As Swenson’s Greenland adventure continues, she encounters wild muskox and treks across ice cap

Sabrina came across these small lakes that formed due to the strong sun melting the surface ice during the day.

(Editor’s Note: Sabrina Swenson, a 1986 graduate of Postville High School, is the daughter of Erma Swenson and the late Marlin Swenson. A world traveler, Sabrina is sharing her experiences in Greenland. Printed below is the second of a three-part series.)

The following morning I boarded Air Greenland for a 45 minute flight South to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland’s main air transport hub and the site of the largest commercial airport in Greenland. Kangerlussuaq was founded in 1941 by the U.S. Army Air Forces following the fall of Denmark to Germany in WWII. The U.S. forces assumed security for Greenland. The base briefly came under Danish control in 1950, but following concerns about the Cold War, a new agreement had the U.S. open the base in 1951. Around 1992 the last U.S. Air Force personnel left Kangerlussuaq as the usefulness of the base had greatly diminished at that point. A small village, with a population of approximately 500, it is almost entirely reliant on the airport and tourism. I found another rustic hostel and dropped my bag. I then found a guide and went on a ride looking for the muskox which live in the wild near Kangerlussuaq. My driver started by driving me around town where I saw numerous buildings built by the U.S. military during WWII still standing. Still in fairly good condition after all these years, locals simply turned these buildings into something they could use.

After spinning around town, we headed into the countryside. It wasn’t long before we found one of the huge beasts grazing on the local shrub, Arctic Willow. The muskox are massive and can charge. As a result, we didn’t get too close with the vehicle. We watched it eat and I marveled at it’s massiveness. The thick shaggy-haired animal weighs on average 630 pounds for an adult. It’s twisted horns had one broke off, most likely from a fight. It was spooked at one point and ran into thicker Arctic Willow. In spite of it’s massive girth, it can reach up to 37 m.p.h. We eventually rode on and although didn’t see any more muskox, we took in some sweeping views of the town below and the beautiful natural scenery which surrounds it. I headed back to my hostel and went to bed early. Since it was July, the midnight sun was in full force and sleep was difficult. My hostel in Ilulissat had black-out curtains, so I was able to sleep easily, however, this hostel did not. The thin, light-colored curtains were no match for the bright sun and so I tossed and turned all night.

The next morning I had breakfast and then headed to the meeting point for the highlight of my trip; a trek and camp on the ice cap! There were nine of us plus a guide. After the meet and briefing, we were on our way to the immense ice cap in a huge bus. We stopped along the hour and a half drive and spotted a reindeer and many sweeping landscapes. We continued on the increasingly worse roads until we arrived at the start of the trek. We got out and unloaded the gear which included food, tents, sleeping bags, etc. The Greenland ice sheet is a vast body of ice covering 660,000 square miles. It lay out in front of us as a huge swath of white. Since we were on slightly higher terrain, we could see it lay below us immense and foreboding.

Read the full article in the November 8 edition of the Postville Herald.