Editor’s Note: As promised at the conclusion of the July 9th edition story about Christie Fisher heading to Greenland with GEaR. Here is part 2 of 3 of her amazing adventure.
Establishing a fuel cache for the helicopter is a critical part of my mission here in Greenland. Doing this by boat, rather than by helicopter, means a several-thousand-dollar savings for our team, but also a lot of work: boat rides, camping, and a lot of unknowns. What I do know is that there is little margin for error here; that should something go wrong, we are far from help in an unforgiving place. This is serious business. It’s also mission-critical.
The boat and Lars (our captain) were ready to take us, our gear, and the two barrels of jet fuel to Comanche Bay for a two-night stay (we packed for four days, just in case). We just needed to get those barrels from the airport down to the boat. I can only imagine their surprise when they arrived to see me riding down to them in a giant front-end loader with our barrels - probably equal to my surprise at seeing the small size of our boat! We would be traveling the 100 miles out to Comanche Bay through open waters in a heavily laden 17 foot open skiff. An earlier conversation about survival time in the water (4 minutes), suddenly became very relevant, and a little concerning.
As we started our push out to sea, I looked around and saw that our barrels of jet fuel had joined several spare tanks of gas for the boat. I would be traveling for the better part of eight hours, on icy waters, in what was essentially a floating bomb. This would only be a passing concern, however, as our tiny boat tried to make progress through 10 foot seas with comparably massive 15 foot peaks. As seasickness took over, I started thinking less about all the fuel, and more about how four minutes in the icy waters might not be so bad.
It took us eight hours before I could gratefully step ashore at what would become our campsite - the remains of a US Army Outpost: Beach Head Station. During the next two days we set our cache of fuel and pieces of heavy equipment for the helicopter to retrieve in a week, and explored the rusted remains of what was once a busy, albeit remote outpost of the war.
After hiking up through boulders and snow fields, and stopping to look at rusted equipment and footprints of buildings, we summited the hill where most of the activity would have been during the war. Every artifact we came across told a story, and I paused to imagine what both wartime and the intervening years must have been like. With the sun bright in the sky, and lunch waiting back down at camp, we spent what time we could exploring and then made our way back to the water’s edge.
When it came time to depart we scrambled over the rocks with all of our gear and loaded up the boat. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little anxious about spending the next eight hours back in the open ocean, but as cool as this place is, I can’t stay. Thankfully I was spared the seasickness that had plagued my outbound journey, and was able to fully appreciate the massive ice floe we had to sail through. Traveling as slow as possible, we pushed our bow through water that looked like the ocean’s version of a blended margarita - ice banging against the hull from every direction. There is no shortage of danger out here; thankfully Lars and our little boat got us safely through and back home to Kulusuk.
During our return home, I reflected on my time at Beach Head Station. It is a strangely emotional thing to look at the rusted remains of a place, to see what our story’s heroes would have seen, and to think of what daily life entailed here so many years ago. To be in Greenland, so far from home, and see USA stamped onto rusted equipment is a hauntingly beautiful thing. There are not many historic ‘firsts’ left in the world, and to be the first American woman to Beach Head Station since the war (and maybe ever) made all of the difficulty and danger worthwhile.