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Ever since 15th-century explorers returned from the distant north with wild and woolly tales of a remote region of brutish hairy pygmies, unicorns, mind-bending visions and citadels of ice, Ultima Thule has been the fantasy of all fantasies. Poets from Virgil and Pytheas to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow have celebrated it in verse; the Weimar Republic used it as a template for one of their mythic Nordic-Germanic societies; and big-haired '70s rock bands, with a penchant for heavy feedback and fuzzy guitar solos, have used it as a clarion call to youthful rebellion.

Even the juggernaut of global technology has not flattened the myth. Greenland, and especially its northern regions of Ultima Thule, remains a land of fantastical and semi-mythical proportions. The aurora borealis, the vast tundra, the glittering columns of ice and the monstrous glaciers that calve icebergs into the sea are one thing; the cold, the igloos, the dogsleds and the proverbially tight-lipped Inuit are another. But any land that has a mirage-inducing atmosphere capable of conjuring up an entire city out of thin air, or turning a dog turd on the horizon into a sailing ship, has got to be worth visiting.

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