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Home Ground

UK-based filmmaker James Aiken embarks on a nautical exploration of Greenland

by Graham Hiemstra in Culture on 20 February 2014

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The desolate region surrounding Iceland and Greenland is, in essence, pure wilderness. The landscape, the people—every aspect of the area is unique. While the two isolated countries share an impressive amount of geographic similarities, the native cultures are each wholly their own, developing separately through history. Given the rare opportunity to crew for a local Icelandic sailor on a trip from Greenland to Iceland across the infamous and perilous Denmark Straight, UK-based filmmaker James Aiken saw just what binds the two countries together and what sets them apart. His short film "Home Ground" documents the nautical voyage.

Barely five minutes long, "Home Ground" captures a clear look at what life is like here, aided by intimate dialogue with Icelandic sailor Siggi and Greenlandic hunter Dines. The two share their individual philosophies on life and the importance of keeping connected to nature as well as the past. While most experts would advise this sort of journey be made before August—due to especially sporadic and violent autumnal storms—Aiken heeded the call from captain Siggi in September. With a bit of luck and deep meteorological knowhow, the Aurora threaded the needle between two storms and completed the journey.

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Though Aiken's time with Dines was limited, the filmmaker made good use of it, exploring the fjords in Dines' small boat, feeding his sled dogs fresh seal meat and sharing a meal of muktak (whale blubber). "I'm really inspired by people who live in closeness to nature," explains Aiken. "And I believe that if we look at these people who live quiet, happy lives in tune with their surroundings, we can begin to understand how we must adapt our own far more urban and consumption-based lives into a more sustainable and rewarding lifestyle."

For a closer look at additional images from Aiken's nautical journey and other recent adventures—including Norður: Almost Arctic, a closer look at life on Iceland's all but deserted West Fjords—visit his tumblr directly.

Images by James Aiken

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