Comparing seas of fire and ice: Australia and Greenland

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If you’re familiar with outback culture, then just take away about 35 degrees [celcius] and replace miles of red earth with ditto of sea. What’s the same are the harsh terms provided by nature, the closeness of community, the distance between communities, the struggle to make ends meet and the tension and conflicting lifestyles between the aboriginals and the “colonists”.

Nuuk reminded me of a cross between Darwin and Alice Springs. Nuuk is slightly smaller than Alice, but has some of the large town architecture and admin focus of Darwin. It’s definitely frontier territory and with that cultural schism that is so marked in Alice.

These moving words were shared to me by an Australian photographer who visited Greenland. Don’t they just evoke something from you? It’s a story of survival!

Turns out my photographer friend isn’t the only one to observe similarities between the two landscapes.

Tonight over dinner, I learnt from my resident Antarctica guru and friend Andrew that many a restless explorer who had conquered a polar ice cap had then moved on to venture across the Australian desert. I guess it makes sense, hey? If you’re crazy enough to cross one, you’re probably crazy enough to survive the other.

Legendary Polar personalities (haha, excuse the pun) such as Mawson, Madigan, Rymill and Wilkins have all written chapters in their journals describing how utterly desolate and foreboding both environments are, and consequently, how similar they feel.

Question: Does Greenland remind you of any another place? Are you able to compare it with anywhere else you’ve ever been? Do let me know if so, I’d love to hear more.

5 thoughts on “Comparing seas of fire and ice: Australia and Greenland

  1. I was also struck by the familiarity between Australia and Greenland. I was raised from the dessert, in a small town called Derby, in the Kimberly, Western Australia. Recently visiting Nuuk ignited my senses. I was seeing, smelling and hearing things that I had experienced growing up which instantly made me feel connect to Nuuk, I’m absolutely captivated by this concept of parallel landscapes. While I was in Nuuk my attention was captured by the cultural Similarities between Inuits and Aboriginal Australians (as I’m aboriginal myself) Now that I have left Nuuk, I miss it, similar to the way I miss my own home. Your articles have been so insightful, so thank you so much. A new friend, David Heilmann suggested that I read your articles as I’m currently writing for Cannon and what a inspiring read it has been.
    P.s Today, in Australia it was 41 degrees, stay in NUUK!)

    • Dear Gal, thank you so much for writing! I would be so interested in reading more – in fact would you like to guest blog on the Fourth Continent about your perspectives? You would be most welcome. I think it would be a fitting piece.

      I know that there are similarities between Greenland and Australia but I have never been to the desert. I’ve been to parts of the ice sheet a few times now, so I can only imagine the parallels. Please do let me know what you found most insightful in the blog, it would be interesting to get feedback 🙂

      Best wishes,

      • Tanny,
        Thank you so much for your invitation, I would love to further share my experiences and perspectives with you and others by being a guest on your blog. What a great opportunity for me to gather my thoughts and observations on the similarities I witness. On a long train ride I managed to read most of your articles, each being very captivating and different from one another, not only were they educational in the sense of providing me with a cultural insight into the lives of native Greenlandic people but also your inclusion of fun facts and personal encounters makes the thought of Greenland warm and welcoming.
        Please contact me with the information provided below to talk further about me appearing on Fourth Continent. How exciting! 🙂
        Or Gal Palmer (Facebook)

  2. What maketh a desert? Is it the temperature extreme, the isolation, the [lack of] facilities, the monotony, the [apparent] lack of life? When I yacht sailed from Portugal to Gran Canaria, I remember standing on deck and holding the tiller with nothing but the wind, water and sky for company. The sea is barren in all directions. It was barren for 7 days.
    Perhaps a desert is defined by being a place in which you have to rely on yourself a bit more than you normally would, when there is no cavalry to ride to the rescue. Fail to adapt, and your survival is compromised.
    I spoke to Sir Ranulph Fiennes a few years back. What stuck in my mind was that we can make our deserts through our attitude. A voyage to the antarctic can be done as a 5 star tour, or something truly extraordinary (and so much inbetween) by tweaking with seasons and support.
    “I am the desert. I am adventure.”

    • Thanks for sharing this. A desert in your mind is certainly a mental challenge and something which can be perhaps even more difficult to get over than a physical milestone.

      It would have been such privilege to speak with Sir Ranulph Fiennes. Are you an explorer yourself?

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