GREENLAND 2002 - DISPATCH 4 Of Parks and Polar Bears

The NHN 2002 expedition is taking part in the largest nation park in the world, the Northeast Greenland National Park. The Danish government took the entire northeast quadrant of the island and drew a line around it to ensure its protection. Greenland reportedly has some of the most incredible mineral deposits to be found, and the logistics of the place have been the most formidable barrier to mass development.

To visit the park, government rules require expeditions to bring a working rifle in the event of a polar bear encounter. My Norwegian teammate on another expedition, Erling Kagge, was forced to shoot a bear on a 1992 trip to the north pole. As the bear charged his position, he methodically waited until it was less than 10 feet away then pulled the trigger.

It's unlikely that any bears will be wandering through the NHN as their main food sources, such as seal, are out on the coast. They do say that man's greatest fear is being eaten alive, however, none of the participants of our group has volunteered to carry the extra weight of the gun as we set-off on various explorations of the region. More than likely, it will remain in camp.

Our group is camped within a few hours ski of the icecap which covers 90% of the island.

The mighty fjords of northeast Greenland are only twenty five miles or so away, but it is a world away. Down inside the coastal fjords there are plants, berries, and wild animals such as caribou, fox, musk ox, arctic hare and of course bears. In the summer it is not a bad place to be with temperatures rising into the 70s F. Others felt the same way. There are traces of human habitation going back more than 1,500 years. It is not uncommon to find an 800 year old circle of stones, indicating a long abandoned traditional camp site. The national park also serves to record and protect these ancient finds.

It is another clear sunny day here in the NHN. Everyone is dragging a bit after the long day yesterday, but Paul, James and I are considering a ski to another rocky summit in the distance. Tomorrow will be another big day to a major summit, so we will keep things a bit quiet for now.

All the best from NHN. David Keaton


GREENLAND 2002 - Niels Holgersen Nunatakker Introduction