Saturday, November 6, 2010

Day 16 - a pause for thought

I needed to rethink my strategy and decided to recoup in Uummannaq while organizing my gear for the next leg of  my journey.  I had decided to paddle on to Qaarsut and then further to Niaqornat.  I would paddle the same route back again and aimed to be back in Uummannaq on the 19th of July.

Having had way too much gear with me on the previous leg of the journey I was pleased to be able to ditch  the unneccessary weight.  Spending a few days in Uummannaq also allowed me to repair some gear and post some entries on the blog.

The day started out gloomy, as the icebergs loomed in out of the low fog.  Sledges blistering in the sun reminded me of the ice-less winter and caused me to reflect on the changes affecting hunters in the Arctic.  Climate change is the buzz-word slung around with wild abandon by journalists, politicians, explorers and activists alike.  It often strikes me as odd though that the majority of banner-waving climate activists are from the huge polluting nations, my own among them.  Are we so focused on the Arctic because we truly are sorry that the hunting way of life is so threatened, or are we just trying to absolve our own collective guilt for living a life of luxury? 

Whilst the media-houses of the polluting world are sending hordes of camera-toting journalists northward bound to capture the quintessential image of the last hunter, facing the uncertain prospects of hunting in a changing environment, governments are doing the same.  Politicians, their aides and groupies are piling into planes and blasting in and out of Greenland to see climate change in action.  At the same time, the representatives of each political party, anchormen and women of television news and newspaper columnists spout authoratative statements, basking in the glory of their rivals' carbon footprints.  It makes me sick.  Just like I wanted to throw up over Hopenhagen COP15.  Sorry, but as I have said before, climate change has been a hot topic since I was in primary school.  Greenhouse gasses wafted over the television screen and tainted the newspaper print thirty-odd years ago.

One thing I learned while paddling in the weeks before I returned to Uummannaq was the total acceptance of mother nature.  She decides, not me.  We have to bend; we need to stop pushing.  The Inuit have developed a spontaneous nature, as I have learned through experience and have been told by colleagues, as a result of being in tune with nature.  You can't arrange to visit someone in a settlement on Tuesday at four o'clock when you can't know what the weather will be like on that day.  Better to sail now, Monday at seven o'clock as the weather is calm and the visibility is good.  I had days when I decided not to paddle, and other days when I could not paddle because of the weather.  Equally, I had mega-paddling days when the conditions were too good to miss.

I guess what I am trying to say is that the more we try to change the climate the further we distance ourselves from it.  We in the Western world are typically far removed from mother nature, we will never fully understand her.  We watch the weather on the news and plan our weekend outing based upon the scientific model "some guy" told us on the evening news.  During the epic focus upon climate change we now have a whole army of guys and girls telling us what is going to happen.  But I tell you, having paddled for two weeks alone in the Arctic, I have been blissfully ignorant of what anybody has to tell me about the climate and the nature of the area I am paddling in.  I learned to stick my head out of the tent and take a good look at the sky, listen for the activity of the birds and, as Karl-Ole told me, look at the dark band of water far out at sea to determine the direction and strength of the coming wind.

So, as I spent a few days in Uummannaq collecting my thoughts, food and gear for the next leg of my journey, I relished the fact that I was in the thick of nature, living and breathing the very atoms of climate change and I was doing it all by myself.


  1. Your claim: The expedition will focus on Greenlandic culture and nature

    I find this to be an extremely boring and self-serving expedition. Can't believe you got sponsored for this, can't believe that you have been living in Greenland, yet you provide practically no cultural background on the towns, and certainly nothing on the 'nature' you encounter. Surely you could do some research before embarking, so that you might have a grasp of the most fundamental natural history of the area. I didn't learn a thing from your blog. You don't even know a Dwarf Fireweed, the ubiquitous pink flower?

  2. Hi Anonymous

    I appreciate your comment and have chosen to answer it in a post on the blog itself.