” Often regarded as “The third Pole”, Greenland witnessed the dawn of what would become known as the Heroic Age of Polar Exploration in 1888 when the brilliant Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen launched an audacious bid to make the first crossing of Greenland, the world’s largest island.
Until then, nobody had penetrated an icecap further than 100 miles inland, and yet Nansen’s journey was almost four times that distance across a giant blank on the map. Passing halfway there was no turning back, and he wrote in his diary, “it is simply death, or the west coast of Greenland”.
He made it of course, and some 40,000 people lined the streets of Oslo to welcome their hero home, almost half the city’s population. The public fervour in polar exploration quickly spread across Scandinavia, Europe and America and over the next three decades the likes of Amundsen, Scott, Shackleton and Peary would push the boundaries of human endeavour in the polar regions to even greater extremes in the Arctic and Antarctic.
I had long held a fascination with Greenland and in 2015 I reunited with three of my oldest expedition companions, Andrew Gerber, George Wells and Patrick Woodhead to try to break the record for the fastest coast-to-coast crossing of Greenland, set in 2008 in a time of 17 days, 20 hours by an experienced kite skiing duo from the UK and Luxembourg. To stand any chance of breaking the record, we simply had to use kites.