Wednesday, 30 June 2010
I've just got home from Greenland.
There will be photos soon, I promise - we took more photos than you could ever have time to look at, so it will take me a while to pick out the best ones. But much of what really stands out in my memory isn't visual but aural, particularly in Ilulissat, the first town where we stayed.
A loud crack, sounding like a gunshot, made me jump the first time I heard it. Hunters in Greenland do shoot, and oh, it sounded close. My heart started beating just a little bit faster.
Remember we were sleeping under canvas much of the time; sounds reached us loudly and clearly.
It wasn't long before I realised what I was hearing: not a gun, but the cracking of ice. Even a small piece of ice falling onto the frozen surface of the icefiord would create a significant noise, amplified as it echoed in the mountains. Icebergs turning in the sea made a similar sound. Hundreds of miles above the arctic circle, this became a constant soundtrack to our lives.
I was also haunted by the howling of Ilulissat's 3,500 sled dogs - who deserve a post all to themselves, especially the adorable puppy-huskies. In the summer heat (yes, it was hot some days) they were clearly uncomfortable and sleepy, feeling out of place, longing for the snow.
Finally (for now) a man-made kind of sound: apparently, headphones haven't reached Greenland, or are certainly not popular. Day or night, you would often come upon someone with an MP3 player or stereo playing - quietly but clearly - in the street. And on the bus. And in the ferry. Private music seems not to be a concept; if you're listening, you share. Just one modern-day example of the communality of Inuit culture, which I've read so much about lately.