Today I was on deck early to scan the shores of Kangerlussuaq Fjord for muskoxen. This, our last day in Greenland before flying home, was also our best, and last, opportunity to see muskoxen. As usual, there were many objects on the hills that could have been muskoxen, but were only rocks. If you want to see a muskox badly enough, your eyes will try to trick you into believing that a dark-coloured rock is really a muskox. This trick of the eye is what we call “muskrock”. Muskrocks were all I saw today.
Muskoxen are native to northern and northeastern Greenland, but were introduced to the Kangerlussuaq region of southwestern Greenland only in the 1960s. From the town of Kangerlussuaq there are organized tours to see muskoxen. They appear in all the local tourism brochures. We saw posters and gift shops advertising muskox wool, and a muskox hide stretched out to dry on the side of a building.
We hired a guide to take us out to see and photograph Greenlandic muskoxen, but we did not get what we wanted. We searched all the usual muskox places in the hills and valleys for the shaggy beasts, but all we found were a few pieces of fur and part of a muskox leg, probably left behind by a hunter. Was it because of the hunting season that we did not see any? Or was it just the same old circumstances that every wildlife biologist experiences, when animals just do not appear when and where you expect them to be?
But you always can take something good and valuable from any experience. We saw examples of the typical Greenland vegetation at our feet and the vast ice of the Greenland icecap on the horizon. My companions presented me with a cute little stuffed toy muskox as a memory of our little expedition, and to compensate for the lack of real sightings!