East Greenland Expedition

As Mark and I sit in traffic in San Francisco on a Greyhound bus, it’s easy to feel like the 15 days that we just spend in East Greenland were nothing more than a fantastic dream, and yet we know that as we glance out the window at the Home Depot and Target signs, that in East Greenland children are fishing from a bridge, women are using traditional knives to cut up seal meat and dogs are lounging around in the sun, waiting for the weather to cool and the dog sleds to come out.

This was Greenland or Bust’s first commercial expedition, and Mark, Martin and I guided five eager paddlers around the Ammassalik region.

Mark, Martin and I consider our options before launching to determine the best route for the most current weather forecast.

We encountered some very large icebergs as we left the harbor.

This iceberg reminded me of an image from Where the Wild Things Are.

Before settling into our tents on the first night, we talked about polar bears and necessary precautions.

Just one of our fantastic campsites. We stayed somewhere new every night as we explored the region.

An incredible sunset.

Paddling in ice.


More ice.

And still more ice. At times it was difficult to find a route through.

Mark and I enjoying a view.

We visited several abandoned settlements. Here an old grave sits undisturbed.

An earth house. It was common for multiple families to share these houses to keep warm in the often harsh environment.

We also visited a few “active” villages. Here a woman prepares a freshly caught seal.

A gorgeous view from Tiniteqilaq.

Mark finds a ride at the abandoned U.S. Air Force Base, which was used in World War II.

An Arctic Ptarmigan has made the Base its home.

A very old dump holds modern treasures such as first edition Coca Cola bottles.

We camped next to an active glacier. Every so often the glacier would drop large chunks of ice into the water, which would create waves. For this reason the kayaks had to be carried very high up the steep hillside to prevent them from washing away.

Glacier watching from the safety of the hillside.

Beer that we purchased in a small village proved to be a refreshing treat to accompany the surprisingly tasty dehydrated meals that filled our bellies every evening.

Sarah surprised us by baking cakes on her camping stove a couple of evenings. Here she uses a hut as her kitchen.

We didn’t stay in the hut long though… not with this stunning double rainbow outside.

We stopped paddling mid-day to visit with this fin whale skeleton before continuing on.

Of course there were alive whales as well. Here a humpback whale swims along in front of Martin and Dave.

Greenland has a fairly big tidal range, so during short land excursions we’d link the kayaks together using towlines and attach them to onshore rocks. At night the kayaks were always brought above the high tide line and were often secured by towlines even then (always a good idea in case of waves created by rolling, collapsing or exploding icebergs).

Back in Tasiilaq we enjoyed the museum, complete with a traditional kayak.

Outside the museum an Umiak and Greenland Rope Gymnastics were on display.

I made friends with a puppy that will later become a sled dog. Puppies roam the villages freely, while adults are chained except when working. All of the dogs are considered working animals and not pets.

The kayak club in Tasiilaq.

A nice change from dehydrated dinners.

A hired boat ride to the airport.

Happy campers back in Iceland.

Pictures by Helen and Mark.

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