Getting to the west coast of Greenland is a three-day process that takes us first to Copenhagen, (Denmark), then half-way across the Atlantic to Kangerlussuaq (Greenland) – a former US airbase that’s now become one of Greenland’s major airport hubs. We strike lucky and arrive into Copenhagen on one of the hottest days of the year, giving us a welcome, sun-drenched start to our trip. Acutely aware this may be our last dose of warm weather for the next few weeks, we investigate the nearby beach just north of the airport.
The next morning, a 5.30am start kicks off our onward journey to Greenland, a 4.5 hour journey that will eventually take us 15° further north and around 20 °C cooler. Our huge Greenland Air Airbus looks completely out of place as it comes into land at the Kangerlussuaq airstrip, flanked on each side by steep cliffs of Precambrian gneiss and the enormity of the Greenland ice cap.
With over three hours to kill before our final connecting flight to Ilulissat further up the Greenlandic coast, we get acclimatised to our new northerly climes.
Onwards to Ilulissat and Disko Island
After kicking our heels at Kangerlussuaq airport, we clamber into a significantly smaller plane that will take us 40 minutes up the coast to Ilulissat – our last major stop before Disko. As we leave the airport behind, it suddenly begins to feel a lot more ‘arctic’ as the landscape unfolds to give us views of glacial rivers and rocky coastlines.
The final stretch of our journey is by far the most exciting, and takes us truly into arctic territory. Another 5.30am start and we find ourselves on a boat in Ilulissat harbour, ready for a 4.5 hour crossing across Disko Bay towards our final destination: Disko Island itself. The area is a UNESCO world heritage site, and is famous for its multitude of icebergs that broken off from Greenland’s fastest flowing glacier nearby.
Disko Bay does not disappoint. Icebergs everywhere! As we sail further out into the bay the icebergs get bigger and bigger, giving us a perfect welcome to Disko Island. We all pretty much stay on deck the entire journey, the novelty of the icebergs not once wearing off.
Finally, three days and four separate journeys later, we arrive at Arctic Station on Disko Island. The sun is shining, and we are met by Ole, the station manager who gets us settled into our new home, from taking us to the supermarket for groceries (musk-ox mince, whale burgers, and local fish steaks…) to showing us his impressive rock collection. It also turns out Ole used to work at the Carnegie Institute (where the DCO, who is funding this expedition, is headquartered, and where team-member Sami Mikhail is currently based) – small world! We get unpacked, and go for our first explore on the island that will soon become a focus for deep carbon research.