Record year for wilderness cabins at the calving glacier
Text & photos: Anne Mette Ehlers, greenland today November 2014
It feels like being in a nature programme on National Geographic, when you stand in front of the three-kilometre wide active glacier Eqip Sermia. About every half minute, there is the sound of thunder as huge pieces of ice are pressed out of the glacier and dropped into the fjord, where they land with a big splash.
To get here, we have taken Diskoline’s tourist boat and spent five hours sailing 80 kilometres to get to the north of Ilulissat in Disko Bay. It was a beautiful trip that took us past Bredebugt, the village of Oqaatsut and the huge fjord system of Pakitsoq and onwards up through Ataa Sund with the tall, sheer mountains and waterfalls.
Greenland’s first sustainable eco-camp in the wilderness, the Glacier Lodge Eqi cabin village, is located on a ridge opposite the glacier.
In between the violent thundering of the glacier, meltwater from the inland ice can be heard gushing out into the fjord from a waterfall. Even fainter, there is the sound of a handful of tourists chattering together while the young guide Anne Ignatiussen efficiently peels a pan-full of potatoes. She has taken her kitchen duty out into the sun and sits among the tourists on the benches in front of the wilderness cafe, called Café Victor. Everything here is washed up by hand to save water, which is brought from a nearby lake of glacier water.
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Energy from the sun
Glacier Lodge Eqi consists of 10 individual gas-heated wood cabins with no electricity. In the summer of 2011 the place was expanded with four new luxury cabins in the front row to the glacier. They have under-floor heating and hot water from solar panels, showers with glacier water, electricity from the sun and a large lounge and terrace with panoramic views. The solar panels are installed discretely at the back of the cabin.
The luxury cabins and café get their electricity from two 12 square-metre solar cell panels that together provide 45 kWh. The toilets and rubbish bins are not emptied in the area, instead the contents are taken to Ilulissat, to be treated with the town’s other waste.
In recent seasons, the kitchen has been given a lift, with professional cooks and focus on the modern Arctic cuisine with use of local ingredients such as Greenland halibut, musk-ox and Arctic charr. And the fruits of Glacier Lodge Eqi’s efforts are evident in the number of overnight stays there. Whereas in 2009 there were 815 overnight stays, the number in 2014 has more than doubled to 1787.
More sustainability
– We have opened for new types of tourist, those who want luxury but at the same time want to live with nature and experience something authentic. The trend is clear. There are both more day guests and guests who stay overnight. Especially the new luxury cabins are popular, they have been more or less sold out all summer, says World of Greenland’s director in, Ulf Klüppel.
– Now we would like to strengthen the new profile even more – both with regard to comfort and sustainability. We are there-
fore up-grading some of the more simple cabins to luxury cabins and with relation to sustainability, we have put our thinking caps on to see if we can manage with sun, wind and water alone.
Too little sun and unstable wind
Today, the guides have to start the camp’s diesel generator when the dough mixer and stoves are on – or if there hasn’t been enough sunshine. This is when the battery packs of 45 kWh cannot provide the required electricity. Like everything else, the diesel has to be brought in by boat. Since the boat cannot sail with passengers and dangerous cargo at the same time, this transport is particularly expensive and it detracts from the eco balance.
To solve the problem, World of Greenland doubled the battery bank at the end of the summer, so from next season, more of the sun’s energy can be stored. Wind power has been abandoned because the Arctic wind is too unstable. Another idea for more energy involves installing a water turbine on the pipe that leads the water to the cabins from a lake situated high up.
– The drop from the lake to the cabins is a couple of hundred metres and the pressure is five bars, so we would like to exploit this, explains Ulf Klüppel.
This summer, he worked together with two electrical installation students from the Dania Academy of Higher Education in Denmark. They analyzed the energy consumption from day to day to find the exact requirements so that they can make recommendations for new, sustainable solutions.
– The energy issue is only the first step towards sustainability. The next step is waste separation and what we can do about the toilets. We have tried compost toilets without success. Our dream is to be 100 per cent self sufficient with energy and to make Glacier Lodge Eqi CO2-neutral.
– The location of the cabins, across from an active glacier, is of course the most important sales argument, but we also want to send a signal that we are conscious of the environment in Greenland, concludes Ulf Klüppel.
  < Read the story in the magazine and see all the pictures. Page 42 – 44