That’s “Merry Christmas y’all” in Greenlandic, and for me it is very merry indeed. As I’ve been quite busy since arriving to Greenland I was really looking forward to go aurora hunting over my Christmas break. Unfortunately, all the gear I got ready for it matters little when the camera I was going to use is still in the US, thanks to an eBayer who decided to downgrade my shipping from Priority Express to First Class, meaning delivery in January instead of November as promised. Lesson learned: If you actually need something, just don’t use eBay. Anyway, it’s been all cloudy since my break started, and forecast isn’t promising either. So looks like aurora hunting will have to wait.
But clouds can bring about good stuff – good, white, fluffy stuff that is very much appreciated too. A white Christmas is no surprise in Greenland, but this one is extraordinary. Up till now I had the impression it wouldn’t snow all that much this far north on the west coast, but it sure can. It started snowing early on Dec 22 and may continue until early on the 25th according to the forecast. Most intense on the 23rd, and by the end of the day my best guess is we had about two feet (60 cm) of new snow – though, it could easily be more. Look at the pictures below and judge yourself! I’m guessing a storm like this is not normal in Sisimiut, but I’ll have to talk to some people in the know to find out.
Sisimiut has buses, and here is one of the stops. They run daily 9am-9pm, but it looks like they didn’t quite make that today. I wouldn’t bother digging my way in there to wait for a bus tomorrow either.
I’m pretty sure these guys are happy with the weather though – Sisimiut Snowmobile Expeditions. Possibly except for whoever gets to clear the snow.
Speaking of snowmobiles, I managed to get a hold of one myself for back country adventures. Folks at home have been asking for pictures of it, and here it is. Never looked better!
Another item needed for backcountry adventures is a good tent, and I need to learn pitching it in snow. Having checked the tent and watched instruction videos beforehand I thought it might take half an hour to an hour, but was I wrong. Unlike in the instruction videos, this is dry snow, and you can’t easily compress that. Forget about ordinary stakes, you need to bury some big, wide snow stakes to keep the tent tight and secured. Well, had it been windy I would have been worried, because it’s hard to secure anything in dry snow. Really, it should be deeper than this with a hole dug out for the tent so the stakes could be buried in hard-packed snow. But for this first test it was fine as I had been wise enough to choose a quiet night for it. Actually it was the night it started snowing, but winds didn’t kick in until late the next day. Being on skis is also new to me, by the way, so trying to pitch the tent on skis was a challenge too – but I couldn’t take them off or I’d ruin the fragile platform I’d spent over an hour trying to make for the tent!
I was surprised to learn that at winter solstice the sun is “up” here in Sisimiut for 1 hour and 37 minutes, knowing that it’s just north of the Arctic Circle. So apparently sunrise and sunset are when the upper limb of the solar disc is at the horizon, meaning that we’d see the sun on the horizon for 1.5 hours, rising to a point where just under half of the disc is visible before setting again. Hills and mountains obscure the view most of the way though, and this year we had a low, heavy cloud cover for a week around solstice. That makes for some pretty dark days, which can be depressing. Then suddenly there’s just a bit of a break in the clouds and you’re treated to a view like this – that makes up for a lot.
As for the aurora, I’ve seen some every now and then. It can be very nice, though not surprisingly my impression is that it isn’t as dynamic and variable up here as farther south. I did see one nice substorm though, so I’m hoping for more of that once I get my better camera. Below is a video with the kind of aurora we typically get here on one of the better nights.
Looking forward to get out and shoot some more, though Christmas break won’t offer me the opportunities I had hoped. After that I won’t have much time the rest of the aurora season. Right now it’s all forgiven though. Snow makes me happy, and this may just be the best snow storm I’ve experienced yet. Just in time for Christmas…