10 May, 2003
Weather- light snow and 20F in Kanger
We had a short hold over but just got wrod we are leaving in 15 minutes. Time to pack , throw a little food in and fly to the next spot.
For many you the whole island of Greenland may look remote and wild, however, NE Greenland could be some of the most remote, wild and beautiful areas in the World. During WWII it became apparent to Denmark that the east coast of Greenland needed to be patrolled to prevent the Germans from setting up small stations against the Allies. The Danish government would patrol during the summer with boats and planes and in the winter they would patrol by dogsled. Since then, patrolling has not changed, however the purpose has. The patrollers are more like park rangers now making sure no one illegally trades or establishes camps.
One of our pilots, Thomas Thorman, enlisted in the Danish Army to become an officer, which then allowed him to apply and be selected as for a two year stint as a Sirius Sledge Patroller at the age of 20. Thomas appears to be a quiet and sincere individual with an immense strength. He has helped us unload 200 pound generators and seems to pick them up single handed; Kangerlussuaq’s super man!
As a rookie, he was assigned a veteran partner and during his second tour he would be the veteran and a rookie would be his partner. During that time, he built a sled of wood without the use of nails. Everything was held together by rope. This allowed for easy repair if something was damaged along the way.
Once the team left a camp they would be traveling between two and four months. They go from cabin to cabin which are about five to ten days apart. The cabins are very tiny and need to be dug out once they arrive. Between each cabin the patrollers sleep in one cotton tent.
The distance between each cabin determined the weight of the sled. On a fourteen day trip the sled weighed 450kg or about 1100 pounds. The conditions determined how far the patrol could travel in a day. If they traveled only 1-2 km it was obviously difficult travel with a lot of walking and pulling to help the dogs and if they traveled 55 km in one day it was on nice flat solid snow conditions.
There were always eleven dogs on a team, of which only one was a female. This was for two purposes: First, when females come into heat for breeding it lasts about three weeks and all of the male dogs get too excited and are hard to control. Second, the one female is needed to pass on good genetic traits. If the female is a good pulling dog she will then breed with the best male pulling dog. The Sirius dogs are breed to be large pulling dogs with mild tempers.
Depending on the snow conditions dogs pulled the sled in different formations. If an area was wide open with packed snow the dogs were placed in a fan formation. There was one lead dog and the rest were running side by side in a fan formation. Thomas explained that the dogs are very social and enjoy the fan formation the best. The other two formations were put the dogs in a long line in pairs. This was used if the snow was deep and soft or if a female was in heat. This made for easier traveling and less tangling! The dogs typically ate frozen seal meat and over a tour could lose up to sixteen pounds. Not only did the dogs lose wait, but the patrollers did as well. Thomas said he would lose 13 pounds and then gorge and gain 15 pounds only to lose 17 pounds the net portion of the trip.
In his two years, Thomas traveled 7348 km’s. He took pictures of wolves, fox, polar bears and scenery that only one can imagine. He worked during a time when the sun only came close to the horizon for months before peering over for only a short time. His travels would challenge any persons will and yet during his last days of a Sirius Patroller, Thomas explained that saying good bye to his eleven furry companions was the hardest thing he has done in his life.
Thomas has written a children’s book called Sirius with wonderful photographs. It is in Danish but is worth having!!!!! ISBN# 87-988080-0-1
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