We have grown accustomed to brilliant sunshine and dazzling contrasts in Greenland. The more muted colors which come with overcast, and the cloud textures, are a welcome change (as long as this condition does not last too long).
1100 years ago this part of Greenland benefited from global warming, and offered the original settlers from Iceland and Norway bucolic pastures in which to raise their sheep and cattle. Many of the original Norse farm sites are again in operation, their productivity made possible by the current dose of global warming. Still, it is jarring to see a tractor at work!
There is an unsurveyed anchorage, totally landlocked, entered through a 100 foot wide (30m) channel, with this farm house across the channel from the field in which the tractor is working.
Farmers need to grow enough during the short summer to provide feed during the winter. With long days and lots of sunlight, crops grow twice as fast as in more temperate latitudes. Can you imagine the work it must have taken to clear these fields of rocks?
The late afternoon brought even lower clouds and this view from our anchorage.
Southern Greenland is covered with the remains of the Norse. Most are hard to discern, but the Hvalsey church ruins are still standing after 800+ years.
This was the seat of the Catholic bishop, the head politico of the Norse in Greenland. Locals were invited to pay a tithing (tax) in livestock or other food stuffs. So the ruins include what appear to be corrals, and storage areas.
The stonework was rough by some standards. But then these structures are built with granite, not the softest of stone.
What is amazing about this experience is once again we have the area all to ourselves. Standing within the ruins, or sitting outside taking in the view, there is nothing to disturb the tranquility (except perhaps the ghosts of the folks burned at the stake for irritating the powers that be).
Horses, sheep, and cattle are still grazing the meadows.
Cruising in Greenland, and taking in the history, has us thinking about the current dialog about global warming and the carbon footprint of man. Greenland was a veritable high latitude paradise in the ninth through twelfth centuries; the beneficiary of global warming on a scale equal to or greater than what we are seeing now. Winters were milder, ice was less prevalent, growing season was longer – all beneficial.
Starting around the 14th century the world entered a mini-ice age (or you might say reverted to more normal, cooler conditions). Trade with Europe and Iceland stopped. The Greenlandic Norse settlements were unable to adapt and disappeared.
That the earth is getting warmer is incontestable. But the cause, we think, could well be something far more powerful than the so-called carbon footprint of man. After all, it is hard to argue that the carbon footprint of man caused the last period of global warming. So there must be another mechanism at work…