Last June, I left Paris to become a sailor. The trip started at Rivière-au-Renard, a village in Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula. I embarked on a small expedition vessel that covered the waters between Quebec, Newfoundland, Labrador, Nunavut, and Greenland. Along the way, we dropped anchor in multiple places, many of which were only accessible by boat or helicopter. In these places, nature is still omnipresent. For four months, we pushed onward, and I was able to discover new (for me) islands and their populations. This series of images represents the second part of my expedition, focusing on my time in Greenland.

Greenland or Kalaallit Nunaat (“the land of Greenlanders” in the native tongue), is an immense island of 57,000 inhabitants. 90% of the island (mostly the center) is covered by an enormous sheet of ice, so massive that it has depressed the central land area to form a basin lying more than 300 m (984 ft) below sea level. Greenland is renowned to the outside world for its wildness and also its traditions and cultural diversity. Upon visiting, I saw how the island has also transformed and modernized significantly since the middle of the 20th century, opening up to the Western world and its ways.

All along the west coast of Greenland, modernity and traditions co-exist in different, almost antithetical, landscapes. In the southern part of the island and in the larger settlements, life is exceedingly modern. Supermarkets and tourism are blossoming. And yet, in the villages in the north and in more isolated communities, the lifestyle is more traditional. Hunting and fishing are essential to the inhabitants’ existence.

Greenland became politically independent from Denmark in 1979, and the country is slowly getting on the path to economic independence. One promising (perhaps overpromising) route is via increased petroleum exploitation. The question of political freedom is now closely tied to these interlinked questions of gas exploration and the resulting consequences for the environment.

But alongside this hope, something dark looms on the horizon. The “ice country” is already dealing with the severe consequences of climate change, with more to come. The rapid rate of ice melt is swiftly becoming a chief concern for the land itself, the surrounding environment, the economy, and thus, the country’s very future.

—Camille Michel