Flights, Plights, and Ancient Arctic Sights

Ho, dear followers of mine blog.

Here we are. You, reading this. Me… sitting in the casita in Greenland where we’re cooking and sleeping and eating food, listening to the washing machine go, and feeling weak.

This is good practice for me, I am sure. Very character building, to constantly run up against your own limitations. After my recent excellent surgery, I’ve been having lots of fun doing things, like getting tired and sitting around in interesting places with other humans. The other people do cool things, and I do stuff like… take naps.

Ok and find the IAT in Greenland, I guess I accidentally did that, too.

I have moved.

Now I’m sitting in the small Narsarsuaq town hall, complete with a bar, a stage with a full drum set, and lots of space for Windsled assembly. The first Windsled was designed in 2000, and the entire thing is based on Inuit sled design. Originally, Ramon and his compatriots meant to build it using modern materials, but subsequent experience and experimentation proved that thousands of years of building tradition have led to a pretty resilient design, modern materials notwithstanding.

The sled base is made of laminated ash runners, with hard rubber on the bottom surface. It’s lashed together with crosspieces of ash and paulownia, which is an extremely fast-growing hardwood that’s native to the Asian continent, but has since been naturalized in many parts of the world.

The current sled configuration consists of four sled modules of varying sizes (with each module like the one in the picture above). The lead sled gets a super cool tent, then the following sled will be cargo, the next will be the cook tent, and the final (smallest) sled gets to hold more cargo and supplies for repairs. They’re all lashed together using different lengths of paracord, and the entire sled train will be pulled by kite.

We’re carrying 17 (or 18, I forget) kites, ranging in size from 3 sq meters to 250 sq meters. They’ll be changed around, depending on wind strength.


Most of the team is currently trouble-shooting the Iridium satellite connection, although the astrobiologist, Lucia, is out gathering the last of her soil samples. This is a field science opportunity that I have forgone in favor of sitting like a corpulent toadstool at my table, asking Ramon about crosspiece woods and considering when I’m going to leave them to go hike the branch of the IAT that’s just across the way

That way. Also, this is Carlos. He’s the pretty awesome videographer/explorer person who’s in charge of the media on the expedition.

I’m pretty sure I knew about this branch of the IAT… but its location entirely slipped my mind until I arrived here, and stared at a couple of maps, thought hard, and investigated the Greenland page.

Very convenient and strange.

What I’m troubleshooting right now is this:

They’ll be on the ice (hopefully) in four days, and my part of the plan was to ride in on the helicopter with at least one of the four trips. Two of the helicopter flights are with normal cargo, and two will be with long dangly bits, to sling the other sleddish bits underneath.

Because for some reason, they can’t fit the sled bits into the helicopter. Weird. This is Ramon on the side, and Lucia, our scientist, is in the van.

This will, of course, be lovely; although Ramon did just take a break from connectivity troubleshooting to read a message from the helicopter pilot, which went something like,

“Challenging weather, something something, need at least a bit of clear sky for it to work on schedule, something.”

Most of the team, discussing the route. From left to right: Juan-Manuel, Ramon, Begonia, Marcus, and Carlos

All highly relevant, I’m sure. Please do note the fact that rain is forecasted for the next week. A SLING. We’re using a SLING.

The second bit of my planning is that my return flight leaves for Copenhagen in the morning, three days later- and I want to make sure that I’ve left enough time to be on the flight, and am not still in the middle of the wee snowcapped mountains on a Greenlandic peninsula, cursing the snow and the weakness that has led me to this horrific juncture.

Juanma, our journalist from Spain’s Basque country, shows off the fine lines of the sled during assembly.

Indeed. I find that the life of an outdoor human is equal parts discomfort, awe, pooping, and adaptation to changing circumstances outside of your control. Arguably, this can be true for indoor humans as well, although we do have things like houses, and agriculture, to mitigate the discomfort.

Also now that you have all looked at my friend Juanma on the sled, can we all please appreciate the fact that Basque people are legends. I present as evidence the fact that, in 2015, Iceland finally repealed a 400 year old law that said it was legal to kill Basque people on sight.

Keep it real, and be safe, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do
(just kidding, that’s lots of things)



  1. Jay Conover says:

    This is all most interesting. I’m glad it is you, and not 85-year-old me.
    Grampa Jay


  2. Amber says:

    I’m so happy you are in Greenland! Maybe next time you can do science and ride kite sleds. For now, I guess, enjoy what you can do, and get plenty of rest dammit!


  3. Richard Anderson says:

    Hello Sail Away, Did I miss something? Has your sail started?Dick Anderson



    1. Sail Away says:

      Hi Dick! Hope you’re doing well.

      Unfortunately, my part in the expedition was canceled for medical reasons.

      I’ll be back on trail soon, and also will probably write a mini update on how my expedition team is doing on this trip. They went 125 km yesterday! Also satellite connections are so cool


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