Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Sirius Patrol: Denmark in Greenland

From the BBC:

Greenland by dog sledge: The Sirius Patrol in numbers

Since the Cold War, Denmark has staked its claim to northern Greenland - and its untapped mineral wealth - with dog sledge patrols. This is the Sirius Patrol in numbers.

A Greenlandic dog in the Sirius Patrol
At 40-50kg, Sirius dogs are bred to be heavier and stronger

The vast icy expanses at the top of our planet are rich in coal, ore and minerals. Although inhospitable in the extreme, these areas are in demand.

Denmark patrols and protects its sovereignty over Greenland with a small naval unit called the Sirius Patrol. The US Geological Survey estimates the oil reserves off its coast are as big as those in the North Sea.

Each autumn, six dog sledge teams - each manned by two soldiers from the Royal Danish Navy - spend up to six months patrolling an area of 160,000 sq km (60,000 sq miles). They are the only people in a vast wilderness about three times the size of Denmark.

During winter the sun disappears for two months. The average yearly temperature is -10C (14F) and the mercury can dip as low as -55C (-67F) - the lowest recorded temperature in the area.

Aurora borealis over a tent of the Sirius Patrol in northern Greenland
Conditions for the dog sledge teams are harsh but spectacular

There are up to 14 dogs in each team, and a day's patrol will typically cover 30km (19 miles). At night the soldiers retire to a hi-tech tent. The dogs sleep outside, even in the depths of winter.

A Sirius Patrol soldier sets about rescuing another from icy water
Training to rescue fallen comrades from icy water

The unit selectively breeds Greenlandic dogs for endurance and strength. Each dog works for five years. By the time it retires, a dog in the Sirius Patrol will have pulled sledges for more than 20,000km (12,427 miles).

During a two-year placement with the unit, the soldiers are paid a monthly salary of 22,000 Danish kroner (£2,535) after tax. Their arctic training includes dog handling, building emergency snow shelters, and hunting for food.

After being granted sovereignty over Greenland in 1933, Denmark has been obliged to maintain a permanent presence in the entire area....

There is more on this fascinating story, here.

Out of East Greenland comes some other 'cool' (okay, cold!) facts about our ally Denmark in Greenland. Go look here.

*Bratdog approves this post on the Sirius Patrol*

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