We spent a week flying up and down the west coast of Greenland in one of our 412 Squadron Challenger jets, transporting military and civilian Canadian and Danish passengers to various meetings and events. The goal was improved co-operation and information exchange for search & rescue (SAR), the monitoring of shipping, and support to scientific and adventure activities in this rugged part of the Arctic




Final approach to Narsarsuaq, home of this legendary little airfield that served thousands of ferry flights from North America to Europe during WWII. Just finding the place - let alone clearing the mountains and glaciers in cloud - would have demanded exceptional flying and navigation skills. We exchanged passengers with the Danish frigate cutting its way through metre-thick seasonal ice




It's not much runway for a jet, but there's plenty of rock and glacier at the far end to stop you if you land long...




Our jet, a 1980's-vintage Canadair (now Bombardier) Challenger 601. The Danes also operate Challengers in Greenland - newer ones, with capabilities that got our attention.




Our engineer scrounging parts to keep us airborne. (Just kidding, Mom.)




Air Greenland is everywhere. I'm guessing their planes are bright red to help passengers find them on the apron when the weather isn't this nice.








The view from my hotel window out over the airfield and the fjord one morning, when the sky was low but the temperature was 14°C - actually warmer than Ottawa on that April day!




My photos don't do justice to the beauty of this wild and rugged country! Greenlanders have voted for greater administrative autonomy from Denmark beginning in June 2009. Denmark will continue to provide support in such areas as higher education, health care, defence, and foreign affairs.




Further up the west coast, in Kangerlussuaq, in the valley of Søndre Strømfjord. It's usually much nicer than this here! Air Greenland has regular A330 flights to Copenhagen from this modern airport. From the signs, you'll note that Kangerlussuaq is centrally located and just a short flight from all the other major centres of the world...




Most of Air Greenland's airplanes are deHavilland Canada turboprops that are ideally suited to the geography and climate. The airline was kind enough to share their hangar space with us.




Thule Air Base was our northernmost destination, some 800 miles from the North Pole. Built at the beginning of the Cold War, it is now important to a growing range of civilian activities in the Arctic. A seasonal pier accommodates ships laden with fuel and supplies in the summer. Thule is surrounded by widely-scattered small communities of Greenlanders, who share a heritage with Canada's Inuit people. We happened to be there for the annual Armed Forces Day - not a show of military might, as the name suggests, but rather an outreach effort involving fun activities bringing the locals together with base personnel.




A friendly game of broomball down on the ice, with Mount Dundas in the background. Temperature was a balmy -25.




A fur coat for two




Greenlandic Sledgedogs - beautiful, friendly animals built for cold weather and hard work




These animals are well cared for. In the background is the hamlet of Dundas, established ca. 1903 as a trading post




Families came from as far as three days' travel for this special day in Thule. Here, the main event was about to begin.




Gentlemen, start your canines!




A 10-kilometre course had been staked out on the frozen surface of Baffin bay. The senior Danish officer at Thule officiated over the race, and the US Air Force donated prizes for the event.








Thirteen very eager dogs!




At over 20 km/h, this is one very rough ride








Off they go! The fourteen teams raced off toward a frozen horizon dotted with gigantic icebergs spawned by the nearby glaciers. Just 100 miles across the Nares Strait lay Ellesmere Island, Canada.




A whip is cracked on either side of the pack to direct the team.




All fourteen teams found their way back to Greenland and the finish line, in as little as 28 minutes




Thule Air Base and the aircraft landing there have used a lot of energy over the past half-century








Industrialised countries (including Canada) don't have a proud record of waste management in the North. Things are much improved today, but Thule and other outposts still have a lot of scrap that will take time and energy to relocate and recycle




'Not sure why, but I don't remember seeing so much smog so far north when I started flying up here 19 years ago...




...and I don't remember seeing so much open water so far north, so early in the spring








So I walk on uplands unbounded

And know that there is hope

For that which Thou didst mold out of dust

To have consort with things eternal

- The Dead Sea Scrolls









All photos by Eric Volstad, April 2009