April 15, 2010 Soft ice in Saattut - by Jan van den Berg

An evening in Saattut, a small settlement in North West Greenland. The heavy snow last night has made the ice even more unreliable than yesterday and it seems we’re unable to return to Uummannaq. Too much “soft ice”. Lars, a brave Danish never-no-fear guy who’s just back from Afghanistan, wants to go ahead alone and see if we can make it on our dog sledges. On his snow scooter it won’t take him more than an hour, he has told us. But after some hours there is still no news from Lars.


It had been a rather adventurous journey to the glacier from Uummannaq. The kids were wearing life jackets and I know how cold it is when you need them, having gone through the ice several times while skating in Holland. After every difficult passage Ole Jorgen told us that from then on we were safe. He had to repeat these reassuring words too many times but finally we’d made it to the much better “ancient ice” deeper in the fjord which is also a lot more bumpy sitting on a dog sledge.


We’d slept on the ice for one night, in tents made upon two dog sledges.  I shared one of the tents with Pipaluk, Viraj and Ole Jorgen, a very cold experience.  After I slid down from the sledge and got stuck on the ice for a while in my sleeping back between the tent and the sledge I decided to escape and make some shots of the silent camp in the morning light. The beautiful images warmed me up.


But we’d made it to the glacier, and shot images for the last part of the film. Old ice contains a lot of DDT and glacial melt water contaminates the arctic, which has, studies say, “compelling consequences” if global warming should continue and intensify. It’s just another reason to stop the production of DDT and other Persistent Organic Pollutants  immediately.


For Pipaluk it had been the most impressive day of filming for Silent Snow until now, she told me. And for Viraj it was even the best experience in his life, just unbelievable. I thought the same, but the best for me was to share these impressions with my friends and co-authors: Ole Jorgen, the most practical dreamer I know who had arranged it as always, Pipaluk, who with her careful attention for people always came up with the best questions, and Viraj devouring the images with his camera and making them into perfect shots for the film. I’m just itching to start editing all this beauty.


But after some hours there’s still no news from Lars, and we start to worry. We’re in the house of friends of Ole Jorgen and watch TV. We see a lookalike of Lars walking in Nuuk, the far away capital, more than thousand kilometers to the south. Someone makes a  joke, Lars has already made it to Nuuk, he says. Everybody laughs, as always in Greenland, they’re the most funny, kind and hospitable people in the world.


Finally there’s a call from Lars. He’d made many detours to find a safe way home, and went through the ice only once, the motor was already under water but he’d managed to start the engine and escape the cold waters of Uummannaq bay. There was absolutely no way for us to go back tonight. We all had to sleep on the floor in a small room, but nobody cared. We’re still full of these great images we had seen  and we knew that Ann would take care of a helicopter to rescue us some day


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Roelof Bos on 05-28-2010 15:50:
Sounds like a nice story Jan.

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