National Geographic : 2012 Jan
replace outgoing patrollers. Women are eligible, though none have yet applied. Everyone must be under 30 to try out. Just weeks before the Sirius trainees were to leave for an outdoor-survival program in Green- land, Jesper heard the news: He was the nal man cut. He was devastated. "I was never going to apply again," he says. He returned to the police force but could not stop thinking about the stark beauty and con- summate challenge of the far northern wilds. His parents had supported his ambition; he did not have a girlfriend. So he changed his mind and tried once more. He subjected himself to the eight-month training regimen. He learned everything from meteorology to hunting skills to veterinary medicine; he memorized the shape of more than 600 ords and points along the Greenland coast in case he lost his map. is time, Jesper made the cut. As part of his nal training, he leaped into icy water to simulate a sledding disaster, then lived for ve days with only a small bag of emergency supplies, sleeping in a snow cave he dug with a tin cup and hunt- ing arctic hare or musk ox to eat. At last, in July of 2010, he reported for duty at the Sirius base in northeastern Greenland, a collection of blocky buildings, connected with ropes so one can nav- igate in whiteouts, perched on a lonely spit of land. He was o cially a Sirius patroller. in Rasmus, a - year-old second-year patroller and former Air Force sergeant with a scru y red beard, a weight li er's might, and a Buddha-like un appability. Together, in the Sirius wood shop, they built a 14-foot sled, the runners made of nylon and the boards joined with twine rather than nails for maximum exibility. ey named it Black Sun. ey worked with their dogs until they felt like a cohesive unit. In mid-October, when the seas froze---sled- ding just offshore is often the most efficient way to travel---they loaded Black Sun with 815 pounds of supplies and le base, following a route set by Danish military o cers. With the other ve teams, Rasmus and Jesper act as the only rangers in Northeast Greenland National Park, supporting scienti c and sporting expedi- tions in the world's largest park, home to vast herds of musk oxen and hundreds of polar bears. But four days into his rst ever trip, Jesper stabbed himself in the leg. He lay on the snow, pain washing over him, fervently hoping that his dream of serving as a Sirius patroller had not slipped away just as it was beginning. He convinced himself, within a few moments, that the injury was manageable. Probably, he thought, he'd landed on a rock. During his in- tense Sirius training, he'd learned to remain composed no matter how dire the situation, and he'd been indoctrinated in the Sirius ethos: Whenever possible, out on the ice, it's best to continue moving. So without even peeking at the wound, with- out yet noticing the slice in his pants or the blood trickling down, Jesper rose to his feet. He retrieved his knife. Rasmus and he exchanged no more than a few words. "You OK?" "Yeah." en each man grabbed a rope tied to the sled and stood solidly on his skis. "Ya!" Rasmus shouted. e dogs snapped their lines taut, and the sled, and the men, lurched violently forward. at the intersection of chaos and skill. To keep the team moving, Jesper and Rasmus continually interacted with their dogs--- whistling, scolding, cajoling, praising. ey were crossing a peninsula called the Hochstetter For- land, bouncing over rocks, chugging up hills and sliding down, a fog of frozen breath, from both dogs and humans, forming a vapor trail hanging DOGSLEDDING EXISTS AT THE INTERSECTION OF CHAOS AND SKILL. Fritz Ho mann covered the Shaolin tradition of kung fu in March 2011. In April, Michael Finkel described dropping into Congo's Nyiragongo volcano.