Bites at Animal Planet

2 Apr

Getting to Know Greenland: Meet Grace J. Heindorf Nielsen, Greenland Production Manager, Ice Cold Gold

Contributed by David Casey

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Credit: Danny Long

Grace J. Heindorf Nielsen is co-founder of Bmg-Greenland, a travel management company based in Nuuk, Greenland. Grace has worked over ten years in the Greenlandic tourism industry. She has a wealth of experience in planning tours, shore handling for cruise companies, conferences and general office management. Grace has extensive knowledge of the local community, its history, cultural values and people. She usually knows whom to contact to get something done. She is fluent in English, Danish and Swedish and speaks some German.

Grace has worked as the Greenland Production Manager for both seasons of Ice Cold Gold.

[Watch an all-new episode of Ice Cold Gold Thursday at 10PM E/P!]

1.) How did you come to Greenland as a child? Was there something that you fell in love with about Greenland that made you stay?

I was born in Helsinki, Finland. My mother was from the USA and my father from Denmark. We moved here when I was nine years old. My parents wanted to tell people about the Bahá’í Faith. I grew up here and Greenland is my home.  Fresh air, clean water, wide-open spaces, friendly people and it never gets miserably hot.

2.) Tourism is steadily growing in Greenland. How did you get into the industry? 

On a fluke, actually. A friend of mine was running a little tourist office in 1992 and when a cruise ship came to town she needed a guide who could speak English. I wasn’t sure how it would work out, but decided if it was a disaster, at least I would never see those folks again. As it turned out, it went really well and I found a new calling.    

3.)Icg-photo What are some of the misconceptions that people have of Greenland and Greenlanders?

I think for many visitors, we are a much different society than they expected. Some are floored by our level of sophistication and modernity. They are shocked we have cars. While others sometimes seem frustrated that not everything can run like clockwork. Most are not prepared for how much the weather impacts on our lives and plans.

4.) What types of adventurous activities does Greenland have to offer thrill-seeking tourists?

Hiking, heli-skiing, dog sledge riding, tours to the Ice cap and glaciers. Every year in March Greenland hosts the longest and toughest cross-country race in the world: the 160-kilometer (99 miles), three day Arctic Circle Race in Sisimiut. In August, Nuuk hosts the Nuuk Marathon.

5.) What was a typical day like for you as the Greenland Production Manager on Ice Cold Gold?

A typical day involved driving cast and crew to and from locations in Nuuk. I worked with local people to arrange logistics and shooting locations. I worked on translations, ran errands, and provided information of any kind that cast and crew might require.

6.) What was the biggest challenge of working on Ice Cold Gold? 

During the first season, it was getting shop owners and others to participate. Spreading the word locally that this was a great event for us here in Nuuk. Season one was also trial and error for everyone. Nobody, and I mean nobody, has ever before done such a big TV production in Greenland with such a large cast and crew.

7.) Greenland is experiencing a lot change and growth. What are the changes you are seeing now? 

We are becoming more mature as a country. More young people who are getting good educations abroad are coming back to use them. When I was growing up, there were no Greenlandic doctors, lawyers, or pilots.

8.) Can you tell us about the new physical changes happening in Nuuk?

Nuuk has been continuously growing ever since it was founded in 1728. Every year new structures go up. Some are public while others are private. I have heard plans for a new art museum and a music school.

9.) Tell us about Nuuk’s newest suburb Qingorput.

Qingorput is a new neighborhood, and development started around 1998. At one point only 19 people lived there, now the neighborhood has over 2,000 residents. Besides lots of homes, there is a school, a day care center and a shop. Every year a new road has been added and paved.  

10.) The largest residential building in Nuuk, Blok P, was recently demolished. Tell us about the building’s significance. 

Blok P was the largest apartment building in Greenland. At one point it housed 1% of the entire population of Greenland. Built right in the heart of Nuuk in 1965-66, it was an iconic building and completely impossible to ignore. Every kid in Nuuk knew what and where Blok P was. It was viewed as inadequate housing and carefully demolished.

11.) Many Greenlanders from smaller towns are moving to Nuuk. How is the city accommodating the influx of new residents? Is there a shortage of housing? 

Just as in other countries where people leave the countryside and move to the big cities, the same is happening in Greenland. A large number of people especially from smaller towns are moving to Nuuk. This puts immense pressure on housing, daycare, schools, the job market, etc. The city is doing what it can and considers the housing shortage our greatest problem.

12.) Season One of the show had an incorrect fact that you were very passionate about changing. What was that fact, and how did you go about finding out the true answer?

The number of kilometers of paved road was completely incorrect.  The number shown in Season One was way too low. In truth, Greenland has about 370 kilometers (230 miles) of paved road, more than one third of that is in Nuuk. I called the government’s logistics bureau to find out the answer.

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