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Pho­tog­ra­phy by Alain & Nathalie Antognel­li // Sto­ry by Col­in Houghton

Between 2009 and 2014, Alain and Nathalie Antognel­li kayaked 5500 kilo­me­tres (3,417 miles) along the entire west coast of Green­land. The expe­di­tion was an ardu­ous under­tak­ing to get to the heart of what it tru­ly means to expe­ri­ence free­dom in the out­doors.  While the trip was both men­tal­ly and phys­i­cal­ly stren­u­ous, the cou­ple was able to expe­ri­ence this remote island nation like few–if any–have before. We sat down with them to talk about their voy­age and how it changed their out­look on the world. 

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What about Green­land drew you in?
In 2009, we’d been trav­el­ing in dif­fer­ent parts of the world, hang glid­ing and paraglid­ing, and what we real­ly liked was big wide-open space. Then a friend told us about Green­land and how amaz­ing it was. When we got there in May 2009, we were astound­ed how big it was. On the plane in we looked down over the island and saw that much of the sea ice had yet to melt [mean­ing they couldn’t kayak] and we just thought, ‘what had we got­ten our­selves into.’

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What did you learn kayak­ing Green­land that you may not have learned had you explored the coun­try in a more leisure­ly fashion?
Doing this kind of trip in a dif­fer­ent coun­try would have been very dif­fer­ent. In Green­land, you are reward­ed with mas­sive amounts of space. You are almost always in the mid­dle of nowhere and you can stop almost any­where. You can’t dri­ve many places in Green­land, so kayak­ing was a way to be inde­pen­dent, an easy way to move from one place to anoth­er. Almost like using kayaks the way you use bicycles.

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How does the Green­landic way of life dif­fer from life in your busy, dense­ly pop­u­lat­ed home of Monaco?
To real­ly expe­ri­ence how dif­fer­ent Green­land is you need to immerse your­self in the cul­ture. Green­land is a whole dif­fer­ent world, just imag­ine a world with­out cars–it’s total­ly dif­fer­ent. Green­land is also the least dense­ly pop­u­lat­ed coun­try in the world, so for us com­ing from Mona­co, it is the com­plete oppo­site experience.

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You vis­it­ed Green­land sev­er­al times over many years. What are the ben­e­fits that each sea­son offers?
Green­lan­ders have an expres­sion, ‘June is spring, July is sum­mer, August is Autumn, and the rest of the months are win­ter’, and this holds pret­ty true. I liked the win­ter because we were able to live the life of the peo­ple. Of course, sum­mer is also nice, few­er peo­ple in the vil­lages and the pad­dling is much eas­i­er, as there is less ice and it’s eas­i­er mov­ing from one point to the oth­er. Win­ter is a time to stay in one set­tle­ment, to get to know the local peo­ple there more inti­mate­ly, which is what we did. In the past we’d stay prob­a­bly only a week in each set­tle­ment, but in the win­ter you’re forced to stay longer, which is how we real­ly got to know the people. 

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You guys wrote a book about your trip, what com­pelled you to share your sto­ry this way?
The book explains our adven­ture in Green­land from the begin­ning to the end. We did the movie first, and the sto­ry was so big that it was hard to tell it all, and the book allowed us to express what we’d been through in a dif­fer­ent way. It was also a way to share our sto­ry with any­one, from our friends in Green­land, to our friends back home. A book is such a tan­gi­ble object you can give to anyone. 

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Green­land is on the precipice of cli­mate and cul­tur­al change. Why do you think it’s impor­tant to vis­it soon?
Yes, things are chang­ing, we are talk­ing a lot about this in Europe. Green­lan­ders have a dif­fer­ent point of view. The facts are that the thick­ness of the ice flow 20 years ago was almost always 2 meters (around 6 feet), now it’s bare­ly 0.3 meters or 0.4 meters (less than a foot), it’s a sig­nif­i­cant decrease. Peo­ple who want to see ice flow of this mag­ni­tude prob­a­bly need to go soon, obvi­ous­ly it’s not all going to be gone, but it will most cer­tain­ly be different. 

What advice do you have for some­one plan­ning a trip to Greenland?
Just go and do it. It’s an easy coun­try and very acces­si­ble, plus the Green­landic peo­ple are very accept­ing. They will wel­come you open­ly. If you do, you need to go vis­it the set­tle­ments and see how the Green­landic peo­ple live. It’s the only way to tru­ly expe­ri­ence the country. 

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You encoun­tered many forms of wildlife dur­ing your Green­land ven­tures. Which ani­mals were most spec­tac­u­lar to see in person?
The Polar Bear. In the far north, we were so close to a polar bear, just 3 feet away. It was the great­est expe­ri­ence we’ve ever had with wildlife. 

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Your kayak trips were self-sus­tained. What food did you pack, and did you sup­ple­ment it with local food or fishing?
Both of them, we had a pletho­ra of dry food, but when we got to a vil­lage we always ate local­ly. We would also buy stuff in the set­tle­ment to take back out on the kayaks, we car­ried rice, and sup­plies to last a long time just in case we were to get stuck. 

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Any unfor­get­table moments from your trip?
Of course many, one that sticks out is pad­dling with the whales. Get­ting very close to them was phe­nom­e­nal, some­thing that we did many times in the sum­mer. Also, to be out on the ice with the Green­landic peo­ple, liv­ing their life was tru­ly unfor­get­table. You’re able to get so friend­ly with the peo­ple. You’re no longer a kayak­er or a pho­tog­ra­ph­er, you’re just a part of their culture.

If you had to sum­ma­rize what you learned about your­self and the world while trav­el­ing Green­land, how would you describe it?
I think we learned so much, stay­ing such a long time in the wild changed us. In the begin­ning we had music, and the things of our cul­ture. But after a while we learned to be alone with our­selves, just the sound of the waves and the ice. 


To book your own trip to Green­land, check out The Clymb Adven­tures page. 

To learn more about Alain and Nathalie Antognel­li’s sto­ry, check out their page. 

In the sum­mer of 2016 I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to trav­el to Green­land on-assign­ment for The Clymb, Vis­it Green­land, and Air Green­land. It was a once in a life­time expe­ri­ence. Here’s why Green­land should be your next adventure:

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Why Green­land?
Grow­ing up just below the Cana­di­an bor­der I learned to enjoy cold­er cli­mates from a young age. The islands of the North­ern Atlantic have always fas­ci­nat­ed me, and I liked the remote­ness and mys­tery of Green­land. It’s an undis­cov­ered gem when it comes to adven­ture trav­el and has yet to be insta­grammed by the mass­es, but with a coun­try the size of Green­land locat­ed where it is, I knew there would be amaz­ing ter­rain and a fas­ci­nat­ing culture.

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Pack­ing Essentials
To my sur­prise, the sum­mer cli­mate in Green­land was quite enjoy­able and refresh­ing com­pared to the hot dry sum­mers we’ve become accus­tomed to in the US. For the most part the tem­per­a­ture dur­ing the days was around 60°F, with nights drop­ping into the 40s. The most impor­tant thing to bring is a well bro­ken in pair of water­proof hik­ing boots. The ter­rain is rugged, and by the glac­i­ers and lakes you can encounter some damp ground. Bring a pack­able puffy jack­et and a water­proof shell. While we didn’t encounter rain, the shell was nice for stay­ing dry when fog rolled in and for block­ing wind when out on boats. Every­thing in Green­land, includ­ing din­ing, is very casu­al, so don’t wor­ry about bring­ing “fan­cy” clothes, it’s best to stick to tech­ni­cal syn­thet­ic or light­weight wool lay­ers. Final­ly, don’t for­get your sleep­ing mask. Being locat­ed where it is, Green­land has almost 24 hours of light dur­ing the summer.

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Trip High­lights
The entire trip was incred­i­ble! But for the sake of talk­ing points, I would have to say the ice, the wildlife, and the food. It was amaz­ing to see the flow of ice from land to sea. Start­ing out by stand­ing on the ice­cap, then get­ting up close to the mas­sive flow­ing glac­i­ers, and then final­ly see­ing calv­ing glac­i­ers turn into ice­bergs by the sea. The size of the ice will amaze, it’s noth­ing like what can be seen in low­er North Amer­i­ca. I saw more wildlife in Green­land in two weeks than I’ve seen in the last two years. It was amaz­ing to be so close to cari­bou, musk ox, arc­tic hares, arc­tic fox­es, whales, seals, and seabirds. Although they are not wild, the Green­land sled/working dogs were also amaz­ing to see up close espe­cial­ly with how close­ly they resem­ble wolves. While fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles can be hard to come by, the local meat and seafood was incred­i­ble. Seafood comes right off the fish­ing boats into the kitchen, and caribou/musk ox meat is hunt­ed with­in a few miles of town.

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   “I saw more wildlife in Greenland in two weeks than I’ve seen in the last two years.”

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What made this trip so special?
While Green­land does share some char­ac­ter­is­tics with oth­er glaciat­ed des­ti­na­tions, you can’t beat its remote­ness. It was very spe­cial to be able to expe­ri­ence this wild space with­out any crowds, noise pol­lu­tion, or dis­trac­tions. The soli­tude that can be found in Green­land makes you feel like a true pio­neer and explor­er. It was one of the rare adven­tures where I feel like I came out a dif­fer­ent per­son. I felt so refreshed, ener­gized, and ready for more. Not to men­tion, the Green­landic peo­ple were amaz­ing. Nev­er have I met such kind locals while trav­el­ing that were so excit­ed to share their his­to­ry and tra­di­tions with trav­el­ers. It was tru­ly a once in a life­time adventure.

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Check out The Clym­b’s trips to Green­land here!


Pho­tog­ra­phy & sto­ry pro­vid­ed by Kyle Mag­gy. Born & raised in Upstate New York, moun­tains and ski­ing have always been a big part of Kyle’s life. After relo­cat­ing to the West Coast, and even­tu­al­ly Port­land, Ore­gon, you can now find him split­ting his time between ski­ing & climb­ing in the Cas­cades, surf­ing the North­ern Pacif­ic, and traveling.

“We need to con­tin­ue find­ing wild places in our­selves and in the envi­ron­ment around us.”
–Vidar Kristins­son, Cap­tain of Auro­ra

Since trav­el­ing to Green­land last year, we’ve been tak­en with the Arc­tic island’s rugged beau­ty and untapped adven­ture. While we took the easy route, fly­ing Air Green­land from Copen­hagen to the cap­i­tal of Nuuk, a small cohort of Arc’teryx climbers chose the path less trav­eled. Nav­i­gat­ing the East Coast’s fjord-stud­ded coast­line by sailboat–and dodg­ing float­ing ice­bergs, the crew char­tered their way from sea to sum­mit of the ragged, unnamed peaks com­pris­ing the Mythics Cirque.

This video is a reminder that this remote island is one of the last fron­tiers left to be tru­ly explored. Be among the first to go. Chart your own adven­ture by shop­ping our hand-picked Green­land trips.

First it was the som­er­sault­ing glac­i­er in Argenti­na. Now, not to be out­done, the calv­ing of a glac­i­er off the coast of Ilulis­sat, Green­land gave a boat­ful of tourists quite the scare. As a mas­sive piece of ice fell into the water, it sent tsuna­mi-like waves towards the boat. Thank­ful­ly, no one was hurt. No word yet on the con­di­tion of the tourists’ underwear.

[Via: YouTube]