Day 11: Evighedsfjord, Greenland
Overnight we sailed into Evighedsfiord, Greenland, and awoke as the lifting fog slowly revealed majestic mountains, bird cliffs, and tidewater glaciers.
For hours, we explored newly calved icebergs beneath hundreds of Black Legged Kittiwakes nesting in the cliffs, watching in awe as a massive chunk of ice broke free of glacier, sending waves for us to surf out on. Alex P. Taylor brilliantly piloted his drone out over the glacier, capturing incredible footage, before we followed a small pod of humpback whales to Tasiusaq, a small bay perfect for workshops and qajaqing.
Up on the edge of a cliff overlooking the fjord, I taught a workshop on wilderness medicine, using student's stories as teachable moments to explore first principles of health and first aid on expedition. Below us, students paddled the bay in qajaqs and paddle boards, while others hiked into the mountains to pick berries and take it all in.
Afterwards, we gathered for a polar dip, with Tim Baker carrying Andrea Phillips into the water - their joy was contagious! I've loved sharing time with Andrea, who's been thriving and inspiring us every day, and am so thankful for the moments I've been able to steal making music with Tim.
After swimming, I hopped in a qajaq and shared a beautiful moment with Linda Kristiansen from Maniitoq + Nuuk. Linda shared that her mom was part of the revival of the Greenlandic qajaqing tradition, and that this was Linda's first time qajaqing. We were both glowing. What a welcome to Kalaallit Nunaat!
Day 12: Qeqertarsuaq, Greenland
Visiting our first community in Kalaallit Nunaat was my favourite day of the expedition so far.
I grabbed my cello at the last minute before jumping in the zodiac, and was surprised to find that a Greenlandic band had gathered just as last minute on shore. With big smiles, they invited Miki Jacobsen, Blake Russell, and I to join them, and we played together on the steps of the community’s museum, beside an arch of old whale bones. It was a perfect welcome, an exchange of living sound to accompany all the other connections we were making.
We spent the day exploring town, sharing workshops and visiting people in the community. Maatalii Aneraq Okalik connected with elders, and Aviaq Johnston hosted a session on Inuit legends, before we dispersed freely to play soccer, visit the community's museum, say hi to sled dogs in town, and explore the shores by qajaq.
My favourite moment was finding the frame of an old Greenlandic qajaq, hanging on weathered shed near the shore, it’s paddle still in the cockpit. I can’t stop thinking of this boat and our own qajaqs (crafted by Eric Mcnair-Landry and friends) as metaphors for circumpolar health.
Movement is vital to the human story. The Inuit odyssey across the Arctic just 1000 years ago is one our species' most amazing migration stories, a rapid expansion by qajaq and umiaq from the Russian Far East to eastern Greenland in just 200 years.
In many ways, the epidemiology of circumpolar health reflects a loss of control over movement: infectious diseases spread by overcrowding, chronic diseases secondary to newly sedentary lifestyles, and acute mental health crises linked to the intergenerational trauma of settlement and relocation.
The revitalization of Inuit qajaq traditions reflects a broader reclamation of Inuit self-determination, of control over the direction of cultural change and continuity in the North. When I see Inuit youth paddling in Eclipse Channel or Ramah on the Labrador coast, that’s part of what I see. That’s part of why it’s so beautiful to me.
This qajaq frame links our own qajaqs to Inuit migration stories, recent histories of settlement and relocation, and movements for Inuit self-determination and cultural revitalization. Paddling feels good; it’s a fast way to move our bodies to wildly beautiful places; and it’s one way the arc of history is bending towards justice and circumpolar health.
Stay tuned for more posts on Greenland to come.