With Anna away I've been staying busy with field work in Kobbefjord, but I did manage a day hike to the top of Sermitsiaq yesterday. Sermitsiaq is the iconic peak (also its own island) near Nuuk with a craggy 1200 meter summit visible from most places in town. It's also the name of the local newspaper, and many other community themed events. We had superb weather, especially considering Nuuk was shrouded in fog most of the day. Here are some photos from the hike:
If you missed the first of this three part series on Qoornoq, you can read it here: Qoornoq Part 1: The Open Boat.
Qoornoq Part 2: The Open Wound
Saturday we woke up and quickly got on task hunting for some nice bouldering problems. We didn't find much and spent the first couple hours on a fun low angle traverse fairly close to camp-- great for the beginners in the group (including yours truly). We then moved on to some more challenging problems of the overhanging variety that soon had me exhausted and napping in the sun.
Just before lunch, we split up to look for more boulders and agreed to meet up at camp shortly. Ken headed off across the river, Tina and I stayed together, and Thomas and Naajaraq headed closer to camp. About 20 minutes later, as Tina and I finished up, Najaaraq came sprinting uphill towards us, shouted something, and Tina took off after her. All of this was in Danish so I imagined a whole scenario of possibilities in the two minutes it took us to reach Thomas. We had discussed the movie "127 Hours" at length the night before and I just hoped we would get to him before he gnawed off his own arm.
We came around the corner and there lay our valiant leader, holding his leg and muttering obscenities. Tina, who is a midwife at the hospital, took charge. Unfortunately, Thomas was not having a baby, but she still was the best-trained among us to take his hand away from his leg and examine the five inch long, inch (or more) deep cut running alongside his shin. Apparently he had swung his leg into the WRONG razor sharp rock while down-climbing a few minutes earlier--not that sensational of an accident, but a definite bummer, and a painful and potentially hazardous one at that.
With my years of veterninary technician experience, my first instinct before doing anything was to look for some clippers to shave the hair away from the site of the injury and bandage his hands to keep him from scratching the wound, but I kept my mouth shut and let the trained medical professional do her job. As Tina kept pressure on the wound and I picked mosquitos from her face, we determined that the wound needed a good cleaning, stitches, and some antibiotics, none of which we were really equipped to provide (although to Tina's credit, she offered to do some stitches.)
And so, we sent Najaaraq, the only local in our group, as a runner to Qoornoq (about 3 km away) to look for help. As she took off running we wondered if the tide was low enough for her to make it to the island. For some reason I kept thinking of the first brother from the children's book "The Five Chinese Brothers" (now poorly regarded for promoting ethnic stereotypes, but still a classic), whose special skill is that he can swallow the sea while his brothers gather fish from the ocean floor.
Luckily, the first chinese brother (or at least the tidetable) was indeed on our side because within an hour, Najaaraq returned to the beach with a nurse and her husband in a small inflatable boat with an outboard motor. The nurse was in fact Thomas' girlfriend's boss-- small world here in Nuuk. She carried a very serious looking orange medical case and I braced myself for a real live wilderness medicine situation. Much to my disappointment (and even more to Thomas'), she did not have any anesthetic and decided it would be best to take Thomas back to town and put him on a boat to Nuuk.
After sending Thomas off we immediately decided to head into town for the Mayoral Election festivities and didn't bring up bouldering again until the next afternoon. Thomas was stitched up and on painkillers by 8:00 that evening. All in all, a wonderful ending to a potentially bad situation.
Below, some pics of Qoornoq town and the party-goers.
We caught the tail end of a performance by one of the oldest and most famous bands in Greenland (I forget their name). They played covers and Greenlandic classics, and were pretty good. Here, a short clip. Note the drummer on box with wooden spoon.
Stay tuned for the last in this three part series, Qoornoq Part 3: The Open Faced Sandwich. Less drama, but overall more excitement, as I'll be exploring a brave new world of condiments.
This past weekend Ken and I took a trip to beautiful Qoornoq (pronounced "core-knock", roughly), a settlement in the Nuuk fjord system. We went with some members of the local climbing club, technically calling it a bouldering trip, although it was as much to boulder as it was to hang out, camp, and enjoy the balmy (sunny and 55° F/13° C!) weather. In addition to whales, icebergs, and 5000 ft (~1500 m) peaks, the weekend was full of excitement, a bit of danger, and a lot of great condiments. I'll be writing about it in three separate posts: "The Open Boat", "The Open Wound", and "The Open Faced Sandwich."
Part 1: The Open Boat
Qoornoq is an abandoned fishing village about an hour and half's boat ride from Nuuk. It sits on a tiny island adjacent to a much larger island in the Nuuk fjord system (you can walk between the two islands, but only at low tide.) Qoornoq was a thriving fishing village back in the 1960s and 1970s, but the fishery has since dried up and now there are only a handful of well-maintained summer homes there, as well as an old fish-drying factory and a beautifully restored church. Every summer there is also a "mayoral election", obviously a bit of joke given the lack of permanent residents, but a great excuse for a beach party/barbecue. We were lucky enough to be in Qoornoq for this event as well.
You can zoom around the above map to get an idea of where Qoornoq is, but for better context, I suggest you download the Google Earth tour I made (below). If you don't know how to use Google Earth, you should. You can download it for free here.
Room for 5 more? Sure, we have extra space because there's no life jackets!
We had a bit of trouble finding a boat to take us out to Qoornoq, but at the last minute the trip organizer found a friend who agreed to take us. We received an email-- "I've secured a boat--it's an open boat, so dress warm!". I thought this meant to wear an extra sweater; luckily, I found out that it meant to wear snow bibs, a couple of coats, hat, gloves, and a waterproof shell.
So, around 9 pm on a gloomy Friday evening, a man named "Jon" showed up in a small skiff to pick us up and take us on the hour and a half trip into the fjord. Jon didn't say much, and the whole affair seemed a bit mysterious, but he got serious for about 30 seconds before we boarded the boat. After the first few words out of his mouth, he had my rapt attention:
"There are no life preservers on this boat. If we hit a whale, or something like that, and tip over, STAY WITH THE BOAT. It has a double hull, so it can't sink. Climb on top of it. DON'T LEAVE THE BOAT. Press this red button" (pointing to the S.O.S. button on his Spot rescue device) "and an SMS should go to my friend that we're in trouble. And then he'll come for us. I hope. DON'T LEAVE THE BOAT."
Got it. Don't leave the boat when we tip over. We were a total of 7 passengers with camping gear, food, and beer; the boat had an 800 kg (~1700 lb) weight limit. You do the math. With choppy seas and ominous skies, I had an uneasy feeling about the whole thing, but everyone else seemed in high spirits. Huh. I got on board and thought about my mother for a minute.
Interestingly, I've never had anyone tell me where the life jackets are on any of the boats I've been on since coming to Nuuk. I'm not sure if this is due to a certain nonchalance that develops in a seafaring culture, or if it's just because the water is so cold here that a life jacket won't do much good if the boat goes down. We've heard people say, "If you're not out of the water in two minutes, you're dead". Noted.
Love the captain's expression-- what is he thinking about??
Anyway, my pulse quieted as I realized this was not such a Big Deal. The boat handled well even if it was a bit cold and bumpy (Ken and I had unwisely agreed to sit in the front-- little did I know this would feel like sitting in the back seat of a school bus and going over a speed bump every 2-3 seconds.)
Within 20 minutes of leaving Nuuk we had seen a humpback whale surface a few times-- my first whale sighting in Nuuk-- and the excitement over this further assuaged my general angst about the trip. I did, however, spend the next hour clinging tightly to a rope in the front of the boat, because I was still scared on a more localized level that each passing wave (and its subsequent bump) would fling me into the sea.
Requisite iceberg photo. Not exactly the venue for glamor shots.
Soon we began encountering more and more icebergs; Qoornoq is relatively close to a massive glacier pouring off of the ice cap. No one seemed excited about the 'bergs except me, and I demanded Ken take some photos of me. Icebergs really are beautiful things... most of them, anyway. Some are actually quite dirty and look like hunks of snow in a Chicago parking lot. These ones never seem to be photographed.
Just before reaching Qoornoq proper, Jon dropped us off near our campsite (on the main island about 2-3 km from the actual Qoornoq mini-island) with a promise to return for us on Sunday. "Really? That's it?" I wondered. But I suppose one doesn't just forget these sorts of things.
Bedtime in our miniature tent on the tundra.
On shore, we made camp, collected driftwood, and enjoyed a fire and some stream-chilled beers under the lingering arctic sunset.
Before we knew it, it was morning. Here, sunset bleeds into the sunrise, with colors that stretch across the sky for hours with no real night in between. It's surreal to realize that sunrise has circled back on the sunset without you even noticing. And although most claim to love it, it makes me feel a little cheated. Where did my night time go? When am I supposed to sleep? In this situation I feel a small small sense of betrayal; others, mania.
Regardless, when the birds start chirping, you know it's time to go to bed--at which point it's also a good idea to blindfold yourself with something so you can get some sleep.
Up next: Injury in the wilds of Greenland in Qoornoq Part 2: The Open Wound.