Thomas Lindy Nissen spent a summer as a hunting guide in Greenland, where he met young Ghillie Chris Endean – who was living an adventure
It’s burning hot when I reach the camp, located 40km by boat and four km by foot into the wilderness from the nearest village. Here, I meet my Ghillie this summer: 22-year-old Chris Endean, who arrived from Yorkshire some weeks ago to build up this hunting camp north of the polar circle.
Like me, he is working for the hunting and fishing company North Safari Outfitters, owned by Thomas Olsen. It is a tough job to work in a primitive hunting camp and, if my newfound friend is honest, he doesn’t even like camping and hiking – yet this is essentially all he’ll be doing for the next two and a half months!
In fact, Endean isn’t much of a hunter either. Clay pigeon shooting was the closest he came to it while in Yorkshire, but the plan for this summer is that, as well as working in camp and as guide assistant, he will have the opportunity to kill both reindeer and small game for cooking.
Endean prefers to work while traveling. He has travelled to Spain, the French Alps, Australia and Greece this way, mostly working in bars, except in Australia where he worked in the building trade. All of these were fantastic experiences and very different – but to be working with trophy hunters is his biggest adventure yet.
More than most, I understood why he couldn’t pass up this opportunity to try something so different. Even though it is hard and sometimes uncomfortable, this is an experience that very few youngsters get.
Too many mosquitos
Even though we are north of the polar circle, it gets very hot in the daytime. Chris’ first hunting experience is a very sweaty one! We kill a musk ox 8km from camp and we have to bring back the meat in frames on our backs. A few times I hear a little complaint, understandable on this hard, hot walk during which we are exposed to a hell of a lot of mosquitos. Quite the first day “at work”! As time goes on we will realise that, even this far north, there are occasionally extreme amounts of flies and mosquitos. “They are without a doubt the worst part so far,” remarks Chris. “I am covered in bites everywhere. They think it’s fantastic fun to continuously buzz in your ears and fly into your eyes and mouth!”
As we reach the camp, after 10 hours of constantly hunting, we are both tired. For some weeks, this work goes on: hunting, guiding, slaughtering and meat transportation. At the same time, young Endean also has to take care of cooking in camp (mostly musk ox stew and fish roasted over the fire), boiling water for coffee, socialising with the trophy hunters, cleaning up around camp and so on.
One night, while I was helping him with the dishes, Chris gave me his impressions of this “summer holiday-work” in one of the world’s last real wildernesses. “I think the best bits are the incredible scenery and the people I’m working with – both are just fantastic,” he said. “It is also very satisfying to know that you are walking in places that very few people have been before, doing things that very few people have done. The feeling of satisfaction you get when you make it back to camp after a long hunt with a great weight on your back is also extremely good.”
Yet not everything is, according to the young lad, all singing and dancing. “I was fully aware that it would be very hard work, rough living and dirty. Usually this would not interest me, but I figured two and a half months wouldn’t kill me – so I did it! With the weather being hotter than I thought, it makes hiking with the musk ox meat or trophy on your back a lot harder. There are times when everything goes wrong and your entire body hurts, but if you can’t laugh it off then you shouldn’t come. Apart from that, I think anyone can do it.”
The feeling of satisfaction you get when you make it back to camp after a long hunt with a great weight on your back is extremely good
No salary, but lots of benefits
In the month I am there, I work as a hunting guide alongside Chris and we shoot eight musk ox. A lot of hunters would envy this job, and with good reason. It is, however, also truly hard and there are some drawbacks. Before I leave, Chris tells me what young people, who would like to do the same, can expect as recompense. “I don’t get paid any money while out here, although sometimes the hunters tip me. I am not doing this for money, and other young people who would like to do this should not expect it. This is for an experience of a lifetime. Money can’t buy this experience.”
On the other hand, Endean does not spend any money, as we eat what we shoot. There’s nothing to spend money on in the village north of the polar circle anyway! As well as hunting, there are also fishing opportunities here, including a perfect spot just five minutes from camp where you can get some good-sized Arctic char.
Overall, even if this life is hard and at times uncomfortable, Chris recommends that other young Europeans undertake the same adventure if they get the opportunity. Not just in Greenland, but wherever in the world the possibility might be.