Exploring East Greenland

Words and Photos by: Inger Hogstrom

jeniLogoSolo.jpg
 

I had never thought about going to East Greenland. In fact, I didn’t even know there was anything remarkable about it until two friends who are expedition guides all across the polar regions told me to go. I had already been to Antarctica and Svalbard and when I began pondering where I should go next, both agreed on East Greenland: “There’s no place like it.”

Two years later I was on a small expedition ship just off the coast of Greenland at a place called Constable Point about to embark on a 10 day trip up the eastern coastline through one of the emptiest, most rugged, singularly beautiful places on earth.

Here are some memories from that incredible place.

 
inger-hogstrom-greenland.jpg

Ella Island, East Greenland.

Ella Island is the home to a base for the Sirius Sled Patrol, a group of elite Danish Army dog sledders assigned to patrol the vast Greenland interior in order to maintain Danish sovereignty over the island. The hut is ready for visitors at any time - wool blankets on the bed, coal in a bucket by the stove. Just in case any wanderers need to take shelter from a storm!

 
GRE_16120.jpg

Blue iceberg at Warming Island, Liverpool Land, Eastern Greenland.

This island was named Warming Island in 2005, after it was discovered to be an island due to the melting of the glacier that surrounded it. It had previously been thought to be connected to the mainland. The land is covered in heavily scoured rock and thick layers of moraine from the retreating glacier.

 
inger-hogstrom-greenland-iceberg.jpg

Icebergs with snowy mountains beyond, Kong Oscar Fjord, Northeast Greenland National Park.

The weather in the polar regions changes incredibly quickly - one moment the sun is out, the next snow is falling or a strong wind comes up from out of nowhere. On this day, a slightly overcast sky became dark with fog and snow, causing the icebergs to stand out against the shadowed land behind them.

 
inger-hogstrom-greenland-rock.jpg

Skipperdal, Kong Oscar Fjord, Northeast Greenland National Park.

East Greenland is famous among geologists for the incredible variety of geologic wonders you can see with relative ease. We spent the morning hiking around several fascinating rock formations that make up the Elenore Bay supergoup of sedimentary rocks. While I was climbing around looking for interesting compositions, a lone raven flew back and forth above yelling Kaw! Kaw! Kaw! at us as we invaded his domain.

 
inger-hogstrom-east-greenland-sunset.jpg

Gåsefjord, Scoresby Sund, Northeast Greenland National Park.

It’s very difficult to convey the vastness of this land. The height of the mountains, the incredible distance you can see in all directions. There is a great sense of emptiness and the clear air makes everything seem closer than it is, as if you can just reach out and touch the moon as it sets at dawn.

 
inger-hogstrom-greenland-ice.jpg

Krogen, Gåsefjord, Scoresby Sund, Northeast Greenland National Park.

We got up for an early morning hike alongside a mirror-smooth bay with an aggressively sharp iceberg that was surrounded by rugged, striated mountains still in shadows. The only indication of the world beyond was a thin contrail thousands of miles up in the sky of a plane flying from Europe to America.

 
inger-hogstrom-greenland-ice.jpg

Gåsefjord, Scoresby Sund, Northeast Greenland National Park.

Each day felt markedly cooler than the one before. We were also losing about 10 minutes of daylight every day at this point - so much more drastic than the slow slide into a new season that we experience at more temperate latitudes. As soon as the sun set, the water around the ship started taking on the thick viscous look of grease ice, which happens when the water between small pieces of ice starts to freeze and forms pans.

 
inger-hogstrom-greenland-landscape.jpg

Milne Land, Scoresby Sund, Northeast Greenland National Park.

One of my favorite things to do on a trip like this is to spend hours on deck just watching the landscape roll by. I listen to music and take images when I see something interesting. As the ship slides by the landscape, the placement of icebergs against the mountains changes: takes on a new look, uncovers a new vista, provides a new experience. Sometimes a musk ox appears in the distance or a fulmar approaches the ship.

 
inger-hogstrom-greenland-landscape.jpg

Milne Land, Scoresby Sund, Northeast Greenland National Park.

As the days went on, I became somewhat obsessed with showing the scale of it all. The sheer size of the mountains we found ourselves traveling past was testament to the incredible glaciers that once filled this land, scouring out the fjords and leaving these rugged mountains in their wake.

 
inger-hogstrom-greenland-iceberg.jpg

Scoresby Sund, Northeast Greenland National Park.

We spent an entire week exploring the Kong Oscar and Scoresbysund fjord systems and only once saw other humans who were in a small fishing boat that had traveled up from the one settlement on the entire northeast coast. The emptiness of this place is intoxicating and the scale is truly awe-inspiring.

 
inger-hogstrom-greenland-buildings.jpg

Ittoqqortoormiit, Scoresby Sund, Northeast Greenland National Park.

On our last day we visited the only human settlement, the tiny town of Ittoqqortoormiit. A smattering of colorful houses strewn across a rocky hillside, a few ATVs buzzing up and down the hills, and kids excited to try their English and follow us around to see what we do. The locals opened the church for us to see, and had some dried musk ox for us to taste.

 
inger-hogstrom-puppy.jpg

Ittoqqortoormiit, Scoresby Sund, Northeast Greenland National Park.

Once adult, sled dogs are so imprinted on their owner that they can be dangerous for anyone else to interact with them. As puppies, however, they often have free range to wander the town and collect pets and snuggles from anyone willing to endure their smelly fur (they often roll around in seal meat and seal skins. The smell is really quite something!).

 
jeniLogoSolo.jpg
 
 
Letters From the Ends of the Earth is an online multimedia platform that brings the polar regions to you - through real stories, stunning photography, inspiring artwork, and informative resources. From Antarctica to the Arctic, Svalbard to South Georgia, this project shines a new and different kind of light on the unique experiences found at the Ends of the Earth.
 

Have You Spent Time in Antarctica or the Arctic?

 
 

Follow @lettersfromtheendsoftheearth on Instagram