Saturday, March 5, 2016


If Fantasy Island had been set in the arctic, it would resemble our time in Greenland today.  We all arrive on the island with our fantasies and our dreams, but reality sometimes delivers something different from what we expected.

Did you want to get to the B-gates at Anchorage Int'l Airport yesterday? Good luck!  Lt. Governor Byron Mallot was holding court, and Team Alaska had a monopoly on floor space.
Our chartered 6-hour overnight Icelandair flight delivered us to Kangerlussuaq on time at around 6:30 this morning, and a six-hour time difference from our home in Alaska. But even before we left Anchorage, we’d heard rumors of inclement weather in Nuuk, causing delays and uncertainty about air travel into Greenland's capitol city. As soon as we got through security here, we were met by local volunteers who provided us with Danish military field rations (described to me by my new friend Mogens as “suitable to feed a Danish soldier for 24 hours under combat conditions”) and directed us to local military barracks, where we were invited to find a vacant room and a cot and set up camp until the weather in Nuuk allows us to continue our travel.

When I took this picture boarding our flight, Quincy told me this was like a photo her mom would take - embarrassing. And when I hear Quincy say that a photo is embarrassing, I know it needs to go on the internet.
Kangerlussuaq was built as an American Air Force base in 1941, and saw heavy use during the Cold War due to its strategic position in the north Atlantic. The base is now a primary resupply station for three scientific monitoring stations on the Greenland ice sheet.  It’s got an airstrip suitable for the very hugest of planes, so it’s an important point of entry into a country that doesn’t have a wealth of airstrips capable of handling large jets.  For example, Nuuk doesn’t have a runway long enough to handle a Boeing 757. That’s why our 757 dropped us off here instead. We’ll travel to Nuuk on smaller Greenlandair propeller planes. Kangerlussuaq has a lot of infrastructure.  But it doesn’t have many residents.  Everything in this military outpost is here because of the airport. If you’ve ever been to Cold Bay, Alaska, then you’ve been to a place that looks and feels very similar to Kangerlussuaq.

When we arrived in Kangerlussuaq today, we were told we’d fly south to Nuuk at 2:30pm.  But by mid-day, our flight time was delayed to 6:30pm. During late afternoon, we were told that due to continuing poor weather in Nuuk, our flight would instead be taking off at 10:30pm.  A couple hours ago, word came down the chain of command that our flight would now be at 2:30am.  But during dinner at the airport cafeteria this evening, I was discussing the situation with my new friend Mogens, the meteorologist for the Danish national weather service who does 3-month shifts here as Greenland’s weather forecaster.  When I told him we are scheduled to fly at 2:30am to Nuuk, his response was “Oh no, I’m sure you won’t fly tonight.  The weather in Nuuk won’t allow it. But it should improve overnight and you’ll probably fly tomorrow.”  He also mentioned that there are more flights arriving tonight to Kangerlussuaq, and they were probably going to start directing new arrivals to spend the night on various areas of floor around town. It made me grateful that we’d been the first flight to arrive, and had the opportunity to get dorm rooms with beds and bathrooms.

Icelandair might be my new second-favorite airline. I don't know any other airlines that feature Icelandic black metal music on their inflight entertainment systems. 
We’re now directing our team to stay loose, stay calm, stay relaxed, flexible, well-fed, well-hydrated, and to explore around town and enjoy the experience while we’re here.  When we get to Nuuk, things are probably going to happen fast.  We’ll want to be fresh and ready to race; not bedraggled and looking like something that the cat dragged in.

The big building on the right is the pre-fab barracks where our team is holed up.
We started this adventure with 24 skiers and three coaches. We haven’t lost anyone yet.  I’ve been seeing a lot of smiles around the team.  So far, so good…

The locals tell me this bridge washed out in 2013 when warm temperatures on the Greenland ice sheet caused an enormous snow and ice melt-off.
The view west from our lodging
We cruise around town on this bus that runs 24 hours/day for our convenience.
Mallory.  On the bus.
We have not gone bowling.  But if we did, I suppose this is where we'd go.
UAA Nordic Ski Team / Team Alaska AWG Blog Headquarters for the day.  Not too shabby.
Another team meeting
ps.  We just got word that our new scheduled departure time for Nuuk from Kangerlussuaq is 2:30pm tomorrow.... but we are advised to keep our ears open for updates and changes...

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