As my plane descends into Kangerlussuaq, Greenland’s largest international airport, I get my first sneak peak of the massive ice sheet that covers the island from head to toe.
Most of the town’s population of 500 works at the airport and Kangerlussuaq’s cluster of functional buildings sprawl close to the runway boundary fence. There is only one road out of town, built by Volkswagen for testing cars under extreme conditions and leading to the edge of the Ice Sheet. Reaching it after a 90-minute drive in a rugged four-wheel-drive truck, I find it is hard to grasp the scale of what I am looking at. It is a landscape of cliff face, broken rocks, valleys, frozen waterfalls and peaks – but all made from ice shining blue-white in the weak northern sun. It is truly desolate, ever changing and still marked “Unexplored” on maps.
This extraordinary cliff of blue ice is a last remnant of the ice sheet that covered the Earth during the Ice Age and is more than three-km high at its thickest. It contains ten percent of the world’s resources of fresh water and the best estimate is that it would raise global ocean levels by seven meters if it melted.
“There are few places like this left on earth,” says my friend Hans. “We are a short distance from an international airport and a small town, yet you could walk in there and never be seen again. It would be a waste of time to even try looking for you.”
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