My shower the previous night was a nearly religious experience, although I needed to remind myself that I wasn't balding as gobs of hair came out. Seeing myself in the mirror was another experience - I'd been sun-burnt by my trip up to the glacier. For most of the hike on the ice, I could probably have worn a t-shirt and been warm enough. Now my face is a visual representation of feedback cycles. Snow reflects light and heat back into space, bare ground absorbs it. Melting glaciers leave bare Earth behind, which leads to further melting. Understanding, much less modeling, these processes is difficult and accounts for much of the uncertainty of climate forecasting. There are even models in which the Earth cools due to increased cloud cover caused by increased evaporation (white clouds reflect some light).
I rise unusually early, though this doesn't lead to anything productive. Mike finds me later on and informs me that breakfast is being served in the Tuttu Inn (Tuttu translating to reindeer), next door to the full-up KISS.
I've told Mike that the British habit of having beans for breakfast surprises me, but he countered that Brits don't have beans for breakfast all the time. As I enter the Tuttu, I grin - he has yet to prove me wrong. Beans, eggs, toast, jam, sweet pastries, and juice set us up for the day.
The morning is spent packing everything up, cleaning the ever-troublesome boat (by dragging it down the hallway of KISS and into a shower room), and transporting the packing to the hanger for shipping back to the UK. We take a swing by the gift shops where I learn that Greenland's total population is ~56,969, distributed over nearly 2.5 million square kilometers.
Mike and I are given the car towards late afternoon and set out for a final hunt.
|Mike's a proficient stick driver, but off-roading, driving on the right, and watching out for wayward musk ox combine to make the experience quite an adventure.|
|Parking the car, we hike up the nearest reasonable hill - a trip which takes much longer than expected and has us trudging through damp grass and shrub.|
|Cresting, we pull out the tracker, but it seems as though the tracers we thought were in the area have run way to the sea and those we dumped in the glacier are still chilling up there. Unless… unless that beeping sound is one of the 30km tracers!|
Excitedly, we hike back down. My shoes get very wet in the process and are washed with a pine-like scent from the shrubs I'm crushing. The smells remind me of different places, different times, and I find myself closing my door quietly.
At the end of the road, we listen again and determine that the beeping is the last tracer the fox hid, the one in the neighboring valley. This isn't unexpected and we start back, for the last time feeling as though things have gone well.
Ever since the rains came, Greenland's become a much more beautiful place. The colours, formerly bland and washed out under a bright and unflagging sun, have taken on a myriad of subtle hues; we find ourselves stopping around each corner to take pictures.
As we crest the road into town, Kangerlussuaq lies spread out before us, the NSF's C-130's lined up on a run-way, looking very much like the military base it was until the U.S. turned it over to Greenland in 01992. Since then, the town has been pretty much owned by Greenland's air authority. However, very little money has been put into keeping the air facilities up-to-date and repaired. Nuuk has supermarkets; Nuuk has big stores; Nuuk has fresh food; Nuuk gets a supply ship every two weeks! Nuuk should, by rights, have Greenland's only international run-way, or so the Authority thinks. But there isn't space for a 3km run-way there (Greenlandic towns are generally built in the limited green space lining fjords), so, while the Authority stalls indecisively, the airport ages.
Kangerlussuaq gets only two ships a year - one in July and one in October - so Greenland's big planes, which can land here and only here, can't be repaired here. There's talk of building a road to Sisimiut, nearly 120km away, but nothing's been done about that. Little planes ferry you from Kangerlussuaq to the rest of Greenland and, commercial interests aside, Kangerlussuaq's ~489 permanent inhabitants don't seem to warrant the road or infrastructure on their own.
I think I'm glad of this - it means Kangerlussuaq's a little frontier town, rather than an increasingly-accurate reflection of generic city/commercial existence (I was horribly disappointed to find a McDonald's and Wal-mart in Juneau, but that's a different story). The lack of a road also means that the overland trip from Kangerlussuaq to Sisimiut - heralded as one of the world's "great walks" - will remain wild at least a while longer… perhaps long enough for me to give it a go.
Getting back, we find the rest of the group playing pool and darts. Darts and physics have some interesting associations, as I learned during my first-year physics classes. (The story is recounted here - my physics professor for three semesters was the incomparable Serge Rudaz who plays such a pivotal role in the story.) My first toss is a bull's eye, but I'm out of practise and things slip to a lower level after that: I only end up winning one of the two games.
One of the people responsible for NASA's rubber-ducky glacial project (an article about that project is here.) is around and very interested to hear about our efforts. (This despite our feeling that we've kicked NASA's butt a bit this summer, though, to be fair, they dropped the duckies 40–50km up, so the chances of success were rather low.)
|Supper comes late and afterwards, I stay up even later plotting the my continued travels…|