Memories of Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland)

Come next month, it will be 14 years since I first traveled to Greenland, perhaps my favorite destination I have ever been lucky to enjoy. (A summary of my first two visits can be found on my web site here.) I actually visited Greenland on three occasions, last during the late spring/early summer of 2000. That was an incredible trip. I visited with my Greenlandic friends in several communities, including one of the world’s most remote and northernmost cities, Uummannaq (see the rocky island photo below).

This small sample of my images also include young residents of Sisimiut, the second largest Greenlandic city, and on Ericsfjord, in the small community of Qassiarsuk, across the fjord from the small hub city of Narsasuaq, where visitors can land and explore the country’s rich Inuit and Norse cultural traditions. There’s nothing quite like the light, cleanliness, and wide-openness of Greenland, nor the friendliness of its residents.

Arriving at night by ferry at Uummannaq, west coast of Greenland
Young men at fishing camp, near Sisimiut, Greenland
Ericsfjord from Qassiarsuk, Greenland

A howl is definitely more than we “clever” humans think

On my Facebook page earlier this winter, I shared two video clips that were remarkable to me and remarkably similar. One showed a malamute howling lovingly next to a crying infant, and it stopped both its fussing and crying. Another showed a Siberian husky doing the same thing to a crying baby. I just saw a “Discovery News” YouTube piece attempting to explain away the significance of the inter-species activity and give less value to the meaning of the howl.

I have experienced howling up close in Alaska, by both sled dog mutts in the hundreds and wolves that I came feet from touching. I know the howl very well. There is an intensity to the howl that I cannot fully explain. It’s a very soul-satisfying sound that speaks to something primal inside of me at least. Even though I was close to the wolf, I never felt threatened. The wolf was speaking to its pack (the wolf was actually trying to kill the two dogs I was with, not to harm me and my three running friends). Anyway, I think that dogs and humans have spent thousands of years together now, particularly in a very co-dependent evolutionary way in the Arctic, from Greenland to North America to Siberia to the Lapland/Sweden/Norway. There is a reason why the two species collaborated to survive this brutal climate together. It was mutually advantageous. One could not survive well without the other. That is very clear.

I believe there is something very deep taking place when these dogs howl in these two videos. It’s the howl of a dog taking care of the pack, and the most vulnerable member of the pack. I would also like to see evidence offering something that meaningfully rebuts that theory. And here’s one of my photos from Greenland of a sledge dog (what they call dogs there). I took it in 1998. I love Greenlandic dogs. Very wolflike critters, indeed.