Archive for the ‘Greenland 2010 Crossing’ Category

Shell postpones its drilling plans in the Arctic one more year!

March 1, 2013 4:21pm

The Chukchi and Beaufort Seas are temporarily saved from devastating drilling as Shell Oil is postponing its plans again for another year, making this the second consecutive postponement for drilling in the region. This after the coast guard found multiple and potentially disastrous violations of safety protocols, and after one of Shell’s platforms run aground. The decision confirms what scientists and environmentalists alike have been arguing for decades: drilling in the Arctic is unsafe, and too hazardous to risk long term devastation for short term gain. This issue has not gone away, but it is a breath into an ongoing battle for life. The solutions to our problems do not lie at the bottom of the Arctic ocean in its stored reserve of greenhouse creating fossil fuels; they exist in the air that we breath, the sun that reaches us, the oceans and the currents: it is time we commit to recycling the power of nature into our energy needs, and a market transformation to a sustainable future.


Sebastian is Awarded Special Medal from the FIAP

January 7, 2013 5:11pm

The Arctic Awards 2012 awarded Sebastian a special medal on behalf of the FIAP (Federation Int’l de l’Art Photographic) for his image Moonrise on the Greenland Ice (below). Sebastian also received a Photography Society of America (PSA) ribbon for another image: Reflections at Otto Fjord.


Moonrise on the Greenland Ice


IT’S OFFICIALLY IN THE BOOKS! “Farthest distance kite-skiing in 24 hours”

April 5, 2012 12:42pm

Taken from the Guinness World Records site:

On 5 June 2010, 25-year-old Eric McNair-Landry (Canada) and 46-year-old Sebastian Copeland (USA/France) kite-skied 595 km (369.72 miles) in 24 hours, covering the distance between on Greenland. The duo established the record speed on day 23 of a 43-day expedition to cross the 2,300-km-long (1429-mile) Greenland icecap from Narsarsuaq in the south to Qaanaaq in the north. They used 14-m (46-ft) Yakusa kites for most the 24-hr period, reaching speeds of 60 km/h (37 mi/h) and beating the previous record of 507.5 km (315.35 miles) by Hugo Rolf Hansen and Bjørn Einar Bjartnes (both Norway) set on 2 July 2009.

Copeland’s diary entry for the day concludes: “We will reap the reward of our labor with a day off, a glass of electrolytes and a bowl of granola and water! Don’t be jealous, now!”




ClimatePartner grants us our Carbon Offset Award!!

October 19, 2011 6:53pm

ClimatePartner has just awarded us with a carbon offset certificate for the Greenland 2010 Legacy Crossing.  What this means is, whatever carbon was created by flights taken for this expedition, was neutralized by supporting a recognized and certified climate protection project. In this case, a the Rio Verde Chico project in Guatemala .  We’ll be doing the same for the Antarctica 2011-12 Legacy Crossing, where one tree will be planted for every kilometer traveled . You can click on the image for a closer look at the award.


Day 44 – Disko Bay Epilogue

June 25, 2010 3:29pm

The glacier here advances at rates of 40 meters per day

AM on the bay, basking in twenty four hour sun–no bathing suit though

Ilulissat, Greenland
Arriving in Ilulissat spells a very different Greenland experience than what we have had so far. It has paved roads, hotels, souvenir shops, and tour operators. And were it not for the multitude of sled dogs everywhere to remind us that this is still–at its core–a working Inuit town–Ilulissat would begin to feel like Niagara falls: a tourist destination. As well it would be: a Unesco certified World Heritage site, the icefjord of Ilulissat (which literally translates to “iceberg”) is one of the more arresting ice landscape anywhere in the world. Disko Bay which dominates it, is littered with the largest icebergs I have seen anywhere. The Ilulissat glacier is the most active in the northern hemisphere, advancing at speeds that are confounding, particularly as they have been exponentially growing. The accelerator here, as can be expected, is climate change. In 2001, the glacier moved at the rate of 20 meters a day. By 2004, that number had astoundingly increased to 40 meters per day. The cause is universally accepted to be warmer air and warmer water: the glacier loses in thickness, and the water erodes the base below the surface, precipitating the pour.


Day 43–Technical Specs and Final Words

June 22, 2010 10:24pm

Thank you for keeping up with our expedition, it made it

First, I learned today that the spill in the gulf is still raging. It is a characteristic of being cut off for extended weeks that you tend to remake the world in your head. One thing I would never had imagined getting so wrong was seeing that oil still pouring out of its gash, at the rate of a million gallons a day; and the criminal consequences on the ecosystems and communities. It is devastating to witness so abhorrently a tragedy that was as predictable. I hope this lesson will be heeded once and for all: it is a dramatic cry for a commitment to a market transformation towards renewable energies. Our survival–quite literally–depends on it…
Tomorrow morning, we leave Qaanaaq–its bay of the sleeping giants, where icebergs feel trapped in time as much as space; its rolling ice fogs; its howling dogs; its colorful stock houses; and the arresting visual panorama which has been my view from the bedroom window for the last four days (a cross between Ice Age and The Day After Tomorrow!). And with that–I am compelled to say–comes the end of the entertainment portion of our program!
Eric and I are headed to Ilulissat, in transit back to our respective lives, which effectively puts an end to the expedition, and its Qaanaaq epilogue. I will spend a couple of days scouting the Disko Bay icefjord for more photos opportunity in view of my next book. The Ilulissat glacier is one of the most active in the northern hemisphere, spitting out enormous icebergs (some measure well over three hundred feet high–above the water line!) like a giant ice cube dispenser…


Day 42–Summer Solstice

June 21, 2010 8:05pm

This is the majestic view I have from my window on this, the longest day of the year

Qaanaaq —
Today was the longest day of the year. Up here, since the sun has not set for many weeks, this means that the sun reaches its highest rotational zenith; if there were a night, it would have been the shortest. And given the splendid sunny weather we have had all day, this really did feel like a long day!
Summer solstice coincides, not by accident, with Greenland’s national day. It is a national holiday marked by local community celebrations. In Qaanaaq, the whole village gathers for some recitations, singing and food for everyone.
Qaanaaq is a town of six hundred people (a correction from my earlier description: there are approximately two hundred dwellings here, and not fifty); all of them came out to celebrate. Some wore the traditional seal or bear skin outfits–just the pants or jacket: given the 10C degrees, they might have suffocated had they worn the entire outfit. The food served was raw whale; I took a pass, having tried it before… but they seemed to enjoy it.
I spoke with a few of them and discussed how early thaws and a changing climate is affecting Inuit culture. Life is tough for an Inuit to whom hunting and fishing on the ice is virtually the only means of survival. With an early thaw, their very existence is endangered. It isn’t just the bears…
An ice fog shrouded the sea ice on and off all day, but never went past the beach. Only the peaks of the tallest icebergs were visible above the white sheet, and I sat on a rock for an hour contemplating the extraordinary views. It was silent and peaceful; a welcomed calm to follow the intense focus of the last forty days. And a great way to rest my sore legs! The fog eventually cleared revealing some new large cracks in the bay, and considerably more water by the shore than two days ago. I am relieved to have ventured when I did–our first night here–in spite of the fatigue and hesitation I felt then. The weather has not been like then again since, in the way that I like to shoot ice: overcast. And given the accelerated melt, it is unlikely that I could get out now. I got it by a narrow margin, and the photo result– arresting! As they say: why plan for tomorrow what you can do today…


Day 41–The Bay of the Sleeping Giants

June 20, 2010 8:18pm

The Bay That Time Forgot

It is always a tad unsettling to find yourself in a mirror after a long stretch of abstention. Not that you miss it, or think about it much. Which is perhaps partly why, when that reflection eventually stares back at you, you may find yourself in front of distant, slightly older relative. Forty days is long enough to have to get re-acquainted. Who is that strange bearded fella? And what’s he looking at? You lookin’ at me…?
For one thing, he is considerably thinner. Though there is no scale in the bare bone cabin that is our home (until the weekly Wednesday flight that will move us from Qaanaaq), and the mirror is quite small, it looks like I may have lost about fifteen pounds. Considering I’d lost twenty two after walking to the North Pole last year (over thirty five days), fifteen pounds in forty days is an improvement. Almost twenty five percent better, in fact! Regardless, now comes the time to put some weight back on, especially with the South Pole coming up in November…
A word on the physical toll of this type of trip: overall, the body fared pretty well. The strain was mostly in the feet, chins and knees. The flat of both Eric’s and my feet is pretty numb, and will likely remain so for a couple of months. This is especially the case for the left foot, and particularly the big toe. Eighty percent of the trip was made on one tack, and that toe is the last point of stress when setting the downwind ski’s edge against the kite.
Chins, one ankle and the knees are also sore or numb, which is hardly surprising considering we often spent ten to twelve hours a day–and often more–strapped tightly in ski boots. No matter how comfortably customized–thanks to my pals at Doc’s Ski Haus in Los Angeles!–it remains hard plastic!
Numbness also in the fingers which I account mostly to photographing, as is customary for me. No frostbites this time, though! The two index fingers are also numb from struggling to launch the handle kite–Yakuza–in low winds!
Finally, muscle soreness and fatigue especially in the shoulders and the legs, though I think the latter has a good deal to do with the natural Stairmaster of going up and down the mountain–twice–with heavy loads in the final two days. Yumi and Ron, if you are reading this: you would be proud of that routine!
Apart from the slight atrophy that comes from under using some muscle groups (chest, triceps) while over using others (core, legs, back) while losing weight, I am pleased by the absence of serious strain, or injury…
I ventured out alone on the sea ice last night, and spent all night in the company of the giants. I set off at one AM, with some apprehension as to the stability of the bay, seeing as I got trapped once in the middle of a frozen bay, alone, as it broke up before me and moved out to sea– with me on it! It remains one of the more intense experiences of my travels. I armed myself with the sat phone and a GPS and a number to the local police; two flares, in case of an encounter with Mr. bear; some food bars and liquid; warm clothes; and my cameras!
The greater challenge was getting past the rough ice that hugs the shore and breaks with the ebb and flow of the tides. Large and small chunks of ice are pressed together, but not bonded, with areas of open water. The trick is not to pick the pieces that will instantly roll when you step on them; or calculate the risk of stepping briskly onto them as a bridge! This goes on for the first two hundred feet or so from the beach. Once past that, the sea ice is relatively stable; the terrain mixes a multitude of puddles with the occasional open crack. Those are the ones to watch in determining the type of current, if any, and whether they are widening. A change is generally very subtle; but if they widen, my thought is: run–back to shore…! Luckily this did not happen and it looks like the sea ice will be here for another couple of weeks. An Inuit here shared with me yesterday that the bay used to break up in August; but in the last few years, it has been breaking in early July due to the warming temperatures. This shortens the Inuit’s ability to hunt on the ice, which traditionally makes for the best hunting opportunity (same for the bears, by the way) which they carry out with dogsleds. The melting starts their fishing season earlier, also, but the fish are more and more scarce…
Walking on the frozen sea, surrounded by icebergs the size of multiple stories buildings is a little bit like walking in an enchanted land where time stood still. The monolithic pieces of ice were spat out too late in the season by the nearby glaciers. As a result, they got caught by the freeze and wintered out in the bay instead of floating out to meet their demise early. To walk amongst them (occasionally up to them) stuck as they are in one spot, reminded me of the scene in The Matrix when Lawrence Fishburn trains Keanu Reeves how to stop the illusion of time and maneuver around it–to dodge bullets, for instance! It was that, or a set from Ice Age! It’s an arresting visual experience, which connects vividly with the spirit of the ice. These sleeping giants are headed to their inescapable fate; they are just buying time…
I spent six hours in their midst and walked for miles–distances can be deceiving–and made my way back, in the rain, around seven AM!
Along with some new images for my next book. I made it safely back to shore and sneaked into bed to give my sore legs some relief… A good night’s work!


Day 40–The First of Anything

June 19, 2010 8:20pm

About to lift off from the adventure

N77°28.015 W69°12.601

You always remember your firsts. You first drive. Your first suit. Your first kiss. Your first love… And forty days on the ice, living in a tent isolated from the rest of the world is plenty enough time to make you re-discover a lot things, as if for the first time.
We did not bother setting up the tent last night, given the nature of the terrain: rocky, uneven and sloped. Instead, we spread our mats, laid out our sleeping bags and slept in the open, a flare close by in the event of a wandering bear! It was bright and sunny at four AM when I turned over. At eight thirty I called the pilot confirming clear local visibility and our 1100 hours pick-up.
I made another important call; set up a time lapse on my camera; and fell back asleep, dialing my internal clock for a ten forty five wake up.
“It’s coming over the glacier!”, I heard Eric shout. In a daze, I shot up to the fast approaching deep thumping of the helicopter’s rotors. It was 1040 hours; and twenty minutes early! I wanted the approach on film and jumped to my camera just in time for the craft’s final approach–and caught it by a hair!
The pilots greeted us warmly and enthusiastically, wanting to hear details of the trip.
“After such a long journey, I thought you boys might appreciate one of these!”, said one as he walked out of the cockpit holding two cans of Coca-Cola! The first pop…! Ironically, I had told Eric not a week prior, that one of the things that I crave after an extended trip on the trail for some reason–is a Coke!
We gathered our things, packed them in, and boarded the craft. Our first proper seat…! The rotors began slicing the air; the thumping grew faster, and louder; the machine shook as we slowly lifted off. And pulled away from the ground that we had gotten to know so well. In no time, the helicopter dove forward and the earth below started racing by. I looked over at Eric who put his thumb up, which I echoed. And I turned to the window to take in the bird’s eye view of what we had just covered on foot. It always looks so easy from above… I saw the rocky slopes we negotiated; the patches of snow we slid down; our campsite by the glacier; and in the distance, beyond the multitude of crevasses, I saw the ice sheet we were leaving–alluring, gigantic and forlorn.
Soon, more icescapes sped below us: glaciers scarred by crevasses pulling down to valleys below; ice rivers snaking through them with bright blue hues; giant moraines, dwarfing the glaciers with the sizes and reach that they once held; and small, domed ice sheets which could just as well have been scratched with our skis–but were not. From up here, everything begins to look the same…
Qaanaaq is a small Inuit settlement, about twenty minutes by helicopter from the bay we had reached. It is separated from Greenland’s main ice sheet by a valley, with a river slicing across it, pouring a torrent of melt water into the ocean. Qaanaaq is not directly reachable by ice from where we came from. Its airport is a patch of dirt, serviced once a week by Greenland Airlines. Our helicopter was dispatched from Thule airforce base, about an hour away.
We said our farewells and boarded a van that took us to our accommodations until Wednesday, for our plane out of here. I could not help but notice the exhaust smell from the vehicle’s tail pipe. Our first fumes…!
The village, which assembles perhaps fifty dwellings amongst its dirt streets, is dominated by the bay. Still hard, the sea ice holds trapped some gigantic icebergs, many the size of city blocks, fading away in the distance. It looks like a frozen valley of the giants that time forgot. I will venture out on it tonight and capitalize on this remarkable shooting opportunity.
The little house we’re are staying in is a sort of prefab affair, riddled with black flies, with no sewage but a plastic bag! In that respect, I almost prefer the outdoors…! We rushed to the market as it was about to close for the weekend to get food for the next few days. I found myself staring aimlessly at rows of product, dazed and overwhelmed by the quantity of choices (and this is a small market!) Our first commercial experience…
But mostly, I wanted to get back to our digs, throw everything in the washer, myself included! The first first shower! Now this is a first I have been waiting for! Next is the first kiss…


Day 39–Last Moments of Immersion

June 18, 2010 10:12pm

Organizing our things on the tundra before setting up the sleeping bags in the open

N77°42.446 W69°27.128 Elevation 22 Feet

The time is finally upon us. As I sit on the narrow beach facing the frozen bay, amidst ice chunks the size of cars, the expedition is coming to its final phase. It is one AM, and the sun has just chased away the high clouds that dominated the sky for most of the day, and is bathing us with warm, golden rays. We started this expedition at ocean level–at the foot of a glacier near Narsasuaq in the south–and forty days later, we finish at ocean level at the base of a mountain near Qaanaaq in the north, having traveled some 2300 kilometers unsupported using nothing but natural energy to propel us. Five days shy of what we had planned for, and two days less than I had anticipated. As the sun warms my spent body, there is a lot to contemplate. And nothing quite like this wild, serene, and unspoiled environment to do it in.
My head swirls with images from the scenes of our adventure, so many that I try to process and organize in my mind. But right now, my back and feet are still mad at me for what they were subjected to this afternoon!
After speaking with the helicopter base to negotiate a price, I got confirmation of a pick up for tomorrow morning. Eric and I then set off with our sledges one last time. If yesterday’s experience proved anything, it is that this promised to be a back breaker!
I carried all my sensitive equipment in a backpack–cameras (which I have seven in total, all told!), Iridium communication, HP laptop and iPack, and various electronics–and stuffed all the rest in the sledge bags, careful to use sleeping bags, jackets and anything soft laid out to soften the shocks… The rare patches of snow offered a desperate relief for the sledges: we sat on top of them, shot down and let it rip! But those were very short lived. Mostly, we descended over the treacherous terrain in what can only be described as more extreme a sport than crossing the entire Greenland ice sheet on kites! It was intense! The rocks were unrelenting, and as the slope got progressively steeper, the sledges would catch up on their way down, and threaten to take us with them. On the bright side? That gravitational pull forced us to move faster than we would have, and we just about galloped down the mountain in about three hours. By the time we reached level ground, the bottom of the sledges were torn to shreds! But this was the last of our need for them… They will retire in Qaanaaq–hopefully to some kids who could find a use for them.
Upon securing in a landing area for the chopper, I called the pilot and confirmed our coordinates. Weather pending, he will be here 1100 hours–ten hours from now.
We spread our gear on the tundra, and organized our bags, and both went on separate hikes: it was nice to walk around, with my thoughts and camera: just like old times! For all the open space and the travel, this type of trip is not for casual strolls. You’re either geared up and putting in miles; or in the tent resting and keeping warm. This evening’s hike was a nice way to get reconnected to land, and let the legs do their work (although I will admit that mine feel the miles and–more precisely–the natural Stairmaster of the last two days!) But given this incredibly remote and pristine location, it felt wrong sitting down!
Tonight we will sleep out in the open–it’s pleasant enough and too uneven to set the tent. Besides, the moss is soft, the sun is out, and the air about 5C degrees above zero. I’ll keep an eye open, and my camera (!) in case a bear wonders by!
It is so quite and so peaceful as I gaze ahead at the pouring glaciers to my side; the iced plateaus in the distance; the frozen bay ahead, and the icebergs beyond. And I claim it to be a fact: it feels good to be alive…!