On a trip to Greenland, we camped on an ice cap, saw huge icebergs and observed the effects of climate change on the world’s largest island.
Our first night in Greenland was spent at point 66 on the Greenland ice cap, near the town of Kangerlussuaq. The small tents visible at the bottom right formed our camp for the night. (All photos by Ann Hansen)
Here we unpack our things. The big orange tent was the main tent of our small camp and where we had our meals around a small gas burner. We spent about 24 hours on the ice cap.
Here we walk on the ice cap at sunset. Two days before our hike, it rained for the first time in history on top of the interior ice floe, according to the US National Snow and Ice Data Center. Scientists have put forward climate change as an explanation.
Point 66, where this photo was taken, is above the Arctic Circle. In summer, the sun never sets here. It was never completely dark and we felt like we were walking during a continuous sunset.
Here we are looking inside a “mill” – sounds like “mulan” but nothing to do with the Disney character, rather streams of water that carve deep holes in the ice cap. This has a depth of about 73 meters.
During our hikes, we encountered many small streams. Our guide said the water was pure and drinkable so it was our drinking water while we were on the ice. Running water on the ice sheet is flowing and natural, but due to global warming it has become more important in recent years.
This glacier has retreated more than a kilometer over the past 10 years due to climate change. The glacier is one of the most active in the region, so “calving” – when small pieces of ice break off – is very common and often in large quantities. The amount of ice that falls from it in a day is equal to Manhattan’s daily water consumption.
Here we pass through the remains of the Eqi Glacier. Small chunks of ice have broken off from the glacier as it heads out to sea.
We were surprised by the grayish color of the ice cap and wondered if it was not due to pollution. But no, everything is completely natural. The gray material above the ice is called silt and is made up of very small particles. Normally below the ice cap, silt rises to the surface as the ice moves and cracks. Global warming is bringing more silt to the surface than usual. Because silt is dark, it absorbs heat, creating a feedback loop that heats the ice even faster, contributing to global warming.
On our trip we traveled by boat several times, both because it was a climatic trip and because many places are inaccessible from land. Because Greenland has a small population and due to the harsh climate and environment, the infrastructure is very limited. We saw many huge icebergs floating in the water.
This is Qeqertarsuaq, a village on the Greenlandic coast, with a tradition of hunter-gatherers, which contrasts with more modern cities like Nuuk. Residents have expressed concerns about climate change. One of the students we spoke to during a visit to a school was concerned that part of their culture would be disappearing with the ice.
Here we are on a fishing expedition in a fjord outside Nuuk, the capital of Greenland. The biggest fish we caught with a drop line was a redfish, an arctic fish commonly caught in the waters around Greenland. The food was delicious. A great way to spend our last evening in the north.
Three questions to consider:
- How has climate change affected Greenland?
- Should national or international authorities take measures to protect communities such as Qeqertarsuaq whose way of life is threatened by global warming?
- Has climate change had an impact on your community?
Simikka Dueholm Jensen is in his penultimate year of high school at Herlufsholm School in Denmark. Born and raised in southern Denmark, she is interested in science and climate change and enjoys traveling.
Oluf Mærsk-Møller is in the second year of high school at Herlufsholm school in Denmark. Her favorite subjects are social studies and English. He enjoys yoga and hopes to become a lawyer.
Anne Hansen is at the helm of international development with a focus on global education at the Herlufsholm School in Denmark. Of Danish descent and American race, she is a member of the management team and responsible for the development of internationalism, democracy, service and high school adventure.