Sirius Dog Sled Patrol

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Sirius Dog Sled Patrol
Slædepatruljen Sirius
Active 1941 – present
Country Greenland
Allegiance Kingdom of Denmark
Branch Arctic Command
Type Reconnaissance

Primary tasks:

Size 14
Garrison/HQ Daneborg (74° 18'N 20° 14'W)
Engagements World War II

Sirius Dog Sled Patrol (Danish: Slædepatruljen Sirius), known informally as Siriuspatruljen (Sirius Patrol) and formerly also known as 'North-East Greenland Sledge Patrol', is an elite Danish naval unit. It conducts long-range reconnaissance patrolling, and enforces Danish sovereignty in the Arctic wilderness of northern and eastern Greenland, an area that includes the largest national park in the world.[1] Patrolling is usually done in pairs, sometimes for four months and often without additional human contact.

The Sirius Patrol has the ability to engage militarily, and has done so historically. Its purpose is to maintain Danish sovereignty and police its area of responsibility.[2] The physical and psychological demands for acceptance into the unit are exceptional. Crown Prince Frederik patrolled with the Sirius Patrol.[3]


In 1933 the international court of the League of Nations ruled in the Danish-Norwegian dispute over Erik the Red's Land that for it to remain Danish, Denmark had to assert its sovereignty there.[4] Initially, this presence was in the form of two fixed police stations.[5]

The sled patrol unit, first known as the North-East Greenland Sledge Patrol, was activated in the summer of 1941 during World War II to conduct long-range reconnaissance patrols along the northeast coast of Greenland thereby preventing German presence there. Its headquarters was at Eskimonaes, which had been until then a scientific station.[6] At the time, the Germans established a number of secret weather stations on the eastern coast of the island to provide them with invaluable meteorological information both to assist their U-boat campaign and to predict the weather in the European theatre. Thus the patrol's discovery of these stations denied Germany such information with significant implications both for the Battle of the Atlantic and for air and land fighting in Europe, despite the enormous distance of Greenland from the main theatres of war.

The Sirius sled patrol cooperated with Nanok East Greenland Fishing Company, the only other organization active in the remote area, which built a number of hunting huts in the uninhabited expanses of north eastern Greenland.[6]

The patrol discovered the German weather station Holzauge at Hansa Bay on the northeast coast of Sabine Island, which was subsequently destroyed by United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) bombers from Iceland. During the war, the unit suffered one man killed in action. Two others were captured by German forces, but escaped and rejoined the patrol.[7]

In 2008, the National Bank of Denmark issued a 10 DKK commemorative coin of Sirius.[8]


Beginning in October 2012, the newly formed Joint Arctic Command is responsible for Sirius.[9] The sled unit used to be operationally under the Greenland Command, and administratively under the Royal Danish Navy. The patrol represents Denmark's military presence in northeast Greenland.

The patrol operates in the northern, and northeastern part of Greenland from the west coast of Hall Land (Petermann Fjord and Glacier)81°04′N 61°40′W / 81.067°N 61.667°W / 81.067; -61.667 to Cape Biot north of Fleming Fjord 71°53′N 22°33′W / 71.883°N 22.550°W / 71.883; -22.550. The flying distance between the two points is about 2,100 km, but the length along the coastline is far greater, around 16,000 km. The Greenland ice sheet is not a part of the patrolled area.

The unit is stationed at Daneborg (74°11′N 20°08′W / 74.18°N 20.14°W / 74.18; -20.14), and maintains personnel at Station Nord, Danmarkshavn, and Mestersvig. The unit uses more than 50 depot huts scattered across the patrolled area. The depot huts are resupplied by small boats in the southern area, and by aircraft in the northern part.

The Sirius Patrol consists of six dog sled teams for the duration of the year, each consisting of two men, and 11 to 15 dogs. When traveling, each team carries approximately 350–500 kg, depending on the distance to the next depot.

Currently there are 14 officers and men serving with the Sirius Patrol.


Sirius Patrol tent setup

Sledge patrolling is divided into two periods. Depending on when the ice becomes thick enough, the autumn patrol starts sometime in November, and lasts until late-December. The sun sets for the last time around the beginning of November, and in the increasing darkness the winter storms get progressively worse, and more frequent. Getting home before Christmas is therefore not always possible for members of the unit. Around the end of January, when the weather stabilizes, and the sun reappears, the longer journeys begin and last until June, when the ice begins to break apart and drift southwards. During this period, the six sledge teams will cover a large part of the coastline, and within a period of three to four years all areas will be visited.

Recruitment and training[edit]

Candidates for the Sirius Patrol must have completed their compulsory service. At the try out seven men are selected to start on about six months of various training courses. Women can apply, but none have yet.[10]

  • Survival course in Greenland (five weeks)
  • Shooting course
  • Demolition course
  • Engine and mechanics course
  • Reconnaissance course
  • Firefighter course
  • Radio and communications course
  • First aid course
  • Extended first aid course
  • Sewing course
  • Truck course

The courses run from December to the end of May. The final group consisting of twelve men is picked as late as two to three weeks before they depart to Greenland for 26 consecutive months.


M1917 Enfield rifle introduced during World War I

Because of the special nature of Sirius Sled Patrol operations, a wide range of unique equipment is required that is not normally used by the Danish armed forces.[2][11]

The weapons carried also reflect the harsh conditions. Among the equipment used by the Sirius Sledge Patrol is the M1917 Enfield bolt-action rifle chambered in .30-06 Springfield, known in Danish service as the Gevær M/53 (17), and the Glock 20 pistol chambered in 10mm Auto.

The reason for changing their sidearm is their previous Pistol M/49 sidearms chambered in 9×19mm Parabellum proved insufficient against the polar bears encountered.[12]

"The weapons carried also reflect the harsh conditions. Only bolt-action rifles (M17/M53) performs reliably. The standard SIG210 Neuhausen sidearm was recently replaced by the 10mm Glock 20, as the stopping power of multiple 9mm rounds proved to be insufficient against a polar bear."[13]

The Sirius Patrol uses the standard .30-06 168-grain military round and also civilian hollow-points. The patrolmen feel that the full metal jacket bullet on the military round is best against polar bears at long range but that the hollow-points are better against an enraged musk ox. Typically, the patrolmen arrange their stripper clips so every third round is a hollow-point.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nationalpark i Grønland - verdens største naturreservat
  2. ^ a b Formål og opgaver Archived December 2, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. Forsvaret, Grønlands Kommando
  3. ^ Slædepatruljen Sirius Den Digitale Slæderejse - Indsigt
  4. ^ Christensen, Peter Bondo (2007). Sirius – et øje i nord [Sirius - an eye in the North] (in Danish) (1. printing, 1st ed.). Gyldendal. pp. 19–22. 
  5. ^ "Historie - Hvid Verden" [history - White World]. (in Danish). Retrieved 2015-12-11. 
  6. ^ a b "Catalogue of place names in northern East Greenland" (PDF). Geological Survey of Denmark. Retrieved 8 July 2016. [dead link]
  7. ^ Northeast Greenland Sledge Patrol - Sledge Members
  8. ^ "Sirius". National Bank of Denmark. 16 September 2011. Retrieved 16 October 2013. 
  9. ^ GERARD O’DWYER. "Denmark Boosts Resources for Arctic Security" DefenseNews, 8 October 2013. Accessed: 20 October 2013.
  10. ^ Finkel, Michael; Hoffmann, Fritz (2012). "The Cold Patrol". National Geographic. National Geographic Society. 221 (1): 82–95. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  11. ^ DeMille, Dianne; Priestley, Stephen (December 2005). "Permanent Presence: Recruiting, Training, & Equipping Rangers in the Arctic". Canadian American Strategic Review. Archived from the original on 2010-07-08. Retrieved 2011-05-09. 
  12. ^ "Denmark's Arctic Assets and Canada's Response – Sovereignty and Strategic Resources of the High Arctic". Canadian American Strategic Review. May 2005. Archived from the original on 2008-09-20. The advantage of an 'old fashion' bolt-action rifle in the high arctic is obvious—no matter how cold or icy it gets, that bolt can be worked by the shooter. Under severe arctic winter conditions, the bolts of automatic rifles may jam. The use of 'full-sized' cartridges was dictated by two factors: range and effectiveness against polar bears. Most Danish units use 9mm automatics like the CF but the Sirius Patrol learned through hard experience that 9mms had insufficient 'stopping power' to deal with angry adult polar bears. As a result, Sirius Patrol members carry a more powerful 10mm pistols for self-defence, employing the 10mm Glock 20 automatic. 
  13. ^ "Denmark: Special Operations and Counterterrorist Forces". Special Operations (SOC). 2000. Archived from the original on 2011-01-13. Retrieved 2012-11-18. 

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