Rafa’s Blog

Rafael Gutierrez Garitano
Rafael Gutiérrez Garitano is a photojournalist, explorer and war correspondent currently working for El Correo journal. A passionate traveler and renowned photographer, his work has been featured in press and media, as well in book covers. He has earned recognition through photo contests, being awarded the Camino de Hierro and the Spanish National Award in the Sony World Photography Awards, one of the most prestigious and participative competitions worldwide. He co-directed the Mars Gaming expeditions to Peru which resulted in the discovery of an Inca sanctuary in Vilcabamba.


Saturday, August 05, 2017

Finally, a ray of hope. It seems that the Strait of Nares is being cleared of ice by its Canadian side, and it is posible that there is more opportunities of entering there by Greenland, than where we were trying it. This are good news because it opens a new opportunity that allows us to continue dreaming about fulfilling our main objective: to reach the parallel eighty, which in terms of navigation, equates to the alpinistic ascent of an eight thousand. It sounds good, but the plan also has its points against, because only in going and returning from Canada we will have to invest between 4 and 5 days, and from now on time is gold, and every minute counts. It is therefore an important decision that will be a turning point in the expedition. So we get together, expose our points of view, and discuss both options. On the one hand, if we leave, a few days later the ice may open up here, and there would be no time to go back and try. On the other hand, if we insist on waiting here, we may miss the opportunity that seems to be opening up on the Canadian coast. Finally, with the shadow of doubt but relieved by the fact of having made a decision, we will leave, right away and without further delay … to Canada!

Nothabout entre aguas heladas

Northabout entre aguas heladas

Friday, August 04, 2017

The frigid wall is still impenetrable and prevents access to the North. The days advance and we begin to suspect that perhaps it is not possible to realize some of the objectives that we had set ourselves. At this point in the year, the pack should have gone much further, but as the Inuit tell us, here nature commands, she is the boss, and we must bow to her designs. There is still room for maneuver but we will start to discuss other possibilities and alternative plans to get the most out of this experience and enjoy the great beauty that surrounds us.

Iceberg and seagull

Iceberg and seagull

Thyrsday, August 03, 2017

After the pleasant experience of the unexpected visit of two residents of Soriapaluk yesterday, today we have approached the town with the intention of getting to know the hermetic local culture better.

Humans are not made to withstand such an adverse environment as the Arctic, yet 4 million people live here. In winter the region remains frozen and dark for months. There are no trees or plants to eat. Their survival is based on an intimate knowledge of this habitat, the most hostile on earth.

A man named Nuka opens the doors of his house, where he introduces us to his extended family and invites us to tea. They do not speak much English but we managed. They tell us about their way of life, their dependence on hunting and fishing to survive. He shows us his trophies, old photographs, and all kinds of instruments used during the coldest months of winter, which is handmade and causes us great curiosity. The famous kamik, or boots high up to the calf, made with seal skin, the whip to stimulate the dogs that pull of the sled, also made from tendon of seal, as well as the trousers of polar bear, that next to a Parka stuffed with bird feathers, makes up the winter suit they wear to withstand temperatures of minus 40 degrees, and that Maria, our doctor, who aims at everything, has the honor of being able to sheathe herself, to immortalize herself in an amusing photo.

Nuka, the friendly neighbor who has opened the doors of his house, next to his boat on the beaches of Soriapaluk.

Nuka, the friendly neighbor who has opened the doors of his house, next to his boat on the beaches of Soriapaluk.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

The weather conditions are still adverse and at the moment, we can not go to the North, so we have no choice but to be patient, to wait, and to take advantage of the days as much as possible. Today we went out to the open sea to record some images and on the way, to raise a little mood and break the monotony, we decided to give ourselves the whim of landing on an icicle, a large piece of flat ice drifting floating.



Tuesday, August 01, 2017

After the collision suffered by the corporal Alexander, we decided to take the day to rest, clean and buy fuel in the nearby settlement of Soriapaluk. The pleasant surprise of the day, almost magical, is given by an unexpected and pleasant visit: an old man accompanied by a young woman approach by boat, of course, we invite you to go up to have coffee aboard the Northabout. They do not speak English and it is obvious that the communication will not be simple, so, to break the ice, an expression that I will never be able to use at the most opportune moment, we take a pen and paper, a chocolate cake and Port wine. They tell us that they are father and daughter. He, Pulak, a seventy-year-old hunter, short but rock-solid, has such a swollen chest that his lungs appear to be in permanent phase of maximum inspiration. The only symptom that reveals his advanced age is the hearing aid that he uses to combat a mild deafness. And she, Bebiane, who lives in a tiny settlement near Qaanaaq and takes advantage of the summer, like so many others, to visit the family. They tell us about their world and ours, especially thanks to a variety of postcards that Maria had the brilliant idea to bring. We show you Fuerteventura, Madrid, and of course, Vitoria, Medieval Area, and … a picture of the Virgen Blanca Square, crowded with people during the descent of “Celedon”, the endearing character that opens the festivities of the Virgen Blanca, That everyone from Vitoria knows, but here in Greenland, according to the expression that raises in the face of our guests, is to be thinking how crazy these Romans are. The conversation, or rather, the communication is encouraged and we are invited to accompany them to hunt, something that we will gladly do if the ice continues to block us. In short, we spent a great time in the party and laughing, and when we said goodbye, we were left with an exquisite taste of the mouth. For the privilege of being able to see this delicious window open to the hermetic Inuit culture, generally not very accessible to the curiosity of the western tourist. Happy holidays to all the people from Vitoria!

Familia Inuit
Monday, July 31, 2017

The ice pack inflicts a new defeat. The weather forecast has failed and after turning the cable Alexander we come across an impenetrable wall of ice. We set off in a small bay to rest but a strong storm rises and it is not safe, so, somewhat demoralized because things are getting more complicated than anticipated, we are forced to retreat again. As we have no choice but to wait for the conditions to improve, we will try to take the time to advance the recording of the documentary and perhaps to cross a glacier where to test the equipment for the terrestrial expedition. What is clear is that despite all the setbacks and difficulties that arise, we must take full advantage of the privilege of being in a place as beautiful and remote as the Arctic Circle.

Paisaje Groenlandia
Sunday, July 30, 2017

Todo apuntaba a que el estado del hielo nos iba a obligar a esperar al menos un par de días en el seguro fiordo de Siorapaluk. Habíamos hecho planes para aprovechar el tiempo al máximo, e íbamos a aprovechar para tomar imágenes para el documental y también queríamos hacer una excursión a un glaciar cercano y probar las pulkas trineos y demás parte del equipo para la expedición terrestre. Pero el hielo es caprichoso y su estado cambia con una rapidez casi inverosímil, y del mismo modo que el otro día en cabo Alexander casi nos atrapa, hoy nos depara una grata sorpresa: se ha abierto un paso limpio de hielo que parece llegar incluso más allá del cabo Alexander, el punto máximo que logramos alcanzar en nuestro primer intento. Sin pensarlo dos veces, cambiamos nuestros planes y ponemos rumbo al norte. ¡Volvemos a la carga!

Maria Valencia al timón
Groenlandia paisaje
Friday, July 28, 2017

It’s amazing how fast the ice conditions change. Since we climbed the mountain, everything has become crooked and the quiet cove where we anchor is now an ice hell filled with icebergs, we must leave behind and decided to try to move north, towards a bay that we appreciated clean from the heights. We advanced and tried until we came across an insurmountable white wall, so we decided to return to the cove in the hope that the ice would decrease. However, the opposite happens, our frozen enemy does not give a truce, so we spend the whole night fighting to protect ourselves from their envy, going further, until a huge one hooks with the chain of the anchor and striking it with fury, we Has forced us to do our utmost to avoid greater evils. With this, we have reached the limit and we must retire back if the ice cream has not yet closed the way to Soriapaluk. Let’s see how the day ends, it’s being very hard.

Northabout atrapado en el hielo
Thursday, July 27, 2017

We advanced a whole day by crossing the ice towards Cape Alexander, the maximum point that the ice can reach according to the specialized meteorological parts that we consulted. At last we reached the cape and anchored in a seemingly quiet bay. It is a beautiful place, nestled between a small rocky island, a glacier, beautiful and magnificent, although humble in size compared to most of the huge glaciers that abound in Greenland, and the same rock of Cape Alexander, from which you would get a General overview of the area very useful to then be able to study the state of ice. So we divide ourselves, so that some remain to watch the ship and others will ascend.

Miguel Gutierrez Garitano desde el monte
Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Siorapaluk, la última frontera antes de una inmensidad vacía)

For several days we have forgotten the usual logic of night and day. For us, the 24 hours are the same now that the sun never sets, which in reality is a great advantage for our purposes, since the darkness of the night closed would complicate navigation a lot. So things, if the sea, the wind and the ice allow, we advance. If not, we seek the best possible refuge in the face of the latter’s onslaught, the greatest obstacle to our goals, and we hope, as we have done today in the Siorapaluk cove, the last settlement before the great empty immensity that awaits us most North.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A strong wind has risen and we must make every effort to avoid collision with an iceberg of considerable size. It does not seem advisable to head north until it has subsided, and we have decided to take advantage of the day to buy supplies at Qaanaaq, and perhaps to get closer to Siorapaluk, a small settlement which is the most to the north of Greenland.

Tripulación Mars Gaming Expedition
Monday, July 24, 2017

We continue the journey that began a couple of days ago in the port of Upernavic in the direction of Qaanaaq, the northernmost settlement of Greenland, where we will almost certainly stop to stock up. At noon, we pass by Thule, which houses a US military base on the site where once was the mythical Inuit population. If the wind continues favorable we will arrive at our next destination towards the middle of the night. Mike Stewart and polar sailing expert Nikolai Litau deciding the route to take.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

We sail day and night without stopping, and we have to remain always alert, which forces us to establish guards and a system of rotating shifts. The sun never sets and therefore, there is hardly a difference between night and day, which makes us extremely strange. We noticed the first big icebergs and were amazed by its size and beauty. They are extremely sensitive to the vibrations of the sound caused by the engine, and when we approach one of them to see a flock of birds, we are surprised by the detachment of a fragment.

Icerberg con aves
Saturday, July 22, 2017

We continue the navigation between a dense bank of fog that has been thrown to us. The Northabout radar can detect large icebergs, but not smaller fragments, called Growlers. The visibility is now very reduced and an iceberg that appears from nowhere and passes skimming the boat. After the scare, we enjoy the beauty of the misty landscape, which also gives us the sight of a white rainbow, a beautiful and curious curious atmospheric phenomenon that we did not know. The weather continues to be benign, a circumstance we take advantage of to advance to reach the mythical Cape York and anchor in a beautiful and quiet cove where we will rest for a few hours.

Northabout en la niebla
Friday, July 21, 2017

After a few days of final preparations at the Upernavik settlement, today Russian sailor Nikolai Litau, one of the world’s leading specialists in polar navigation, has arrived and is the last member to join the expedition. At last, then, we set off towards the North in good weather, calm sea and high morale.

Nicolai Litau