The Shining Ones

Research Notes: Greenland Sirius Patrol

If you’ve read the free chapters from The Shining Ones, you’ll know that Ethne has just made a dramatic escape across the ice sheet in Greenland on a sledge pulled by huskies. She doesn’t know it yet, but she’s about to meet the owner of the sledge: Jorgen, a soldier with the Sirius Patrol.

The Sirius Sledge Patrol is a specialist military unit that patrols Greenland National Park, protecting Denmark’s claim to the land and the minerals it contains. It was formed in 1950 and was named after the Dog Star (Sirius), the brightest star in the constellation of Canis Major, and their badge features a husky in a white six-pointed star.

Only men aged between 20 and 30 can join, and they’re not allowed to be married or engaged (although that seems to be changing now). They serve for two years and will spend most of that time patrolling the vast wilderness of north and northeast Greenland – around 100,000 square miles of territory – on a sledge with 13 dogs.

Sirius patrolmen have to be completely self-sustaining and undergo serious psychological and physical tests before they can qualify. The conditions are extreme so they always patrol in pairs to look out for each other and the dogs. They build all their own equipment, including the sledges and dog harnesses, and even have to do surgery and extract teeth, if necessary. And for two months in winter, they patrol in complete darkness.

Happy huskies

The dogs are pretty tough too. Sirius patrol dogs are specially bred Greenland huskies – bigger and more muscular than their Alaskan cousins. This is because the dogs have to pull a sledge carrying two men and all their supplies, and often travel 20 to 40 miles a day through extreme weather.

It might appear easier to use snowmobiles like Canadian rangers, but the Sirius Patrol stick with the dogs because they’re more reliable. If one dog gets sick or injured, you can still keep going. But if your snowmobile breaks down, you’re not going anywhere until you can fix it – and that gets extremely difficult in temperatures below -30 C and in pitch darkness.

Here’s a taste of life in the Sirius Sledge Patrol from the recruitment video:

And here’s some fantastic photos of the Sirius Patrol and the wildlife they encounter in Greenland.

Image: Huskies