Our Man in Greenland: O Winter, Where Art Thou?
Explorer and documentarian Mikael Stranberg packed up his family to live in a remote community in Greenland for a year. Here’s his latest.
For more than 30 years, Mikael Strandberg has parlayed a natural rootlessness and a consuming curiosity with human nature into a career as one of the world’s most unconventional explorers and filmmakers. Director of six documentaries, including 2016’s Man With a Pram – an eye-opening 466-mile journey across post-Brexit Britain in which he walked from one of Manchester’s poorest suburbs to the steps of Buckingham Palace while pushing his two-year-old daughter in a stroller – and a fellow of The Explorers Club, the Royal Geographical Society, and other distinguished organizations, Strandberg is no stranger to going where others don’t or won’t. Here’s his latest communique from Greenland:
Christmas has come and gone, but there was hardly any snow for Santa to land with his reindeers on. (Or arrive by dogsled as the locals do.) Right now, there’s just a couple of degrees below zero Celsius and a light wind. Yesterday, I did a trail run on the Nussuaq peninsula, my first in over a month. It was icy but didn’t encounter any major problems. Great views as usual, but the first thought we get here, of course, is: “Is this warmth part of global warming, or a local one?”
Nobody is denying there’s a constant warming and many changes. When I first arrived, I had a feeling the local view of climate change would differ to the global one, but I haven’t met one denier yet. On the contrary; everyone I talked to about the subject points out the quick and dramatic changes in their lives and the surroundings. Most of all for the fisherman, who suddenly have large quantities of cod arriving. This is great for them because cod is hard for the big trawlers to catch, but the Greenlandic halibut are heading north. Quite a dramatic change. And those who have dogs are worried because many in the Disko Bay area have had to put their dogs down due to the arrival of cheaper snowmobiles, plus the lack of sea ice.
There’s no doubt that the lack of snow makes the surroundings even darker and sadder. I know quite a few who find it hard to get up every morning and feel a deep depression. And it does take some time to adapt to this “eternal” darkness. But as a whole, I have to say the family is handling it quite well. For us, since it is our first year, it is exciting and fun. We spend as much time outdoors as possible, whether there’s light or not. Life is also way more laidback, which is hard for me to adjust to since I have to do a million things all the time. But I am beginning to like it.
The advantage of a warmer climate is that the oil and electricity bills are lower than expected. The great news: thanks to a certain local lad named Knud, we have flat-rate Internet with no limits and good speed, which I find extraordinary considering the isolation, geography and our situation!