But can’t you hear the Wild? — it’s calling you. Let us probe the silent places, let us seek what luck betide us; Let us journey to a lonely land I know. There’s a whisper on the night-wind, there’s a star agleam to guide us, And the Wild is a calling, calling …let us go. Robert Service, The Call of the Wild, 1907 Mats and Charlie Keldsen duck under the huge whalebone jaw that marks the entrance to Old Town in Sisimiut, Greenland Summer travels are often not directly related to business and so it was this year. It started in jest with dinnertime references to the Big Island and took on a whole new reality as we boarded Air Greenland flight — bound for Kangerlussuaq from Baltimore. Greenland is one of those places like the Grand Canyon — all of the preconceived notions formed by National Geographic articles fade when your own eyes soak in the splendor of it all.
Hours after landing we were climbing over a ridge of moraine, the stones, gravel and debris that is pushed forward by glaciers, onto the polar ice cap. Above the Arctic Circle, the sun never sets in mid-July, but it also never get too high in the sky. The tips of the waves on this endless rolling ocean of ice are defined by the shadows that they cast. One thousand years ago the earth was also enjoying a period of global warming… and the first Viking settlers, led by Eric the Red could raise sheep, cattle and grow vegetables in the thin top soil. He named the new country Greenland and the Icelandic Sagas mention that Eric said, “people would be attracted there if it had a favorable name.” There are no highways in Greenland, and towns are not connected by roads.
Any travel is done by boat, plane or helicopter. A passenger ship, the Sarfaq Ittuk runs up and down the coast and we jumped aboard in Sisimiut for the three day voyage down to Qaqortoc in the southern “Banana Belt.” Some of the towns along the way have deep water ports but many do not. In that case, the crew use a crane on the upper deck to lower a small launch over the side of the ship and the passengers would gingerly traipse down the gangplank and climb into the tender for a quick trip to shore. New passengers would soon come aboard and off we would go to the next stop. It was a great way to meet local people and my two sons were soon running wild, wrestling with newfound Greenlandic buddies. “Whales, whales, whales!” the announcement on the ships system causes Greenlandic blood to boil and we all ran out on deck in time to see a school of seven or eight leviathans blowing water spouts and frolicking off the starboard bow. One whale, who must have realized that this was HIS moment, breached the surface then dove vertically with his flukes pointed directly skyward. His moment was also mine and I will never forget the power of it.