"Arnangarnup Qoorua," in the Greenlandic language, means "the most feminine valley." Among local non-Greenlanders the valley is commonly known as "Paradise Valley."
Today "Paradise Valley" is designated a protected area; it is prohibited to gather plants, antlers, skulls, relics, and artifacts. Preserving its beautiful landscape, cultural ruins, and graves are of upmost importance. During one period of time it was possible to visit this area.
Soon after arriving at Sondrestrom Air Base I wanted to establish a lifestyle like the one I had at Thule Air Base, two years prior. Joined the local Sondy Aero Club, did a lot of "hangar flying" with several members, and scheduled a "check ride" with a Danish fight instructor.
You may be wondering, "Is it possible for a flight instructor to have enough student pilots to keep busy in Greenland?" No it wasn't. The only Danish certified fight instructor arrived approximately four times a month on the SAS DC-8 flight from Copenhagen. The flight instructor was also the Captain of the SAS flight. The instructor /SAS captain would be on the ground, at Sondy, for approximately 2 hours while the DC-8 was refueled and passengers boarded for the return flight to Copenhagen.
Well 2 hours should be enough time to get a "check ride." Since I worked the air traffic control approach into Sondrestrom I knew that when Reykjavik (Iceland) Center turned over control of the DC-8 to us; it would be approximately 60 minutes before the aircraft was parked at the SAS Hotel ramp. 60 minutes was plenty of time to get our Super Cub out of the hangar, fuel it up, taxi to the hotel, and pick up Captain Jens Damgaard for my check ride.
The SAS station manager informed me that Captain Damgaard was scheduled on the next flight into Sondy. On that day I made sure I was working the approach control position, took the "handoff" from Reykjavik Center, and waited for the first radio call from, whom I hoped would be Captain Damgaard. Sure enough the radio call came in and I can't remember identifying myself as Sondrestrom Approach Control but do remember quickly asking, "Is this Captain Damgaard?"
The answer was, "Yes, is this Andy?"
Luck was with me that day; the weather was clear, blue skies, sunny, warm, and light winds. Captain Damgaard said get the plane ready, taxi to the hotel, and we would fly for about one hour. I told him another air traffic controller would take over and I was on my way.
I learned to fly at an Air Force Aero Club and was familiar with check rides from different instructors, however not from a Danish instructor and, on top of that, a professional SAS pilot. I was a bit concerned that I might not meet expectations….mostly my own expectations.
Captain Damgaard came bouncing out of the DC-8 with a big smile on his face. Jens was approximately 35 years old, blond, blue eyes…the typical Scandinavian look Americans expect. He said he liked flying around Sondrestrom at low levels in the aero club's Piper Super Cub, OY-EAM. Flying a DC-8 doesn't allow low level flying, for obvious reasons.
Word spread that I was now "checked out," had a few solo hours under my belt, and looking for places to explore. Sitting in the dinning hall one day a Danish fellow asked if I had visited "Paradise Valley?" "No, but I'm interested."
"Paradise" means something different for all of us, maybe an image of complete bliss, delight, and peace. After being around Danish people for several years I knew that this "Paradise Valle" must be something special…Danes do not give places such names easily; there must be a very good reason.
First flight to paradise my mind was full of different images; I had no idea of what to expect. Approaching paradise valley from the north you can't really see the valley floor until directly over it. The flight from Sondy is at about 2,500 feet with nothing below except small mountain tops. Then, all of a sudden the mountains are behind and you are flying over a long narrow spectacular valley. It's like the earth open up and preserved a place on earth that hasn't change for millions of years.
One of the permanent residents - muskox. I believe they are as curious about us as we are of them.
In the beginning I wasn't impressed with the name "paradise valley" for this area because I thought everything in Greenland had its own beauty. However, those who have visited arctic regions and take a few minutes to get away to a quiet place remember that "feeling-of-fulfillment."
That "feeling" comes upon us during moments we don't expect. All of a sudden you realize how small we, as individuals, are and how vast nature is. You sort of stop doing whatever and think "wow," how fortunate I am to be alive and witness nature's beauty, such as in Greenland.
Soon I looked forward to visiting paradise valley because I knew that "feeling" would happen numerous times during the visit.
I enjoyed those moments; however that "feeling" comes to people in different ways. I believe some people experience those moments when fishing. The following pictures can not really capture the natural beauty of paradise valley but you may see "paradise" on this fisherman's face.
They say as you get older you remember detailed things that happened 20, 30, or 40 years ago better than you can remember what happened yesterday. Maybe that is true, seems like yesterday Greenland was part of our lives.
Today, I believe the name "Paradise Valley" describes that place in Greenland better than any other English word. It is simply, "paradise" because of the pleasurable experience and that "feeling-of-fulfillment" we all received.
Eternal paradise, I suppose, could mean "happy ever after." We can thank the Greenlandic government for making "Paradise Valley" a protected area which should preserve its beauty forever.