Mike Stark tells of his canoeing trip on Greenland

Open your Eyes - sterilize

The Open Youe Eyes – Sterilize team. Back: Bernice, Sue, Heidi – Front: Verna

On Thursday Mike Stark gave a truly interesting and informative presentation of his paddling (canoeing) travels to Greenland to a full house audience at Dune Ridge Country House. The event organised by Sue Rae Fox and her team of Verna Couper, Bernice Katakuzinos and Heidi Penfold who make up the ‘Open Your Eyes – Sterilize’ initiative was held to raise money for the wonderful work being done by St Francis Animal Rescue’s Stephanie Ernsten to stem the number of puppies and kittens being born each month in the greater St Francis region.

Now why anyone would venture into the icy climes of Greenland, even in summer is beyond many but the wonderful photographic illustrations certainly would have put Greenland on the bucket lists of some of those present. Greenland is the world’s largest island, wonder how many knew that, and the term green is a total misnomer for Greenland is in fact covered in ice. Folklore gives the naming of the island to a group of Vikings who fled Norway during one the many skirmishes that Vikings seem to thrive on and discovered a green island. Fearing that their enemies might follow them they sent back word that their island was actually an ice-land but that another island — more distant and larger  was more a habitable green-land although it was actually covered by ice. And so the green island became Iceland, and the icy island became Greenland.

Mike Stark

Mike Stark talking on his Greenland canoeing adventure

The true story of Iceland’s founding is more complicated and had something to do with Ingolfur Arnason a Norse chieftain who founded Reykjavik (capital of Iceland) in 874.

Greenland, meanwhile, was not “discovered” until a century or so later, when a Norwegian who was sailing to Iceland was blown off course. It was later named “green land” by Erik the Red, another Norwegian, who really was fleeing from Norway and first went to Iceland before settling in Greenland. He wanted to bring more settlers and was obviously good at marketing hence Greenland.

An extremely interesting part of Mike’s talk was the effect of global warming where in just two years huge glaciers had receded by over two and a half kilometres and were visibly melting causing their guide to warn them not to paddle anywhere close the face of the glaciers as huge shards of ice broke away from the glacier.  Those of us living in warmer climates possibly don’t really appreciate how serious global warming is but Mike’s description of the realities certainly makes  one more aware.

Another interesting point that Mike spoke of was the total lack of garbage disposal and rubbish is simply dumped in the back yards of homes, one would imagine a bit like the mess adjacent China Town on the R330.  The talk included snippets of good humour and when a question from the audience asked about ablutions whilst on out on the ice, Mike was understandably a little embarrassed but his answer certainly raised more than a few chuckles but we won’t pursue this matter in print if readers don’t mind.

Tourism is limited by the short summers access is almost by air only, mainly from Denmark and Iceland although cruise ship do occasionally visit  but don’t spend much locally, since the ship provides accommodation and meals. Some would no doubt think it madness to venture into such a forsaken freezing environment when one can paddle the canals of St Francis without freezing one’s butt off but some are born to venture into the unknown and Mike and his party were, according to his guide, the first South Africans he had ever encountered in Greenland.

Thanks for a really worthwhile 45 minutes Mike, it certainly was an interesting introduction to a country which we are willing to bet very few South Africans have much knowledge of.

But back to the purpose of the event!

Rebecca Tilders

Rebecca Tilders

Introducing Mike Stark to the gathered audience, Susan Rae Fox briefly explained how the wonderful work done by Rebecca Tilders with the April Olive Blossom Fund over the 13 plus years of its existence had undergone some changes since Rebecca retired from carrying out her amazing work with animals throughout the Kouga district.  With the retirement of Rebecca, retired vet, Stephanie Ernsten stepped into the breach and now runs a veterinary clinic for the residents of Sea Vista with the accent on looking after the needs of the many pet owners in the township. This has given rise to the name change from the April Olive Blossom fund to St Francis Animal Rescue.

With the assistance of Nerine Botha of Aloe Veterinary Clinic in St Francis Bay who treats the more serious conditions, Stephanie and her team of helpers see to the dipping of dogs, deworming, registering of pets names to create a medical history to ensure animals inoculations are kept up to date and treating minor wounds and health conditions and most importantly, encouraging pet owners to have their pets sterilized.

Stepahnie Ernsten - St Francis Animal Rescue

Stephanie Ernsten -St Francis Animal Rescue

So far this year Stephanie has been instrumental in having some 53 pets, dogs and cats, neutered, a major achievement that has Stephanie making regular trips to both Dr Botha as well as to Dr Barker’s surgery in Humansdorp in the early mornings to have pets sterilised, returning to Humansdorp in the afternoon to collect the pets and return them to their owners by evening.

Obviously this activity requires funding and Susan thanked all those in attendance for their support of the Open Your Eyes – Sterilize fund raising efforts for without this support St Francis Animal Rescue would not be making the difference that it is. Closing off the morning before taking tea and coffee and a wonderful spread of weet and savoury nibbles prepared by Dune Ridge, Susan presented Stepanie with a beautiful bouquet of roses.

In closing …  it was really great to see a few men in the audience and it is hoped that more men will attend future events organised by Susan and her team.