With our fuel cache completed at Beach Head Station, the team was back in Kulusuk and completing final preparations before heading to the ice cap. During our down-time we were fortunate to be included in family excursions; activities we would call “team building” in the corporate world, but in Greenland are just a part of daily life.
We spent the day harvesting mussels and sharing in a family picnic with traditional foods like narwhal and dried fish, and we finalized our search strategy and plans for the ice. We traveled to Ikateq Base, a large American WWII refueling station, to document the thousands of rusting fuel barrels and other detritus of war that have simply been abandoned to the elements; a reminder that in this remote part of the world, the impact of the war is still being felt many decades later.
Returning to Beach Head Station via helicopter with the team felt like a bittersweet homecoming - I had a keen desire to explore further, to try and answer the questions I still had, but our mission was to refuel the helicopter. In a perfect example of “everything is harder in Greenland” the hand-cranked fuel pump refused to work. Calculations were done to determine if we could make the run without additional fuel, and plans were made to re-set camp and wait for help should it prove unworkable. In the end, thankfully, a field-repair was successful and we were on our way. In a final farewell to what had been our home, we flew a sweeping arc over camp and headed for the ice cap.
Greenlands ice cap is immense. It is more vast than the imagination can truly appreciate, at least until you see it first-hand. We flew over glaciers crawling to ice-choked bays, over wrinkled expanses of ice shot-through with massive crevasses, and down onto a world of infinite white. Landing in a helicopter next to a Nunataq is an incomparable experience, and one that can only be surpassed by flying away from the completely isolated Camp Raven and my three friends waving goodbye. With the team safely on the ice and our twice-daily communication plan put into action, my heavy-lifting on this expedition was largely done.
I was invited to attend a traditional Greenlandic wedding and served as their impromptu photographer, and enjoyed a midnight run back home in yet another small boat. This time we traveled not through massive waves, but through fog and over calm waters, in the twilight that marks the time between sunset and sunrise in the summer. In my remaining time in Greenland I sought to strike a balance between being safe and taking crazy risks, knowing that Greenland doesn't make it easy to decide which is which.
In the end I found a happy middle-ground and solo-hiked the hills and mountains around Kulusuk, basking in the lack of trails and sense of freedom that only route-finding in an untamed wilderness can bring. In those quiet times alone looking out at the starkly rugged and beautiful landscapes, I reflected on how far I have traveled, both literally and figuratively, and knew in that moment I was forever changed.