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9 September 2014

Further And Further - Part 2

We had to come ashore for 12 of the 36 hours because of high winds and rough seas. We slept only two hours; talked and ate the rest of the time, knowing that such winds usually drop in the early hours of the morning. I went for a walk and came across the entrance to an ancient winter dwelling. A fox-eaten dead snowy owl was close by. The pillared entrance was collapsed and the turf roof was thick. What exists inside of those who lived here hundreds of years ago can only be wondered. I know of other dwellings, of graves, burial sites including a kayak but their locations will also remain respectfully secret.


This summer has seen the biggest number of privately-owned boats visiting Ittoqqortoormiit. The general feeling about this locally is not good. There have been disturbing reports of thefts from locals' cabins, floating garbage, illegal hunting, profiteers selling drugs, illegal importing of alcohol, the unlawful capture of live birds of prey, and the ransacking of ancient burial sites and dwellings. The list goes on.

There also seems to be more unscrupulous outfitters turning up here operating beyond their capabilities and getting into trouble with conditions because of their unsafe practices and ignorance. These same people have been going around trying to find out where to fish, where to find animals to hunt and where to find sites of historical value. If this wasn't enough, these visits don't generate any income for the local economy; they just take, take, take. Something will have to be done.

At 4 a.m. we were on the water again and finished what we had to do without further delay before heading safely for home. Many, many moons ago deep inside one of the dark sweaty jungles of Belize a Gurkha friend of mine taught me to always thank the place I had slept the night. I've since always done this. A couple of years ago a Greenlandic friend taught me that if there is no alternative but to pass by an iceberg at close quarters thank it for letting you pass. I do not do well on water and can suffer from diabolical seasickness. Whether I'm alone or not Jennifer’s voice is always with me when times are good and when they are not out come her mantras. Mantras bring into perspective why difficult tasks have to be done. A Jennifer favourite is, "...for the boys (my dogs)". The seasickness nausea was made less so by thinking, you're doing it for the boys, you're doing it for the boys. Over and over.

During both the inward and outward depot voyages memories rolled over me about all the Greenland adventures I’ve been through with my dogs. What we left behind in the depots was more than food and fuel: new sea ice was forming, soon to be thick and hard for me and the boys to run over.

Once home I handed Jennifer a few pristine white snowy owl feathers and said quietly that I am not so worried. The depots in the wilderness are being safely looked after by the spirits of those still living in an ancient winter dwelling.

And for those (living or dead) who leave hard work and possessions behind trusting others to leave well alone, fear not. The spirits of the icebergs, the wind and the cold will launch retribution on those who steal or interfere with what does not belong to them. Those doing wrong will be seen and they will be cursed.

For more about Gary and his dogs go to www.garyrolfe.com