The Sirius Patrol
When traveling to Greenland you most likely will hear about the elite unit in the far north – The Sirius Patrol, patrolling the Arctic tundra all year around. Even during winter months when there is no sun and temperatures drop down to minus 50 degrees. Let us tell you a little bit of this armed special force.
The Danish Armed Forces maintain their claim to Greenland with an epic dog-sled patrol. They are responsible for overseeing 16,000 square kilometers of coastline in northeast Greenland as well as the order of the Greenland National Park. The Sirius Patrol is comprised by six teams of two men and their trained dogs. They patrol both on land and sometimes on the pack ice. Along the way they ensure nothing is out of the ordinary and measure the thickness of the ice and snow cover, crucial work when it comes to studying climate change.
The first dog sledge patrols began during World War II to monitor and then destroy German weather bases as part of efforts to keep Greenland in Allied hands. During the Cold War, Denmark decided to establish a permanent military presence in Greenland and the patrol then went by the name Resolut. Three years later, they changed to the current name, Sirius Patrol. Even after the war, Greenland still remained a desirable territory, rich in oil and precious metals. The patrol secure Denmark's claim to this valuable wilderness simply by their presence.
The daily life of the Sirius Patrol
Patrol units generally work in teams of two, with only around six teams every year. Overall, there are twelve Sirius Patrol members with six new recruits every year, each paired with a longer serving members. Only men can apply for service and you must be completely healthy. Each duty period is 26 months and you only visit civilization once during those months.
There are up to 14 dogs in each team, and a day's patrol will typically cover 30 km (19 miles). At night the soldiers retire to a hi-tech tent, while the dogs sleep always outside, even in the depths of winter. Patrols can last up to five months without a break or return to base. It is because of the long trips and the rough terrain that dog sleds are used. A snowmobile might break down and can not do such a long distance. The most intelligent dog always lead the patrol. It is essential to choose the safest route and to search for hidden cracks and thin ice.
They always need to be prepared for polar bears and musk oxen, so they never go anywhere without weapons. This patrol are the only one in a wilderness greater than Great Britain and France combined – the dogs and their friendship and teamwork are essential.
During a two-year placement with the unit, the soldiers are paid a monthly salary of around 23,000 Danish kroner. Their arctic training includes dog handling, building emergency snow shelters, and hunting for food. It is not the prospect of getting rich that makes men sign up for this patrol, it is the chance of the journey of a lifetime.
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Experience Greenland’s untamed wilderness with the elegant 12-passenger ship M/S Balto, designed to explore the most remote fjord systems, visit isolated Inuit settlements and take you to secret anchorages. Greenland’s spectacular coastline offers some of the most remarkable nature experiences. The Arctic landscape is dominated by ice-filled fjords, majestic peaks and vast tundra.