Monday, 23 February 2009

Just touching down at Kangerlussuaq

I wasn't going to stay. I was just passing through. I was on my way to Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, but it is not possible to fly directly to the capital, because the airstrip there is not large enough to accommodate jumbo jets on international flights. But the airstrip at Kangerlussuaq is, because the place was built as a US military base with an eye to catering for the supersized might of Uncle Sam.

And yet, it was to be my first moments on Greenlandic soil (or tarmac, to be more precise). After shooting enough aerial footage on the descent to mount an exhibition (there, I'd justified my trip already, I could relax [!]), the excitement levels were soaring way out of control, the closer we got to terra firma. And then we landed.

Hmm. The equipment on the ground looked much like any other airport round the globe, if the operators were definitely Greenlandic.

And those hills rising up along the valley - they could be anywhere in the north Atlantic, say... Scotland, where I'd been so many times? I had come to earth with a bump. Still, the airport was as tiny as any remote airport could be expected to be; and I had the duty free to negotiate.

The latter turned out to be far more arduous than customs and immigration (an empty desk). Having ascertained that my luggage was transferring from jumbo to Dash-7 of its own accord, I drew myself up and plunged into the scrum that was the duty free. Even with two tills working at full speed, it seemed to take forever until I could emerge, clutching my bottle of (relatively) cheap white in its peculiar string vest: a Scandi-invention that I realised provided grip when pouring while simultaneously preventing clinking in the shopping sack (should I have been so pecunious as to purchase more than one bottle).

Boarding the Dash-7 I thought again how handsome the Air Greenland fleet was, with its glossy candy-apple-red planes with the white abstract snowflake logo. Inside the single aisle terminated abruptly in a beige wall fronted by a row of seats facing away from the direction of travel. I figured that nobody would want to sit there, so I found a window seat opposite these but facing the correct way for my purposes. And I had plenty of room to open my day rucksack and pull out the first two cameras. The man next to me was lost in reading the paper (bilingual Danish and Greenlandic) and paid little attention to me, or, once we took off, the spectacular scenery. Which was just as well, because after a cursory look at the safety card (complete with nonverbal instructions on how to survive turning into an iceberg) I was glued to the window. My first journey with turbo props!

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