A geological expedition to Gardar Province, SW Greenland

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After many months of deliberation and organisation a group of ten geology students travelled to Greenland on 8th June 2014 with the objective of geologically mapping an area consisting of rare carbonatite-type lavas and surrounding sediments. We landed in the morning of June 10th in Narsarsuaq – one of Greenland’s main airports at an old US air base. The setting was spectacular; Fjords carved in country rocks –some over a billion years old – by thousands of years of glaciation, leaving a beautiful but bleak landscape. After a couple of days getting used to things in Narsarsuaq, we took a small passenger boat across the fjord to Qassiarsuk to begin our mapping project.

Once in our m3apping area we set up camp, finding some prime real-estate beside a lake with a stream near us. The wild camping was a bit of a shock to the system but over the weeks ahead we adjusted pretty quickly – even learning when to wake up to avoid having to cook porridge! The fieldwork was fairly rewarding; as cliché as it sounds, it really felt as if we were applying the skills we had accumulated to our own geological problem. After the mapping was completed we continued to Sidlisit, hiking through spectacular scenery before setting up camp again and spending the next two days logging the sediments of the Eriksfjord formation exposed along the shoreline.

What followed2 was one of the most memorable days I’ve experienced. Throughout the day we traversed snowfields, bogs and skirted the coastline for some 26km in the midst of iceberg filled fjords and mountains m
ade of ancient Gardar province igneous rocks. At the end of a long day we set up an especially scenic camp beside the fjord and a ~400m tall hill. We came to the conclusion that we hadn’t done enough for the day – a campfire was made on a rocky peninsula as we made plans to climb the hill for sunrise. After getting a little too comfortable we began walking up the hill at 2.30am, reaching the top an hour later. The sight was spectacular – either the climb had tired everyone out or we were all stunned – even the more vocal group members were silently looking at the views in all directions. Fjords, icebergs, mountains and the ice cap – everyone just strolled around or sat down as if we were in a museum – taking it all in.

After 4this mammoth day we caught some rest and hiked back to the small agricultural/fishing village of Qassiarsuk where we caught the ferry to Narsaq – regionally one of the larger towns with some 1500 inhabitants. We arrived in Narsaq while Greenlandic cultural week was in full swing – camping outside a hostel. The main geological attraction of the Narsaq region for us was the Kvanefjeld complex. A late igneous product of the Garder Province rift system it has been highly fractionated and enriched in rare earth elements (a Uranium mine has been in operation in the past). For us – an opportunity to study variety of unique minerals from the upper section of the igneous intrusion. The scenery was1n’t bad either!

Finally we took a ferry from Narsaq back to Narsarsuaq to prepare for our return home. There was time for a visit to the nearby glacier – accessible by a three hour hike/scramble from Narsarsuaq. Finally the following day it was time to depart and reflect on what had been an incredible experience – not only from the spectacular scenery and the geology – but from experiencing it all with nine friends.

The experience would not have been possible without funding provided by the Laidlaw-Hall trust, the Mackay Greenland fund and of course the PGAF. To find out more on our group’s main blog you can visit https://gardar2015.wordpress.com/

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