Arctic Adventure Part 2 – Greenland


August 7, 2019

Day at Sea

 

Our first day at sea was a busy one filled with lectures, briefings, and planning.

We started off with a presentation by Iggy the Expedition team leader. Each member of the team introduced themselves and gave a short biography of their specialty. There were archeologists, geologists, orca whale specialists, as well as ornithologists and naturalists. 
Expedition team member list:
Iggy (Ignatius) – expedition leader
Joe Cockram – ornithologist
Brandon Payne – kayak
Will Wagstaff –
Colleen Batey – archeologist
John Ford – whale biologist from Nanaimo, BC
Kara Weller – biologist

Iggy spoke a little bit about each of the expedition offerings over our entire journey. These expeditions would either be onboard a zodiac or a kayak. 

The expedition team would be blogging during the voyage which would be available to us at the following link: 
Seabourn Expedition Team’s Blog of the Voyage
This should be a direct link to our voyage but if not,
select 2019 Route of the Vikings 2 (06 August) under ventures tab.

All passengers required to participate in a AAECO (Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators) briefing. AAECO is somewhat like the Antarctic preservation organization but for the Arctic. In the Antarctic passengers are only allowed onshore with the certified ships expedition teams. But because here in the Arctic we are allowed onshore on our own vs only with guides/expedition leaders every passenger must view the video and sign a form saying they’ve viewed it prior to going ashore. 

Chris Shipley will be coming aboard in Nuuk to protect passengers on the expeditions from possible polar bear attacks. He will be responsible for the passengers safety in addition to making sure that the Canadian wildlife regulations such as minimum distance (300ft) to polar bears is are adhered to. We have absolutely NO problem with abiding by that regulation. 😉

The expedition team will have daily “deck time” while at sea, for binocular clinics, and wildlife identification. 

The expedition team would be onboard running expeditions on our itinerary until Akpotek Island in Northern Canada. The team will disembark in Goose Bay/Happy Valley where the expedition portion of the itinerary would terminate. The expedition team members would rejoin the ship in November in South America at the beginning of the Antarctic expedition season. 

We decided to try a kayak expedition in Paamiut. We went to the kayak orientation briefing by the pool on the aft deck. We would be provided with dry suits and all the gear in a double kayak and accompanied by the expedition team in both a zodiac and kayak. We chose this one not only for the kayak experience, but also because it takes us to the archipelago that has a sunken ship. …at least there’s a guaranteed sighting of something during the expedition. 

We had originally booked a zodiac excursion in Nuuk up the Kobbefjord and then hiking up to a lake. Unfortunately about a week before our departure we were notified that due to “operational issues”, (whatever that meant), that the expedition had been cancelled. There was no optional/adjusted expedition offered and so we quickly booked a sailing boat trip in the area just to get in to some of the fjords in the area. During the expedition briefing Iggy quickly mentioned that our cancelled expedition was because the research facility was conducting some tests in the area and wouldn’t be available. BUT he spoke of a zodiac only trip that they would be offering in it’s place. We quickly booked space on that alternate expedition and cancelled the sailing one. There is limited space on each zodiac and they only have 7 zodiacs. 

We attended a lecture by John Seigudsund, a geologist from Reykjavík, Iceland. (Ironically the person in the hot tub on the foredeck photo in chapter 1 (Iceland) of this Arctic Adventure post. He had been onboard for the previous itinerary from Dover and would be disembarking in Nuuk. He lectured on the history and culture of Greenland. He has traveled Greenland extensively at all times of the year via all means of transportation from dog sleds, helicopter and even cross country skiing! It was an excellent lecture and glad we didn’t miss it. He would be speaking over the loud speaker when we traveled the Prince Christian Sound the following day.

We participated in a stretch and release class that was just “ok” but spent some time in the fitness center which will be quite adequate for us during this cruise. 

Dinner tonight was formal… can you believe that an expedition ship still has formal nights?! Lots of people were in their formal attire. Not us, so we ate in the Colonnade and had a very good meal with Chateaubriand cooked perfectly. 


August 8, 2019

Transiting Prince Christian Sound

 

Prince Christian Sound is a complex network of narrow fjords and channels spanning 450 kilometers in southern most Greenland. The John Seigudsund lecture yesterday raved about this transit. We hadn’t expected much until we attended his lecture. 

This transit was really quite spectacular. This would be one of areas that we would be able to view the Greenland ice cap and the glacier meeting the sea. The Greenland ice sheet covers 80% of the country and is the second largest in the world, after the Antarctic ice sheet. The current ice sheet contains ice that is roughly 100,000 years old! The sound is very narrow with fjords (bays) on either side whose steep cliffs plunge in to the waters. Waterfalls were everywhere. Ice bergs, some fairly large, were present in the channel. The benefit of being on a small ship was reaffirmed today, there was always a good viewing spot on a deck somewhere for us.

Below is a map of the area with our transit route with points labeled A-F indicating the photos location.
Note the arrow pointing to the southernmost point of the Greenland Ice cap.

Further down in the commentary will be another topographical map. Both maps show the Greenland Ice Cap at the edge of the fjords along the route.

As we approached the entrance to the channel (map point A) fog obstructed the entrance and we were just hoping that the weather would clear so we could have some scenery. Miraculously a few minutes after we entered the skies cleared to blue and the amazing scenic experience unfolded.

The ship idled in the entrance while the expedition team launched the zodiacs to run two zodiac expedition trips where passengers would be taken up close to the coves and inlets. The photos below show the expedition team organizing for the trips.

We stayed onboard instead and were very pleased with the whole day. We had warm blankets and could move inside to get warm from time to time. 

Map point B photos: Once the expedition teams headed off in their zodiacs, the ship moved slowly further down the channel. We idled on the outer edge of the small fjord (marked B) and watched the zodiacs explore deeper in the fjords. If you look carefully on a couple of the photos you’ll see little dots that are the zodiacs.

Lunch by the swimming pool had a chef preparing steamed mussels and clams in a garlic and wine sauce. We treated ourselves to splitting a yummy bowl full as a starter to our daily salad bar lunch at the Colonnade.

The highlight of the day was around mid-day where the ship went up a fjord towards a glacier at its end. We kept wondering how close he would maneuver to the glacier as there was a lot of fairly good size ice chunks in the fjord. The ship inched forward until the bow was almost directly in front of the glacier. We were even treated to a small calving of the glacier.

Photos from point C on the map:

Continuing further down the channel the passage narrowed and the tall cliffs plunging to the edge of the fjords made one feel even more constrained. Until a giant iceberg in the middle of the channel came in to sight. The captain told us that this giant iceberg had been in the channel since the previous winter and had actually blocked ships from transiting the Prince Christian Sound. 

The iceberg had been smoothed over the months so it gave a plastic appearance. The bottom part where the ridges look like curtains is from wear. The bottom wears until the berg becomes top heavy and rolls… and, in this case, could be quite dangerous with the wake that results.  

Photos from point D on the map:

By late afternoon we transited the narrowest part of the channel by zig-zagging our way past waterfall covered glacier cliff sides until finally passing the only inhabited location in the entire area. The tiny remote village of Aappilattoq was on the edge of the rocky channel with 110 inhabitants that survived on fishing for halibut. They had a school and a church. The village is inaccessible by land due to the surrounding mountain region and its remote location. Transportation to this remote village are via sea or air. Inhabitants are able to depart the village by boat in the summer months are completely cut off during the winter months. Only helicopters can get in to the village in the winter time.

Photos from points E-F on the map:

We decided to eat at the patio grill for dinner as they had an interesting menu. The difficult part was that it was around the pool deck. But with views like what we had how could anyone eat inside. Even with heat lamps and woolen blankets and overhang and side window protection, it was not the most comfortable for us Californians but the meal and service was interesting. 

It was an early night for us as we had another 1 hour time change (backward) tonight. That would give us another hour of sleep. We’re still having a hard time with jet lag and we both have the feeling that we are fighting off a cold due to the change in weather for us.


Qaqortoq, Greenland

August 9, 2019

 

Our first step on land in Greenland was in the thriving metropolis (population 1,200) of Qaqortoq. Qaqortoq has the largest population in southern Greenland and was a colorful example of a typical Greenland town. 

It was incredibly foggy when we arrived so we took our time tendering ashore. 

We had thought we would hike up this pretty steep rocky hillside (1,000 m) but decided against it because we realized the rocky hillside we’d have to crawl/climb would be super slippery due to the fog. Plus, if we did make it to the top, we’d be in the clouds. 
The other alternative was to hike on one side of the lake. That didn’t excite us either. Actually it took us a bit to settle in to the image of Greenland ashore.

The houses were as colorful as we had read about, the people appeared friendly and they had a large grocery store and even a bus service. Many houses even had solar. What was pretty funny was to watch the helicopter land and unload it’s passengers. They used the bucket of a tractor to unload the luggage and parcels and transfer them to the “terminal”. 

After a good wander (30 minutes was more than enough) around the small town we headed back to the ship as the evening fog started to roll back in. 

On departure the fog had settled in completely and we passed icebergs which made us feel even colder. We were both feeling a little under the weather after having been out all day in the wind and cold during the Prince Christian sound transit yesterday. So, we decided to stay in and order room service. Something we’d done previously for breakfast on a cruise but never for dinner.

What a treat it was for us. We placed our order and told them when we’d like have it delivered and right on time our door bell rang and the waiter arrived with our meal, laid our table for our meal and presented all that we’d ordered and left. 

Starters were mousaline with basil and tomatoes and sautéed mushrooms, followed by a delicious seafood risotto and a rack of lamb. Desert was a chocolate Tarte and gelato. 

It was so nice to not have to wait for service after each course and if you’re not too particular about having your food hot from the oven, (which is also rare in the dining rooms) then this is the way to go. We’ll be doing this more on this trip for sure.


Paamiut, Greenland

August 10, 2019

 

We arrived in the same fog conditions as yesterday. Guess this is a regular weather condition in the mornings and evenings in the summer in Greenland. 

This town had no big draws for us. We had booked a kayak excursion as we thought it would be fun to give kayaking a go and there was a wreck that we would be paddling around.

We were fully togged in dry suits, booties and kayak life jackets provided by the Expedition Operation of the ship.This gear was essential as the water temperature was 4 degrees centigrade and even though there was always a “chase” zodiac with the group of kayaks, it could still be a chilly few moments in the water waiting for the zodiac even with the gear on. 

It was pretty hysterical getting in to the gear. After we struggled our dry suits on Iggy, the expedition leader, reminded us that we needed to have our ship IDs available for when we boarded the zodiacs! As luck would have it, I’d put mine in my side pant pocket inside the dry suit which could only be accessed through the “ladies rear zip flap”. We had a good laugh about Joe getting my ID card for me. 

The expedition staff is incredibly organized and professional. Iggy gave us a safety briefing on the aft deck and then we waddled our way down to the launching deck to the awaiting zodiac. There were 10 of us in 5 double kayaks. The zodiac took us to a little rock outcropping and where Brandon (from South Africa) was waiting for us with the kayaks. We were given a briefing on how to us the paddles and they helped us in to our kayak from the zodiac. Off we went. We paddled around a beautiful ice berg, then around the little rocky areas and finally across the channel to the wreck whose captain ran it aground in 1984. The stories told are that the captain of the 20 year old vessel was drunk and had an argument about the navigation route with a crew member. Guess the crew member was correct. Brandon said that they have not removed the wreck due to disputes with the insurance company.

The water was incredibly clear and such a beautiful color. What also struck us is that the air is so clean and without pollution the sky is SO blue and it’s so quiet. 

Take a close look at the photo above here of the two of us. Look at the shore of the rock and you’ll see a Minke whale carcass. The natives are allowed to hunt them for food. 

Brandon took photos of us in front of an ice berg and then another couple from Hawaii (Greg and Velma) said they’d take photos of us if we’d take photos of them and then when we got back to the ship we could airdrop each other’s photos. What a nice thing as we’re always being hounded by people to have photos taken of the two of us. 

It was super fun and I’m glad I did it, but I’m not sure we’ll book another one during the trip as we’ve got plans pretty much for every port we’ll be in that has a Ventures Expedition trip option. 

Departing Paamiut with wreck on the right where we kayaked.

For the grand finale of our day we had reservations the speciality restaurant The Grill by Thomas Keller. Reservations must be made in advance and it’s always full. Their menu is pretty much the same every night with “daily specials” changing every couple of days, so you couldn’t go there every night. Well, I take that back… we would be very happy eating what we had every night as it was SO good! The table service is staffed with very attentive people. 

After a cocktail and vegetables, I started with the super chilled chopped salad (the bacon was formed in the shape of small roses) and the blue cheese dressing was absolutely to die for. Joe chose the Maryland style crab cake and said it was the most flavorful he’s ever had. 

For our mains, I chose the rib-eye and steak fries. Joe had the veal t-bone with creme fraîche whipped potatoes and sautéed mushrooms scented with brandy. My rib-eye was awesome but Joe’s veal chop was absolutely divine, again like we’ve never tasted before. 

For dessert, I chose the Meyer lemon meringue tart and Joe chose the ice cream sundae. They prepared the sundae at the table, choosing from a multiple of sauces. Chocolate was delicious but the caramel beurre salé was absolutely to die for! Just the right consistency and the butter had just the right hint of burn to it.
As a farewell, they serve home made chocolate chip cookies to die for to take away.

We are SO excited that we’ll have another opportunity to have this amazing experience. 


Nuuk, Greenland

August 11, 2019

 

Our Nuuk plans have changed a number of times. Nuuk is the capital of Greenland and hence the country’s largest population. I had found a number of “viewpoints” or monuments that would be good to walk to just to get a feel of the place. 

We woke up docked at the pier in Nuuk but we couldn’t see out the window. The captain later told us that they navigated the docking at the small pier in Nuuk completely by instruments. It is very convenient to be docked as opposed to waiting for the tender to take us in to town. Nuuk even had a nice “welcome center” for local information, and souvenir shop. 

As I explained on our first day at sea we shifted our plans to a zodiac excursion at 10:00 but this morning when we checked in for the departure we were told that they were going to wait a bit and see if the fog cleared. The skies looked like they were going to brighten and we were a go but then the clearing stalled and Iggy the expedition leader rescheduled the excursion until 2 pm. 

We went ashore to wander a bit around the town and see some of the viewpoints and sites that I had marked on my maps.me. 

There were many blocks of apartments lined up row after row which made for pretty depressing atmosphere. Most housing in Greenland is pre-fab blocks and are pretty depressing sights for us non-Greenlanders. That’s probably the reason why they paint their houses such bright colors, but in the larger villages like Nuuk the only way to accommodate as many people is in these blocks and blocks of apartments. Every city seems to have some sort of museum, which is pretty much the only tourist site. 

We wandered to a couple of view points on our map. The first being a statue of Hans Egede up on a hill overlooking the sea. The fog was slow in clearing so the view wasn’t what we had hoped for. By the time we wandered to the next view point the fog had cleared. There was a seaside nature preserve trail that we took before making our way back to the ship through the colorful little harbor for a bite to eat before our zodiac departure.

By our 1:30pm “assembly time” the skies had cleared and we were off. Though the sun was out is was 11 degrees C and coming home were were into a pretty good wind. Thank you Patagonia layers!!

Our guide on our zodiac was Joe the ornithologist and he identified the white tailed eagles which are popular in this area as well as other birds.

There was even a group of locals that were picking blueberries along the cliffs.

He brought the zodiac in close to the shore so we could get a better look at the rocky coast and of course, made the customary circum navigation of the icebergs.

The ride home to the ship was cold and windy especially since we didn’t opt for the expedition suits that were available to us. Lesson learned for our future zodiac trips but so worthwhile!

After our long day in Nuuk, we succumbed to room service again. We can order anything that they’re serving in the main restaurant that evening plus anything from the fixed room service menu so there’s lots of variety. We are definitely finding this our preferred evening meal after the long days we’ve been having in the ports.

We’re starting to get the same dining room waiters delivering our room service which is pretty fun. This one South African named Darryn has been super funny. He’s this big guy that barely fits through our cabin door and then he carries our order stacked high on the tray on his shoulder that he has to lower under the doorway. He jokes about if we ordered one more thing he’d have to do the meal in two trips.


Maniitsoq, Greenland

August 12, 2019

 

As in the previous days morning dawned with fog, but luckily it burned off by the time we headed ashore. The name “Maniitsoq” means “the uneven place” and refers to the many rocky hills and mountains that shape the town. 

None of the ships shore excursions sounded very interesting as we felt that both the zodiac and kayak options didn’t offer any new scenery to us. 

While doing research on what to do (see) here I found a whale watching boat trip from an operator on the Guide to Greenland web site. I was reluctant to pay for the trip ahead of time and the operator emailed me saying that we could pay him when we took the trip. We arranged (or thought we did) an 11:00am meeting at the harbor. 

As the day approached thoughts of: 
What would happen if there was fog and we really shouldn’t got out?
How would we find this person upon arrival at the tender pier?
We hadn’t received any further communications from the operator reconfirming our tour.
Who was this guy, and how good was his English?
What kind of boat were we going out on? What condition was it in? 
What if it broke down while we were out and we missed our ships departure?

All very valid questions for us. We decided to make the ultimate “go-decision” when we met him. The tender dropped us a a very tenuous rickety dock. There were pretty good gaps between the wood portions that some older people could easily trip and fall through. Seabourn staff was pretty much positioned at every spot to ensure the safety of the passengers. The ramp way UP to the street level was like a piece of wood balanced on a tight rope. Geez, this wasn’t a good start! The only sign of local people welcoming the passengers was a Jehovahs Witness contingent! That’s it. No signs of tour companies, taxis or other tourist services at all. Period. Since we were there about 45 minutes before our (supposed) scheduled time we decided to wander around to get a feel of the place and then return to the dock at 11:00 and see if the tour person was prepared to meet us with signage and his boat with some kind of identification also. 

The town was pretty scruffy as fishing was the mainstay of the population. The usual colorful houses, and a fair amount of pretty depressing apartment blocks. We wandered out to a very nice viewpoint that had a number of picnic tables. The view was really quite spectacular. Maniitsoq is called the Venice of Greenland and we started to understand the reason why.

We returned to the tender dock at 11:00 and sort of looked around for someone that might display themselves as a tour operator. The longer we stood on the rickety dock and no likely candidate appeared for us, the more we realized that the wisest decision would be for us to bail and wander around the town on our own.

We saw this wooden stairway leading up to the highest point of the island with all the satellite gear and saw some people up there. We had plenty of time, it was just a question of our physically being able to climb all that way. Finding the bottom of the stairway was going to be the trick. We wandered by the local museum with the scenic cemetery at the waters edge of a cove. Took some pretty pictures, but nope the bottom of the stairway wasn’t here. 

We watched a couple of people coming down the stairway and followed them past a small backyard and under their deck. Hum. Ok we’d give it a go. Under a polar bear skin on the deck, under the supports for the deck, around a couple rocks to a rickety wooden bridge across to the base of the 341 stairs. Up, up, up we climbed. 

When we reached the top (after lots of panting, and stopping to rest and take photos) we were rewarded with the most incredible toe tingling views across the archipelago. Absolutely spectacular spot well worth the effort, but oh my knees I knew I was going to pay dearly for it.

On our departure that evening we had breathtaking coastline views of rugged glacier mountain peaks. It reminded us so much of the Chilean fjords. We never imagined the coastline of Greenland to be like this. 

We rewarded my knees to room service again tonight. Nothing better than curling up on our cozy couch watching a movie on our iPad and indulging on our luscious desserts. Forget the shows onboard this is our choice of how to spend the evening.

This evening the captain announced that at 3:30am we would be entering in to the polar circle.


Sisimiut, Greenland

August 13, 2019

 

Today we arrived in Sisimiut and to our surprise there was no fog but bright blue skies and brilliant sunshine. Maybe this was due to the fact that we were in the arctic circle. In checking the weather prior to our departure we observed that it was better weather further north. Strange, but apparently proving to be correct. 

Sisimiut is the second largest town in Greenland with a population of about 5,600. It is located 47 miles north of the Arctic Circle and is Greenland’s northernmost ice-free port. 

There was the usual small museum and church but hiking was the big thing for us. After researching at home the only trail that I found for us to hike with one on TeleIsland. Along the trail there’s a historical burial grounds, views, and other historical sites. 

Fortunately for us I read the ships information sheet and read that there was another hike that I hadn’t read about that sounded much better. I opened my AllTrails app and sure enough it was listed there. The mountain name had lots of a’s and the obligatory Q tossed in at the end. The ships cafe has 4 varieties of pre-made sandwiches and home baked cookies all available to take away. So we filled our water bottles, packed the sandwiches, cookies, Clif bars, and dried fruit and headed off. Again it was really nice that we were able to dock as opposed to have to tender in. 

We walked past the local museum and color church towards the lake with its culture center at its edge. Though it’s colorless landscape, mostly gravel/dirt and asphalt paved streets, there was the odd patch of summer flowers. Plenty of people were out and about and lots of children playing. Thank heavens we had a sunny day. Temperatures were in the 40s with a light wind. 

Route from pier to trailhead of our hike above

The hike terrain was not at all what we expected. The ground was covered with low brush much like we would expect to see in the Scottish highlands. The trail was fairly obvious but it was nice to have the AllTrails app to verify that we hadn’t strayed too far off route.

The houses of the higher part of the town soon disappeared and we hiked about 3 miles out of an overlook of a rocky beach. We passed only a couple of people the entire time we were on the hike. So glad we saw this hike in the cruise briefing info!

It was well past lunch time when we got back in to the village and had built up quite an appetite. There was a picnic table in front of the museum and church overlooking the harbor and we pulled out our goodies and enjoyed the sunshine and views.

After our picnic we headed over to the beginning of the Tele Island hike. The wind had picked up quite a bit by now and we had to make our way up a dusty road next to oil tanks to the trail head. This wasn’t much of a trail and compared to what we’d just hiked it wasn’t very exciting. Our legs were tired, the wind was making it even more unattractive so we decided to head back to the ship.

This, as well as dinner in our cabin may well become a habit. 

We had wonderful views of Sisimiut as we departed. It’s amazing every port we visit we arrive with little expectation of what we’ll experience but each time we depart with wonderful experiences. 

Sunset was at 10:35 at night. It was early to bed for us tonight as tomorrow is Ilulissat, Jackobshaven glacier and Disko bay… what we have come for. That evening the captain in his evening report said that there was so much calving the previous day that two ships were unable to make their scheduled stops at Ilulissat! Because of this, the captain was making his way as quickly as possible to allow him to arrive as early as possible to navigate the icebergs that might create navigation challenges upon arrival. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.


Ilulissat (Jakobshavn), Greenland

August 14, 2019

Warning: Today’s post is going to be incredibly long as this was a life-time experience for us. 

At the mouth of Ilulissatfjord you’ll find the Jakobshavn Glacier (called Sermeq Kujalleq in Greenlandic). This is one of the largest outlet glaciers in western Greenland. It is located near the town of Ilulissat and ends at the sea in Ilulissatfjord. Jakobshavn Glacier alone drains a massive 6.5% of the Greenland Ice Sheet and produces around 10% of all Greenland icebergs. Some 35 billion tons of icebergs calve from it and pass out of the fjord every year. It is considered to be the most active glacier in the world.

Expedition team quote: As the only remnant in the northern hemisphere of the continental ice sheet from the Quarternary ice age, the oldest ice here could be calculated to be around 250,000 years old.

We had been experiencing fog every morning of our trip but for this port we were hoping to maximize our 12 hours that we would be there. We booked the first zodiac departure of the day at 8:00am. The day prior to our arrival we were advised that the expedition team had pushed back the entire days departures by one hour in hopes that the fog would be cleared by 9:00am so as to not disrupt the entire days schedule.

This time we used the expedition jump suits over our layers (long underwear, and hiking pants on the bottom; and 2 layers, down vest, and our down jacket). With the cold temperatures on 3c degree water, and being surrounded by massive icebergs putting off more cold we knew we needed to use everything that was available to us. We are told to meet in the club on deck 5 30 minutes prior to our scheduled zodiac departure. The 30 minutes is sufficient to gear up. Not only do we have to put our jump suits on, but in addition we had our multi-functional Buffs, fleece hats and gloves. Over all of that went our individual PFDs (Personal flotation devices) that are in everyone’s cabin. Once we’ve put all of this on we waddle out to the stern pool deck area to prevent “melt-down” while we wait our turn to be loaded (at times this can be considered as literal) in to the zodiacs for our departure after having listened to Iggy, the expedition leader’s, safety briefing.

Iggy, the expedition leader, advised us that the prior day had massive amounts of calving from the glacier that the captain had also mentioned the previous night. This iceberg flow is an extremely powerful flow of water driving out towards the mouth of the fjord to sea. At times like this these massive icebergs flow in what appears to be a stream. It’s very dangerous to try and cross through these flowing stream of icebergs as some times it flows up to a few kilometers an hour. Another hazard being in the area of the icebergs is their breaking up and causing huge surges of waves that could easily swamp a zodiac. In fact this morning the expedition team while preparing the zodiacs for the departures witnessed the breaking up of a massive iceberg. Sobering! 

We suited up and waddled down the two flights of stairs to the zodiac boarding dock. We couldn’t have had better weather conditions…the sun was out, there was no fog and the water was fairly calm. John the whale specialist was our zodiac guide. He immediately spotted two humpback whales in the bay. He explained their feeding habit and other interesting information. UNESCO rules prohibit expedition zodiacs from coming as close as the local boats. I suppose it’s that the locals are more familiar with the waters and they don’t need to regulate them as they do us. 

It was so peaceful floating through the icebergs. The ones that had either flipped over or broke apart  were surrounded by this layer of broken bits of ice. This new view of magnificent icebergs surrounded by bits of ice was really special. If you look closely at some of the photos with the bits of icebergs around them you’ll see one of the expedition team zodiacs hanging nearby in the broken ice. In these conditions they require empty zodiacs with an expedition team member nearby in case of any emergency (see photo with red arrow in top right of photos below). 

John also navigated close to a local boat so we could see that it was a whaling boat with a harpoon mechanism on its bow.  He explained that there is an annual quota for whale hunting in Greenland and it was not usually met. Unfortunately there is not like quota for seals and though they need to hunt the animals for sustenance they have pretty much wiped out the once large seal population. There is a balance that needs to be struck as the local people in Greenland as well as Nunavut in Northern Canada need the nutrition rich seal meat to survive as seals are their only food. But it appears that there was a time when they overhunted and now they are seeing substantially reduced quantities of seals to sustain them.

After we unwrapped our layers, we went to our cabin to load our backpack, gear up, and grab sandwiches from the cafe to head onshore to go to the UNESCO Kangia trails that run the length of the Jackobshaven glacier. The glacier produces 40 meters of ice per day and this flow rate results in masses of ice constantly flowing out of the fjord. The ice fjord here is 40 km long. This trail was really the big highlight of our entire trip. We had watched the videos from the UNESCO site that made us realize how incredible this stop was going to be for us.

We tendered to the dock in town and then walked up the hill to the center of town towards the old heliport where the trails would branch off from there. The town is fairly developed and we were told there is a lot of sports based tourism here year round. On our way to the trailhead just past the old heliport we passed the massive sled dog farms. Across the valley you could see little dog houses with blue buckets (food) outside them and a chained dog outside of each. We had been told many times that these sled dogs are NOT domestic animals and we should never approach them even when chained. (Not that us dog lovers would anyway 🙄) No kidding! …and the smell plus the constant barking OMG! Truly even dog lovers would stay away from these animals. Scary.

Finally we arrived at the trailhead. The trail access had changed a bit as UNESCO is building a massive visitors center that is slated to be completed in 2020. Very futuristic building that will most probably have glass windows with a view of the beginning of the Kangia fjord.

The yellow trail started too far out by the mouth and would be a duplicate of what we’d seen this morning in the zodiacs. The blue trail runs from the end of the yellow right around and behind but was like 6kms which would have been too long of a hike for us and the back half takes you behind and out of view of the iceberg field. What we didn’t know until we’d hiked the first part the 2nd part, though marked with painted blue circles on rocks gets to be pretty tricky. No well pre-cut trail, but more over this boulder, around this rocky patch and down the other side. Not really my kind of preference for a hike, especially when the trail moves away from the view point. The red trail which is the one that we wanted to take down to the blue and then hike in both directions off of was kind of hidden behind the construction site and we missed it. So we ended up taking the new boardwalk down to edge of the iceberg filled fjord.

At the beginning we were closer to the mouth of the fjord so the bergs had broken free of the ledge at the mouth and were headed out to sea and their next stop Newfoundland Canada. It’s hard to describe the emotion when you break out to the cliffs edge with the view. We hiked along the edge and climbed up the stairs to the ultimate view where there is less and less space between each berg and it really appears like one frozen river filled with massive icebergs. 

We had once again packed a picnic lunch from the ship. The cafe in Seabourn Square has pre-made sandwiches wrapped in paper for you to take away. And of course a couple of home made various kinds of chocolate chip cookies made for a perfect finish to the picnic. 😉

The trail deteriorates at this point but we climbed over the rocks to the top of the view point where there were a couple of ideally placed picnic tables. We feasted on our picnic and tried to take in the sight in front of us. A fjord filled with so many massive icebergs that you couldn’t see any water or the other side of the fjord for that matter. A sea of icebergs pressed tightly together. The people on the trail below us looked like little dots. The whole experience was one that really can’t be put in to words, and the photos we took can’t really convey the enormity of the scene. 

I wasn’t keen on continuing in further in the fjord as the trail, though marked with painted blue dots on the rocks was more difficult to follow. I went a little further with Joe and then waited for him as he went ahead to scout if there was an really incredible view to experience if I pressed a little further, but he returned to say that it was more of the same incredible expanse of icebergs. So we turned around and made our way back to the trail head at the UNESCO Welcome Center building site. 

We tendered back to the ship after a full day. 
Total distance hiked/walked 7.5 miles.

A session in the hot tub was more than deserved. We have come to think of the foredeck hot tub as our private spa as there’s rarely anyone in it. And what a view it affords you. So we grabbed a Lagunitas IPA from our well stocked fridge in the cabin and headed out for a soak with amazing views and even a couple of humpback whales not too far from where we were. (Zoom in off the bow of the ship to see the black tops of the whales.) 

On departure, the captain slowly made a 360 of the edge of the ice flow exiting the iceberg filled Disko Bay on their way across the Davis straight to most probably far northern Canada. We loved the view from our oceanview suite as we were much closer to the water level and icebergs.

What an incredible day to end our time in Greenland. Exhausted we once again indulged in room service. Both of us had colds by now as we are not used to being out in the cold day after day. We’re looking forward to our 2 days at sea as we cross the Davis Straight to Nunavut Northern Canada. 

Our dinner tonight in our suite:
Starters: Lisa- Asian Salad   Joe- crab cake
Mains: something delicious that we didn’t photograph
Desert: these delectable items

Observation during this whole time spent in Greenland:
The air is so clean and fresh.
No pollution makes the skies so blue and fresh. 
It wasn’t until we were looking back at our photos
that this struck us.

Arctic Adventures continues with Part 3 – Northern Canada.