There was a distinct herring-bone arrangement of drainage ditches next to the south end of the Qingua Dalen river, not apparent as we walked through it, but visible from the mountains nearby. We did not speak of it much at the time, but it comes to mind as I think back to our days there. I sometimes regret not having taken a photograph.
The rectangle shows the approximate area of the satellite image; the crosses highlight the existing crosses on the map that indicate ‘Norse ruin’
On the east side of the river, there was a straight channel leading to Lake Tasersuaq, with a number of side ditches leading into this channel. I thought about this pattern again recently and thought that it should be visible in satellite images. It was a matter of some excitement to me when I found that the pattern is visible on Google maps. The extracted satellite image above, shows the whole pattern to be quite large, at least 500m in length. The image I retain in my mind, however, is of there being more water, not just in the central channel but in some of the side ditches. The pattern stood out when we saw it, because the water in the ditches made them look darker. I also remember it looking more symmetrical. In the Google image the lines to the west of the main channel are not so distinct. I have the feeling that the river has moved slightly eastwards and has maybe caused some parts of the west ditches to disappear.
I suppose these ditches will have been documented somewhere. My next step should be to see what documented information I can discover. For now, I just want to record the sense of fascination I first felt all those years ago on first seeing the pattern, and which I still feel as I think about it now. If you see a system of drainage ditches under a hill in Scotland you think little of it, but in Greenland it must be unique. Surely they indicate that there was once a major farming activity in this corner. To dig these channels must have been a major project. It was not just one guy with a spade. I imagine they had horses and drag buckets. And where did they pile all the soil and plant matter they removed? Maybe they spread it nearby to make new fields. The map we used shows that there were settlements of some kind at each side of the river. I will do some more digging of my own.
Grey glacier water, Sharp red spires, Ice towers falling, Tranquil distant snow, Thick birch scrub And stinging flies. Crackling tang of fire And dancing green auroras In black northern skies. So deep, so far it was Up that sleeping valley: We shall not find that camp again.
P.Biggar September 1971
Qinguadalen had an impact on all who traversed the birch-scrubbed-fly-ridden valley floor. For some of us it was a memorable single trek to deliver in-advance supplies for those who would inhabit the camp at the head of the valley. For others, it was multiple trips. In the case of Peter and Richard three return journeys. Peter was so affected he wrote a poem.
In 1971 Narsarsuaq felt remote and abandoned – a mysterious airstrip with empty control tower and massive, gaunt, deserted hangars complete with stories of World War II pilots long gone crazy at Blue West 1. We dropped out of the sky right on schedule, in our deluxe Icelandair jet from Iceland. And then our adventure began. We each had a pack with personal items, but the bulk of our food and tents were still on a ship off the Greenland coast (stuck in the pack ice on their long voyage from Scotland via Denmark, as we would later learn). But there was another ship, the MV Taterak – albeit very small and very, very full of people – that would take us down the fjord to overnight at Julianehaab (now Qaqortoq) and then eventually wend its tortuous way through the ice clogged fjords to Nanortalik in the deep south. Continue reading “Then and Now – Narsarsuaq”
Greenland tourism seems to have taken off. Would I want to go now? I don’t think so. We had the best of it in 1971 and I wouldn’t want to dilute the wonderful memories.
I’m not sure that I don’t feel a bit of the same about Scotland. I liked the fact that in the 1970’s, if you chose carefully, it was rare to encounter others while out for the day or longer. This is no longer the case with at times, flocks of hill-walkers traversing the country and areas such as Skye being declared ‘full’.
Reflecting on memories of Greenland…. I started from the commonplace notion that Greenland in general and maybe Cape Farewell in particular would develop in popularity somewhat like the French and Swiss alps in the 19th and 20th centuries. Camps that were for us hard-won would be reached by easy paths leading to cabins with bunks, running water, and meals provided. Bare mountains, vaguely mapped and bereft of ‘instructions’ would have guidebooks with diagrams, graded routes, and pictures of rock faces streaked with coloured or dashed or dotted lines. Choppers and fast launches to handy helipads or jetties would get the punters in at sea level for long weekends or maybe even daytrips.Continue reading “Idle thoughts..”
…and a great example of the rewards of keeping a record
A benefit of this blog is that it has enabled others to get in touch with us. Long-lost former climbing companions and others can re-establish contact or those with an interest in the area we visited might seek or share information. There’s no better illustration of this than what happened recently when a former climbing companion of Phil’s got in touch. Continue reading ““Was I there?””
… all you see – now where have I heard that, I hear you ask? Well, it’s a lyric from the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields.” Sometimes we fail to understand the obvious and then later wonder how we could have been so stupid. The following incident in a distant settlement in South Greenland illustrates the point. Continue reading “Misunderstanding…..”