To most of us, Greenland summons an image of a large, amorphous white patch straddling the Arctic Circle on our maps and globes. While appearing uniformly frozen when viewed from afar, what the place might be like close up is mysterious for many.
Zoom in, and you find that Greenland is geographically diverse, with a unique culture and distinctive way of life. It is the most sparsely populated country on the planet with approximately 55,000 inhabitants. A few thousand residents have chosen to relocate from Denmark, but the vast majority are native to the island with an indigenous culture dating back for millennia. Hunting and fishing are a big part of people’s lives, and livelihoods.
“Greenland is quite a special place; in the same shop you can buy fishing equipment and boats, to camping and hunting gear as well as a pint of milk,” observes Henrik Jensen, owner of Denmark-based outdoor equipment distributor Comcepto. “We mainly do business in Greenland, providing a wide range of equipment to our retailer partners there,” he reports.
With its huge landmass of rugged terrain and tundra, and small dispersed population, Greenland is both wild and isolated. GSM coverage is limited to the towns.
Beyond the island’s sheer remoteness, the power and unpredictability of the weather and sea combine to pose serious hazards to Greenlanders. “Outside of the towns, you really need satellite communications to get in contact with other people,” says Henrik.
Pilersuisoq is one of Greenland’s biggest retail chains and Heilmann is product manager for hunting and fishing equipment.
In addition to being extremely busy stocking Pilersuisoq’s island-wide network of 64 outlets, Majaq holds retail events in sports halls where local residents can shop for all they need for sporting, hunting and fishing, from guns and rods to electronics.
SPOT Gen3 has become more and more popular since he first brought the device to the island just a few years back. “In Greenland, most people travel by boat - there are more boats than cars here,” he says. “More and more of my customers are keen to own a SPOT so families can know users are safe when out hunting or fishing.”
To prove SPOT Gen3’s value to his customers, Majaq sought to personally demonstrate its tracking capabilities.
Greenland is not the uniform mass of snow and ice we might imagine. While 85% of Greenland is permanently ice-covered, there’s a narrow strip along the coastline that is indeed green. Majaq set out on the famous Arctic Circle Trail which follows this beautiful, wildlife-rich route, known as one of the best long-distance hikes in the world. The trail stretches up to 200km (124miles) from the edge of the ice cap to the fishing town of Sisimiut on the west coast.
He completed the trek in under two days, but along the journey, friends and colleagues followed his progress on Facebook, with precise GPS coordinates provided by the SPOT Gen3 he carried, connected to Globalstar’s worldwide fleet of satellites in low-Earth-orbit.
“SPOT is increasingly popular for tracking,” says Henrik. “For example when users are out hunting; if a hunter is alone and in the wilderness, SPOT allows family and friends to see where the hunter is which is essential should there be a need to press the SOS button to summon urgent help.”
The word about SPOT is spreading among Greenlanders. “There is still great potential in the market, as people come to understand the importance of reliable satellite communications in the event of an emergency,” says Henrik.
Henrik has his own personal experiences in Greenland which reinforce his commitment to providing the safety of SPOT to the island’s population. During his recent visit, on returning from a four-day hunting trip, the boat carrying him and his party emerged from the calm waters of a fjord into a sudden and extreme storm in the open sea. So fierce were the wind and waves, the party urgently had to seek shelter in a cabin they luckily found on shore until the tempest passed. “If we had not been carrying a SPOT, we would have been unable to tell anyone we were safe.”
The SMS and email capabilities of SPOT X are much anticipated: “In this case, it would have been great to have two-way communications because our rescue party could have informed us that they were unable to send help immediately due to the bad weather.”
“This is not a unique story for a place like Greenland so we have great expectations for SPOT X in this market.” Says Henrik: “Sometimes adventurous, fearless people are reluctant to consider safety devices but SPOT X’s two-way communication capability makes it a vital tool to stay in touch even if there is no emergency, so we expect attitudes to change, and lead to enthusiastic uptake.”
This view is shared by Majaq: “In Greenland, even when your boat is just a few minutes away from port, you have absolutely no phone signal. So to get in touch with anyone, you need satellite communications.”