31 August 2008


[NOTE: a vital part of the experience of being in greenland is a true disconnection from civilization...which is increasingly harder to come by anywhere on the planet. i did my best to embrace that distance while there, including writing the old fashioned way...and so i am transmitting out to the blogosphere now from the comfort and safety of my own digs in brooklyn.]


when i last sent word out from greenland, i was stationed at the only computer terminal in the qaqortoq public library, having just bade farewell to martin hebsgaard, the evolutionary biologist whom you might remember from my work with the siberian actinobacteria last summer. this was martin's second trip to greenland, and having learned quite a bit about ancient lichens out in the field last year, this time he was lending his expertise to group of archeologists studying norse ruins. the idea was to use data collected from the growth of slow-growing lichens to help date the archeological structures. lucky for me the dig sites weren't too far from where some of the oldest lichens live (rumored to be up to 5,000 years old), so martin suggested we meet up and go lichen hunting.

lichens, moss and liverwart

more on the lichens later, i promise.

when i arrived at siniffik/vandrehjem qaqortoq hostel (mercifully known as heidi's - greenlandic is practically impenetrable if you weren't born into it), martin was already there. a few of the archeologists had joined him from out at the dig site in order to come in for a hot shower and buy groceries for the week. they were roughing it out there, and if you ran out of food, well, you could always go fishing. qoqartoq, home to around 3,200 people, is the largest town in southern greenland and is a veritable booming metropolis compared even to its nearest runner up.

house, qoqartoq

though a little delirious from all that travel, i was happy to be there and take in the town. the brightly colored buildings hinted at the need to break up a monotone landscape most other months of the year. but it was august and wild daisies and poppies were in their last fits of bloom. short if steep hikes out of town yielded blankets of mosses and lichens, edible flowers and dwarf berry bearing shrubs, punctuated by the occasional succulent, orchid, and carnivorous plant. the surrounding waters looked as inviting as the caribbean, but the occasional iceberg making its way down the jagged fjords told a different story.

06 August 2008


looking back at the blog it looks like i neglected to record the rest of my journey in chile down to patagonia and the alerce trees. guess that will have to wait as now i'm up at just about the opposite end of the earth.

aug 1 + 2

it wasn't easy, but i made it to greenland. first was a flight from JFK to rekyavik, iceland. we taxied on the runway for an extra hour, which made me very nerouvs about catching my connecting flight to greenland with less than two hours in between, and at another airport no less. luckily i convinced the airline to seat me right by the door, and i was the first out, running down the jetway, chugging the water in my sigg bottle at security as they scanned us all yet again on the way out, and finally out to the taxi i had arranged while still back at home. we sped away from keflavik to the regional airport, where i arrived 130 USD lighter and just in time to stand in line amidst a spanish tour group for our delayed flight. from there is was off to narsarsuaq. the views flying in were breathtaking, even if i was a bit delirious into my second day of travel. we arrived in town, which is little more than the runway and a youth hostel. my helicopter flight (the final leg of this part of the journey) wasn't scheduled until 6 that evening, and it was only a little after 10 in the morning. i asked, just in case, if their was space on an earlier one, and luckily a spot had opened up on the 11 am. so i was off to qaqortoq, my final destination of the day. the 20 minute trip was my first time in a helicopter, and both the mode of travel and the scenery were thrilling.

icebergs as seen from the helicopter

aug 6

it's now the 6th of august and i've had several days filled with rigorous hikes and lots of ancient lichens. the landscape is like walking in a field guide to arctic flora. it's cold and drizzly and a few icebergs are floating out in harbor. but now i'm about to take a boat out to the camp site at sodre igaliku where a group of archeologists (from Copenhagen and CUNY, of all places) have been studying norse ruins. i'll have to fill in the details of the last few days and the adventures of the week to come upon my return to civilization...