Almost all of my life have been related to Greenland. The first step in this direction was taken immediately after my time in the army. I was in the spring of 1949 working in a small workshop on Roskildevej at the corner of Broendbyoestervejen. It was not meant it would be for long, as it initially focused on building a front fender for an BMW, and I dit it actually in a week. In the meantime my boss was called by Dr Lauge Koch's office if he did know a mechanic who could go to the Greenland for a few months, and I got this chance.
I did say yes at once, and was in this way a member of Dr Lauge Koch's expedition. I was stationed in Mesters Vig July and august 1949 to maintain the equipment to be used to study some lead ore found the year before. The equipment included a small four wheel drive truck, motor boat, some compressed air materiel and a diamond drilling machine, which could drill cores out of the rock.
The occurence was located at the Mesters Vig Bay, but the same year was found a new and promising presence in Blyklippen. This was the following two summers explored, but still, as part of Dr Lauge Koch's expedition, whose main task it was, to map the geological conditions of the whole area. I also participated in these expeditions, while I rest of the year were employed in a workshop in Glostrup.
There was now formed a genuine mining company named Northern Mining Company Ltd. This company should continue the investigations, and now year-round. I was first in the year 1952 employed in the company as the 6. employee, and would be responsible for all the technical during the operation in Greenland. It was courageously done, because I was only 25 years at recruitment, and had only a training as auto mecanic to show up. Then came the more serious time . There was purchased generatorset, mining equipment, trucks and buildings. I was taking part in the purchases, and was also trained in Sweden and England.
In the middle of the summer of 1952 I travelled to Greenland as one of the first, and a massive construction was put to work. Both the construction of buildings to be used in the investigation of the ore occuurence, but also the building of a new airfield with an 1,800 m long gravel runway and associated buildings. Also a Radiostation was established, so there could be kept telegraphic contact with the outside world.
As soon as it was possible started the blasting of a tunnel, which was expected to provide access to the portion of deposits at this level. The work was carried out in two shifts, and the momentum was about 2 m per shift. There was drilled with two air pressurized drills, and the blasted rock was loaded on dump cars on rail with a compressed air driven loader, while the dump cars was pulled out of a diesel locomotive. There was for each round drilled about 30 holes with 2.4 m long drill with special drillbits, and for the blasting was used a special dynamite, which could withstand the low temperatures. For the blasting was used fuses which burned relatively slowly, the so-called stubiner. Would you like to hear how an explosion sounded in 1953, follow this link.
The climatic conditions in the area were unusual for one who came from Denmark. It was dark for two months during the winter, but there was midnightssun most of the summer. The temperature could go down to -45 degrees C, and the snow deept could be more than 2 m. all over the ground. In this case the houses was covered with snow all over, and we had to dig stairs in the snow to get down to the entrance, and holes down to windows to get air. Despite the special circumstances, it was possible to work throughout the year, and only an unusually severe snowstorm could have work to be stop a day or two.
After two years of studies it was in late summer 1954 decided to start mining, and we began to prepare for the expansion needed. It was not before the beginning of 1955 that preparations really began. There was blasted rooms in the mountain to a new powerplant, and to the flotationplant to sort the ore in lead and zinc, and discard non metallic materials. The necessary machinery and equipment for the installations came up with ship, and there was a violent activity.
First in 1956 it had come so far, that production could begin. It was not a happy time, because water in the snow and icecovered riverbed was at the lowest level. It succeeded however, after some difficulties, to get production started, and it continued until the summer of 1962, when all the usefull ore was exhausted.
When production began in 1956, I had been living for 3½ years in Mesters Vig, only interrupted by holidays and assistance in the office in Copenhagen. I did therefore find , that it was time to look back to Denmark to find any other job, but because of my knowledge of the situation in Mesters Vig and the mine, I was offered to work in the office. A work which I accepted and still gave me contact with Greenland, because I was up on some special tasks several times. The most exciting, but also the most difficult was, when we had to start investigations in the molybdenum containing Malmbjerg, where we transported equipment and fuel over the glaciers by sledgetrain pulled by bulldozers. Want to know more about this operation where we used glaciers as a route through the more than 1000 m high mountain range, follow this link.
The miningtown was still staffed until the summer of 1963, where I was part in a crew there had to shut it down. When we stopped the generators all life died out ,and there was absolutely quiet as it was before the inauguration in 1952. Even clocks stood still, because they were electric, and the freezing store had to be emptied, because the meat would spoilage in the prevailing summer heat. Provisional was the miningtown left, but after a few years were again searched for minerals, but none found which could be exploited at the time.
For me, and almost any other, it was also the end. There was no longer need for the expertise that was accumulated through the years. And yet. I received a telegram from the Danish Civil Aviation, which offered a job in Copenhagen. Although the operation of the mine was set, there was still a need for the airport to other tasks, but now it should be completely on their own feet and could no longer drag at the mine facilities. And therefore there was need for one like me, who had experience with the technology and equipment which was necessary with the new status.
But read more about this in a later section about the Civil Danish Aviation.
And the mine, yes, the tunnels and rooms in the mountain are still there, but they are closed and probably iced up. The houses are almost all gone from the earth's surface, and the same are most of the crew as were up there. But there are still some left. In august 1999, we called for a meeting on Fyn, and here we met 50 people to talk and remember and try to recognize each other. It could be difficult, because it was 50 years ago the lead was found and the opening of this epoch in the Northeast Greenland. In august 2006 we met again on Fyn. There were of course some who were with us last time, who could not attend this time, but we were still 35 who had been up there.
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Edited february 27 2009