Narsuasaq was very poor and that the chances of landing were small, but that he hoped for improvement during the 4H20 flight time.
Our approach to Greenland was spectacular. Flying over the icecap makes you feel very small and humble. We circled for more than an hour over Narsuasaq waiting for a hole in the clouds to be able to start the manual approach to Narsuasaq airport. Somehow the captain made it and secured a perfect landing on Greenlandic soil.
They say Murphy was born in Greenland. We met him ! Due to the famous dry and gusty Foehn wind, and bad weather related consequences, our 15 day kayak adventure had to be reorganised and adapted over and over again. Of course this was a mental bugger, but travelling to Greenland needs a flexible spirit.

We ended up doing more hiking and less kayaking. But both the beauty of the landscape and the kind of ‘last frontier spirit’ around Narsuasaq made it all very bearable. We had many new experiences on this adventure, but the two strongest ones are being in a tent during a Greenlandic storm and the fact that you can drink water from the rivers anytime anywhere without worries, which is a tremendous feeling of freedom.

Greenland conquered a place in our hearts and we will certainly head back soon for more.


The Inuit invented the kayak, a one person boat used for hunting and transportation, and propelled by a double-bladed paddle.

Inuit and Aleuts used driftwood or whalebone to make a light framework, and covered it with stretched skins, made watertight with wale fat. Kayak means “hunter’s boat” and it is perfect for hunting on the water. It’s almost silent, making it easy to sneak up behind prey. If a white cloth is draped in front, the animals might be fooled into thinking that it is a drifting piece of ice – perhaps a “growler”.

These traditional “one man” boats were usually just that – “made to measure” for just one man’s size and weight. When a person had fallen into the water or died from kayak hunting, it was often said that he had borrowed someone else’s kayak, and didn’t have the same sense of balance.

Hunters wore a sealskin “annuraaq” to keep water from getting into the boat (the origin of the modern name “anorak” for a waterproof cover). The hood and wrists were tightly tied, and it was long enough to be tied around the cockpit. So how did they get out if they capsized? Simple. They didn’t.

It was considered suicide to come out of the boat. There was no protection from the icy cold water, no buoyancy in heavy skin clothing, and… who knew how to swim? If you rolled over, you had to know how to roll right back up!