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Summer in Greenland. By Geoff Murray

September 22, 2021

Boat houses in Greenland. By Geoff Murray

Mont gear has been keeping me safe and comfortable through the years not just in Australia, but overseas as well.

I have been fortunate to have visited Greenland 4 times and sea kayaked almost 1,000 km alongside its stunning coastline. It is a fascinating place that gets into your blood and demands a return.

Iceberg in Greenland by Geoff Murray

The east coast in particular is wild, raw and remote. On my last trip there our group reached the remains of the 1930’s basecamp of explorer Gino Watkins who was contracted by the airline BOAC to research the feasibility of commercial transatlantic flights. Unfortunately, Watkins died when hunting seals alone from his skin-on-frame kayak within the first couple of days of arrival at the camp location. His second in command, Australian John Rymill took over the running of the expedition which was successfully completed.

Iceberg in Greenland, by Geoff Murray

We were the 4th kayak group in the last 84 years to visit that camp. On that 2 week trip, our sole contact with other people was one Inuit powerboat that passed by our group. The Inuit rarely venture that far from their settlements.

The weather in Greenland in summer can be surprisingly pleasant, with daytime temperatures up to 10-12 degrees (but usually 5 or 6 degrees) and blue skies with light winds. But it can also be unpredictably ferocious with two winds, in particular, being very destructive The Piteraq is a violent katabatic wind that normally occurs in Autumn and Winter. Normal Piteraq wind speeds range from 100 to 160kph but on February 6th, 1970 Tasiilaq was hit by a Piteraq that registered 325kph before the wind instrumentation departed…..The town was utterly destroyed and required rebuilding from the ground up. Tasiilaq has a Piteraq warning system that was put in place after that event.

Moonlit glacier in Greenland by Geoff Murray

The other wind is the Negajaq which is a northeasterly coastal wind that is often accompanied by heavy rain and snow. Not as violent as the Piteraq, it can still make life fairly unpleasant.

Another factor when travelling through this beautiful country is the presence of polar bears. In earlier times, there has been virtually no interaction between bears and humans in summer but over the last few years through climate change, there have been several instances with camps wrecked, and summer sightings but fortunately no injuries. But it is always on your mind, particularly during a solo expedition that I completed. I had a bear swimming towards me on one occasion which made for some remarkably strong paddling in the opposite direction!

Mont Epoch tent in Greenland  by Geoff Murray

On my first visit to Greenland, I used a Mont Moondance EX tent, my shelter on subsequent trips was an Epoch tent, about as bombproof as they come (but not bear-proof….).

I had the superb Icicle down jacket with me for warmth as well as a Spindrift sleeping bag. It’s always nice to be tucked up warm in a solid tent when the weather is raging outside.

Sea kayaking in Greenland by Geoff Murray

Something that’s guaranteed to increase the heart rate is when you are asleep in your tent and you wake to the sound of the bear alarm. On my last trip, we had two firearms in the group. I had one of them. It’s amazing how long it seems to take to get the sleeping bag zip and the two tent zips undone before exiting to see why the alarm went off. Fortunately, on that trip, we had 3 false alarms caused by arctic foxes and another false alarm when a wave from a collapsing iceberg a couple of kilometres away hit the trip line. The one time we didn’t set the trip line up because the location was “safe” we had a bear walk past in the middle of the night. Lucky for us, it wasn’t hungry :)

Not your average tent setup. The rifle was a last resort defense against bear attack and no bears were shot or shot at during these expeditions.

Not your average tent setup. The rifle was a last resort defense against bear attack and no bears were shot or shot at during these expeditions.

Geoff Murray
Mont Ambassador

Geoff Murray admiring icebergs in Greenland by Geoff Murray

Boat house in Greenland  by Geoff Murray
Icebergs in Greenland  by Geoff Murray
Icebergs in Greenland by Geoff Murray

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