Friday, August 3, 2012

Unpeeling the Banana Coast: A Journey through the Sub-Arctic

     After a brief hiatus, I have returned from scouting out new AESOP trips for next year- in Greenland! Well... not exactly. But I was in Greenland backpacking, packrafting, and eating lots of cool things (think: large mammalian sea creatures) and meeting some even cooler folks this summer for my Otis Fellowship with my classmate, Brian Kennedy. For seven weeks we hiked and paddled between the idyllic farms and small settlements along the coast, following sheep trails, thousand year old Norse ruins, and skinny, ice-packed fjords, stopping along the way to chat folks up about some of the environmental, social, and economic issues in the area. While we never mastered the Greenlandic language (check it out:, we did explore resource exploitation and a proposed uranium/rare earth element mine, the progress of sheep farms and near-arctic agriculture in a changing climate, the transition from a traditional hunting and fishing culture towards a modern welfare state, the struggles of a post-colonial nation of 60,000 people on the world's largest island, and our own limits on a self-propelled, two-man journey. It was an absolutely wild, beautiful place that really is one of the last frontiers- a place barely inhabited and so totally accessible, yet at times frighteningly hostile.

      Now, I'm slowly making the transition back to a land of tall trees and evening darkness, and have begun to gear up for life on campus. I am so pumped to hear that we have the biggest AESOP ever this year, and can't wait to get back to it with Mackie, Will, Ellie, Allie, and the rest of team AESOP. Awww yeahhhh class of 2016!

      If you want to learn more about me and Brian's trip, you can read about it on our trip page and blog, or geology is more your thing, you can check out our issue article about the Kvanefjeld mine:

Packrafting! Perhaps a new AESOP trip for next year?!
A Greenlandic sheep farm with Illerfissalik, the Viking signal mountain, in the background.
Drill core from the exploration phase of the Kvanefjeld mine in Narsaq. 

Qaqortoq (pop. 3,000) is the biggest, and most colorful, town in the region.
I think this is the only guy who has Will beat when it comes to making faces.
Campsite at the toe of the inland ice. July marked the greatest rate of melt on the icecap ever recorded.

See you in a few weeks!


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