KT Tunstall’s Arctic Diary

Tags: KT Tunstall

KT Tunstall onboard an expedition studying the effects of global warming

Friday, September 26th
Plane landing at Kangerlussuaq
We could see the east coast of Greenland, indifferent, majestic, and there they were – icebergs from above!! Aaaarrr!! We were suddenly all toddlers, looking down on the little minty sailboats being shoved out of the nest of the shore, forced to take off on voyages from which they would never return. Ever diminishing, ever more alone. Gliding off into the vastness.

5 hours sailing down the gargantuan straight of Sondre Stromfjord, the light starts to get soaked up by the time. Like a waking dream. Milky green sea that looks alive. A beautifully perfected valley scraped out of the landscape as our guide, singing us out of its mouth. The weirdness. The spook. That half-light that makes you feel like the whites of your eyes are glowing. A low-lying cloud that turns a scottish landscape into a science fiction set. The boat is full and buzzing like a hive. The Belgian-Danish bar and restaurant manager Jan (Yan? Xian?!) has the best and weirdest burr on his r’s I’ve ever heard. Want to teach him the Ragged Rascal Ran tongue twister.

Saturday, September 27th
The sea has hills. Late
Murky half light. It felt like a kid was playing with our boat using his whole arm, up and down, up and down, over the hills of the sea. I imagined we were in the downy neck of a huge eagle (to avoid associations with sea-related hurling, which worked thankfully); UP – the wings flap down, DOWN – the wings flap up. Valleys and lakes.

I dreamt of walking a path up to an old house where a family party was taking place, but there was a strange quiet and calm residing over it all. I read in a Jack White interview that he hates it when people use the word ‘strange’ when talking about their dreams. Yeah?! Well no luck Jackie baby, it was a well strange quiet!! That milky green scene last night was something else.

I feel like I’m starting to stop.

Sunday, September 28th
Qeqertassuak. Gurr-kurr-tiss-wack
Bleak, sleet, cold; howling packs of half wolf hounds that have had their barks bred out of them. Black sand, with blue white icebergs as big as multi-storey car-parks, road bridges, office blocks. Their little relatives pecking at sand, littering the beach. Each of these unliftable baby ‘bergs look like something. A chicken. A swan. A turtle.
The dogs are everywhere, chained, wet, wild. I see a mother with two unchained puppies strangling herself to try and reach a huge hole another dog has dug himself, all the other dogs wailing and straining towards it. The dog in the centre has caught one of her puppies. I walk away feeling ill and deeply domesticated.

This is an exceptionally hard place to live, for people and for dogs. Thank god they have access to mad coloured paint; this little town looks like Tobermory/Balamory after Bungle and Zippy decided to buy time-shares. Clumps of multi-coloured houses perched on the permafrost. Trying to imagine how the hell you survive winters of gruelling minus temperatures when the sun totally disappears for two and a half months. Christmas, as you can imagine, is a really big deal here.

Wednesday, October 1st
Finally I saw the ribbons in the sky, the northern lights. Slow and suggested, swaying velvet curtains in a drafty cosmos. We all played a gig in a bar tonight, I don’t know what happened but the great boot from outwith crushed my mojo…Floored by quiet endings, the rip of other roars, it’s not good when you reject yourself in a Greenlandic bar faced with the brilliance of Hitchcock, Cocker, Wainwright, Sakamoto, Carlton and Feist. Not my night. My heart is twisted up like kid’s balloon and I imagine looks like a poodle.

But the amazement of this day ultimately overshadows self-indulgent confidence crashes. The snow, the mountain emerging into the whip-crack of the light, howl howl. Yellow on my face. The viking Rene who arrived 15 years ago and decided to stay and raise lost kids in a much needed children’s home. The music they played, that choir that bloody wrung me out singing their goodbye ode to the sun. The beautiful old woman in the red jacket. I am not what I think I am, I am not yet what I hope I am. I am a pond, a car-park. I feel like a car-park.

I feel like I could live in Uummannaq, it feels like a good town with good people in it. Song coming…

Thursday, October 2nd
Perdlerfiup Sermia Glacier
Woke up with a belly-full of metaphorical tequila. Still feel the shape of the balloon-dog heart in there, but feel altogether better about that. I know it’s good to feel this.

Snap, snap, walking in a Baltic alien landscape and still the grass grows through the snow, all that life that waits patiently beneath for endless sun. Dark red berries fresh under foot stain the powder like blood and trigger thoughts of the hunting that goes on here.

Blood on snow is a disturbing picture, and one that says much about our situation as humans on a planet straining to meet our needs and greeds. But the Greenlandic skill of using every last scrap of animal and knowing what to use it for is undoubtedly impressive.

Friday, October 3rd
Sermeq Avangnardleq Glacier
It’s cold, cold, cold. Tired eyes in a warm, grateful way. I saw different things today, alternative layers, other people’s stories. I love it here and I don’t want to leave. I’ve said it already, but it is so dreamlike. Definite tones of Wes Anderson’s ‘The Life Aquatic’; if only we had 40 blue boiler suits and red woollen bobble hats. Ryuichi Sakamoto and Jarvis Cocker playing ambient mood music in the bar, icebergs peering in through the port-holes. Friendly scientists dropping large flashing contraptions into the water in the dark to map the mountains below the surface. Ko, David (Steve Zissou)’s wonderful right hand man making heart-meltingly sincere announcements in his lovely Dutch accent about getting into the Zodiac boats to go and ‘explorrr the shorrr’ and ending every time “……That Ish All”.

Marcus made me weep laughing this evening by re-enacting his presentation at an arts and crafts awards ceremony, the ‘Best Porcelain Hedgehog’ category making me nearly wee.

Sunday, October 5th
Our last day
You know that Apple Mac screen saver with the cosmic tracer thing swirling around? About 10 of us were stood on deck late night and looked up at the same time that it escaped out of someone’s laptop, gained gargantuan proportions and launched itself out of the sky above our heads in neon green; spinning, speeding, an incredible Catherine Wheel firework that made us all scream. I stayed out there for an hour and a half in minus ten, making myself laugh as my frozen face was about 5 seconds behind any words I tried to say. The best light show in the world.

Stayed up in the bar pretending we didn’t have to leave at 5am, gabbing away to my rad new sister Vanessa Carlton and dancing to Bill Withers.

Grabbed a couple of hours sleep and woke up to my last bowl of porridge and rumours that Graham Treehugger was going to enjoy a morning dip in the sea/liquid nitrogen. We all ran out reminiscent of a fight at school, and there he was in his swimmers, barefoot and perched on the railings 15 feet above the water. We thought he was going to die. He didn’t die, he splashed around delighted, whooped, climbed up to the 4th level at 30 feet and jumped in again. The thermometer was reading -15 outside.

Now, I remember going in the ladies pond on Hampstead Heath one scorching weekend in late April and was instantly paralysed and unable to remember my name. Who was this man?! Impressive.

My lasting memory was the tide line back on land. In the virgin dawn light I saw that the only flotsam left by the sea on the beach was a thin line of ice; pure white, in the shape of a wave.

Ryuichi had told us when he played his recording of an underground glacial stream that it was the most beautiful sound he had ever heard. The sound of water that was frozen solid before human beings even existed, heard for the first time, unspoilt, no particles of plastic. Baby water. Old as the earth.

As we waited to board our plane, a Greenlandic choir sat at a table in the golden morning sun, absent-mindedly eating sandwiches and practising one of the same songs we had heard at the children’s home.

Beautiful, mournful, comforting, ancient, innocent.

Sorry for the repetition, but we liked KT’s blog so much we kept it whole here, and also split it up into individual postings. We’re sure you’ll understand…


  1. Carol

    Posted Thursday 9 Oct at 03:10 | Permalink

    I have enjoyed following this and discovered it through your site, K.T.
    I’m thrilled that you could make the journey, support keeping our world greener, and I hope you were inspired for some new music! Take the very best care!
    ~Carol (with no e) LO!

  2. Linda

    Posted Friday 10 Oct at 13:35 | Permalink

    She has quite the talent for writing doesn’t she.

    Welcome back to “civilized world” KT. Sophie left her mom’s necklace – you left a part of your heart there I am sure! But that’s OK because I suspect you have brought a part of it’s HEART back with you and will weave the words and melodies and sing it all to us for years to come.

    Yes, you are a great old stump girl!

  3. Gary

    Posted Friday 10 Oct at 20:53 | Permalink

    Fantastic !!!
    Thank you so much for caring about environment and for keeping us posted on your adventures :-)

    Looking forward to seeing you perform some more and for the next CD/DVD.

  4. Vera

    Posted Saturday 11 Oct at 10:07 | Permalink

    It was great to follow you!


  5. paddy

    Posted Saturday 18 Oct at 09:04 | Permalink

    Greenland Diary

    Return to the icebergs
    Where wind meets the water,
    Welcoming chill – beyond all our haste,
    Venturing onward a warm smiling face…

    Return to our nature
    Where swells awake dreamer,
    Roaming the hills of an up and down sea,
    In downs of an eagle a kid playing free…

    Return to good people
    Where love reveals answers,
    Filling our skies with our ribbons of light,
    Sharing our stories of humanly right…

    As our heat burns,
    As our coin breaks,
    As we fall to bad,
    Then simply remember
    That we can return…