Friday, December 18, 2009

I'm going to Greenland.

Okay not really. The other day after work I spent about 6 hours looking at Greenland on Google Earth. Now I want to quit my job and go wander the frozen wilderness for a year. I started in Nuuk, which looks like a decent place but somehow stuck between trying to be a normal Danish town and a suburb of a city run by clowns. It's the biggest city in Greenland, but apparently the airport there is useless, so all major air traffic comes in through Kangerlussuaq, which is a tiny little place far to the northeast of Nuuk with a population of 500. I would guess approximately 490 of them are boat drivers (to Nuuk), 9 of them are cooks or hotel owners and 1 of them is a bum. That's the worldwide ratio of normal people to bums, right? 499 to 1?

I found Kangerlussuaq by accident--in fact, all of my Greenland discoveries were accidents which I happened across by mindlessly clicking my way north for several hours--and when I found it I was delighted to discover that even in Greenland tourists are under the impression that they are the first and only people to discover a touristy gimmick. As far as I can tell, there's only one touristy gimmick in all of Greenland and Google Earth has about nine thousand photos of it. So if you've penciled in time on your schedule to click through photos of Kangerlussuaq, be warned that as you search for more interesting photos of what is essentially the only viable commerical airport which also happens to be a town on the world's only subcontinent with an icesheet the size of Mexico, you're going to see a lot of one thing. Here, I'll save you the trouble:

Every other photo anyone has taken of Kangerlussuaq is either that signpost or some part of a red plane with white polka-dots (Air Greenland, go figure).

As I made my way north along the western coast up to the icesheet, I had to keep zooming in and out because certain photo icons won't appear if you're not close enough to the surface, but being close to the surface means you move slower, so it was this tug of war between wanting to see as many photos as possible while also not wanting to spend the remainder of the year squinting at blurry, green-brown satellite imagery. After I tired of Kangerlkajsdlka, I began viewing photos people had taken of the surrounding area. They were absolutely gorgeous. I picked up the trail of some guy called "marcus_weidler" who was headed west with a companion or two, along what looked like a general route some other people also take (give or take 50 miles of latitude), and some of the pictures blew me away. This is virtually untouched, untapped wilderness for hundreds of miles with vast canyons and huge mountains and beautiful, clear blue lakes. Truly epic. Going there right now might be a mistake since it's -600 degrees, but I'd love to someday.

About the clown comment, I found that virtually every settlement in the country was full of brightly colored houses, red, blue, green, etc. I decided they painted them those colors because when you live in the freaking Arctic, bull crap if you're gonna let anyone tell you you can't paint your house a garish shade of yellow simply because you freaking feel like it. When it's cold enough outside to freeze piss every day of the year, you're gonna paint your house any damn color you want, and if we're being honest, deep down everyone wants to live in a yellow house. I know I do.

(marcus_weidler's awesome photos, my favorites around pages 15-17)

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