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Memorable Dogsled Trip to the Giant Glacier
Just as books
are dedicated to someone by the author, I am dedicating this web site to Itukusuk Kristiansen, an Inuit and Greenlander. He was the
son of Qavigarssuaq ("Big Eider Duck") who was a great hunter, and guide to
the Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen in the early part of this century. (See
"Visit to Moriusaq village and a great guide for early explorers" next chapter.)
Itukusuk was my guide and dog sled driver on a trip up Wolstenholme
Fjord to the glacier in the spring of 1968. He was gracious, attentive to
my needs, and had a great sense of humor. That was a trip I will never forget.
Not only was it a beautiful scenic trip, but also I experienced a profound awareness as I was
riding on his sled during the trip up the fjord. I was wearing my
state-of-the-art arctic clothing and was feeling pretty smug about how well
I was feeling in the sub zero weather. All of a sudden I realized that my
life depended on Itukusuk. Without him to bring me back, I could easily die
out there alone. I didn't have any of the keen wisdom and knowledge for
survival needed to last even a day, let alone a lifetime as he had. I have always looked
back on that moment with the greatest admiration for how well he lived his
life with good spirits and great skill in such an extreme environment.
As we approached to about half a mile from the glacier
face, the level fjord ice became buckled and broken. That is as far as we could
go because of the pressure ridges caused by the glacier pushing into the fjord ice.
While the dogs rested on the ice in the sun, Itukusuk immediately started
digging a small hole
in the ice with his large knife. This pit was made to hold the Primus
kerosene stove and a pot. The ice from the hole was cleverly cut to set on the sides of
the pit to shield the stove and pot from the wind.
It was easy to see by his efficiency and speed
that he had done this countless times on the trail.
After the pit was completed he went to a small iceberg and
brought back a chunk of crystal clear glacier ice.
Using his large knife, he chipped the ice into the trail-worn pan to melt and heat on
the Primus stove. In a few minutes Itukusuk served us hot coffee made from thousand year old glacier
ice! I fondly remember that hot coffee that Itukusuk served
there in the sun in Wolstenholme
Fjord as the most memorable drink I ever had.
Incidentally, glacier ice has air bubbles trapped
from the snow that has been compressed under terrific pressure. The pressure
has been measured up to thirty atmospheres. As the ice melts, the bubbles
often burst with explosive force. For special occasion parties on the base
we would go out to an iceberg and get ice with lots of air bubbles in it.
This exploding ice made exciting drinks at the parties!
showed us how he hunted using this blind that slid on soft noiseless runners
lined with fur. It was necessary to have a lot of patience, a steady hand
and a keen eye in order to make a kill from a long ways away.
After we drank our coffee and had a little rest, we took more pictures.
Itukusuk laughed easily and enjoyed clowning around with us, as we are doing
When it was time to depart, Itukusuk roused the dogs with his whip
and some hollering, and soon we headed back to the base. Like most young guys everywhere, he liked
to show off with his driving. He had a big laugh as he raced the dogs full
speed over a snow bank and off a ledge, shouting and cracking his whip as we were airborne
for a moment. I was hanging on with all my strength and laughing with Itukusuk. It was a great and exciting moment that two men could share, even though they did not speak each other's language.
it is with great pleasure and fond memories that I dedicate this web site
to Itukusuk Kristiansen. He touched my life only briefly but enriched it
forever. I have the greatest admiration and respect for him.
(UPDATE: This report received over the Internet May 2,1998 from Poul Alex Jensen, Manager
of Culture & Education in Qaanaaq
Kommunia (Municipality of Qaanaaq, Greenland)
Itukusuk died in the spring 1991. He was returning to Moriusaq from Dundas village
(near Thule Air Base). The weather was clear and his excellent dogs knew the well
traveled trail over the frozen smooth sea ice back home without his guidance. It appears
asleep on the sled and let the dogs run toward home.
But something went very wrong as he slept.
Perhaps it was a fox on the ice, or a bear, or the smell of seal in the water.
No one knows for sure what happened.
Two days later a search party found him and all
his dogs drown in the icy water at the edge of the sea ice where the sled and everything
had gone over the edge.
Rescuers said that his dogs were all tangled up in the lines and Itukusuk
appeared to be still sleeping peacefully on his sled.
I still have the miniture sled he is holding in this picture.
© 2007 Larry Rodrigues. All rights reserved.