A commercial airline pilot I know, who flies regularly between New York and Amsterdam, told me the other day that he had been watching the Greenland ice cap disappear for the past decade.
“Greenland,” I said. “Now there is a place I haven’t thought about in a long, long time.” I had probably not given Greenland a second thought since the sixth grade when I was awarded a gold star in Ms. Ogelthorpe’s geography class for correctly naming Godthab as its capital, and largest city. And I do recall my uncle telling stories about Thule Air Base, that dated back to his days in the Army Air Corps during and shortly after WWII, but that’s about it for me and Greenland.
Of course, we all know Greenland – it is that white and icy looking projectile dangling at the top of the Mercator Projection maps that hang upon the wall of every classroom throughout the world. But few of us have ever traveled there (although after doing some research, and seeing the incredible beauty of the place, I am almost ready to run out and book a flight to Godthab, or Nuuk, as the capital is now called). In any event, there is a lot more going on up in Greenland than one would think, and some of it is not pretty.
For starters, how many of us here in the U.S. know that back in April, British amateur explorer Philip Goodeve-Docker, 31, died in a storm on the ice cap while participating in a 30 day, 400 mile, trans-Greenland trek. Mr. Goodeve-Docker and two companions were participating in an unsanctioned charity event to raise funds for the Queen’s Nursing Institute, when a fierce storm called a Piteraq descended upon the party. These storms originate out on the ice cap and sweep down the eastern coast of Greenland, often with winds in the 50 to 80 mph range. In the case of the storm that descended upon Mr. Goodeve-Docker’s party, the wind speed reached 160 mph. In the face of such wind, and with temperatures in the neighborhood of -4 F, rescue by helicopter was impossible. Mr. Goodeve-Docker was able to put in a last call to his parents in Britain via satellite phone, and a rescue effort was mounted. Unfortunately not in time.
In what can only be termed an understatement, North East Hampshire coroner, Andrew Bradley, recorded Mr. Goodeve-Docker’s cause of death, as “death by misadventure”.
But back to my point about the Greenland ice cap and how this whole thing might relate to climate change. In July, an iceberg twice the size of Manhattan has broken off from Greenland. This huge ice chunk has dislodged from the Petermann Glacier. You can read this here too. As noted in this article (for those of you who do not care for links), the University of Cambridge has determined that the rate at which these Greenland glaciers are melting has doubled over the past ten years – confirming what my airline pilot acquaintance tells me (not that I doubted the guy, if you can’t trust a pilot who can you trust).
Another ‘non-alarmist’ article, a link to which I shall post here, describes the sudden ice melt that NASA satellites have observed, with even the coldest locales experiencing a bit of a melt-down. The article goes on to say that the scientists are unable to determine whether or not the melting of the ice is due to global climate change, or due to natural causes.
So there you have it. Just a bit of news about somewhere you probably have not thought of in a long time. Perhaps we shall wish we had paid a bit more attention to far off Greenland when the Florida peninsula disappears underwater, and the date palms are sprouting just outside of Bridgeport.