Shaking off the snow

Photographing the sled dogs of Greenland

Carsten Egevang
Carsten Egevang
Verified Travel Blogger

Carsten Egevang at work photographing sled dogs

Photographer Carsten has a mission: To photograph the Greenland tradition of sled dogs before it is too late!

Greenland holds the Arctic’s largest remaining sled dog population and a globally unique traditional dog sled culture. There is hardly a better symbol for traditional Greenlandic life style than the sled dog and the culture connected to dog sledging!

Sled dog in snow stormGreenland sled dog

Throughout the past, the Greenland sled dog has been crucial for survival in the Arctic, and genetically, the dog breed in Greenland is unique. Today, the use of dog sledding is still a prominent role in Greenland. In order to preserve the sled dog culture, the Greenland Government has banned the use of snow mobiles for hunting. But things change. In just two decades, the number of sled dogs in Greenland has more than halved. The dog population has been reduced from 31.000 dogs twenty years ago to a present low of less than 15.000 and the situation is growing worse.

Greenland sled dog

Summer snow in July

Pulling the load

The main explanation for the drastic decline is to be found in the absence of sea ice. The season where the ice is stable and sledding is possible will be shorter year in year in Greenland. At the same time, it is a lot of work to provide food for the dogs. Imported dog food plays an increasingly important role, rather than traditional food like seals obtained from hunting. This means that an increasing number of mushers today put the whip on the shelf and give up keeping dogs. The Greenland sled dog is becoming a threatened species.

Sled dogs on a small iceberg

Sled dogs at work

"Don't come too close"

I’ve joined a research and communication project, Qimmeq – the Greenlandic word for dog – that focus on the Greenland sled dog genetically, the importance in the past and not the least: the role of the dog in today’s Greenland. Qimmeq is an interdisciplinary project combining cutting-edge research with visual communication of high standards. The main output of the project is a travelling exhibition along with a book publication that I will be editing and illustrating with my photos.

Howling at the sky

Portrait of a sled dog

Close-up of sled dogs from Qaanaaq

The sled dog and its cultural history thus presents itself as an excellent and timely object for an interdisciplinary survey where anthropology, archaeology, genetics, and biology are integrated to provide a holistic, comprehensive and detailed picture of its history, role and importance. Due to its character and fame the sled dog will also provide an excellent platform for the engagement of the public and schools using web-portal, film, still photography, exhibits, and events as venues.

Curling up for the night

Dogs and iceberg, East Greenland

Shaking off the snow

The Qimmeq project is a three year project.

Se more at my website!