Todays landing and hike were probably my favourite of the entire trip. Zodiacs took us to the leeward side of Rode Island though a sea of grounded icebergs.
Our hike up to a vantage point on the island led us through a true Greenland forest – 4-6 inches high and dressed in its autumnal colours of red and gold. Four inch high arctic willow with catkins shared space with the gold of 3 inch arctic poplar. Green lycopodium (club moss – a plant that hasn’t changed for millions of years), miniature saxifrage, bilberry and lichens were everywhere we looked. A late blooming arctic hairbell greeted us at the top of our climb.
The hillside was like a gleaming carpet.
After winding our way through the icebergs back to the ship, we enjoyed an excellent lunch and now the ship is headed deeper into the fjord system, carefully picking her way through fields of floating and stranded bergs produced by the surrounding glaciers. Our destination is Eilse Glacier part of the Greenland Ice Cap.
Amazing zodiac cruise of the glacier front which culminated with two ice bergs calving off as we watched. Eilse glacier is one of the many glaciers here originating from the Greenland icecap. The ice is very old here, probably thousands of years. Our day ended with a barbecue dinner in the open air overlooking the glacier. Magic.
Ittoqoorttomitt is a tiny town of 452 at the mouth of Scoresby Sound that we visited today after breakfast. It is one of the youngest and isolated towns in Greenland, established in 1925. Residents are primarily subsistence hunters. The colourful little houses hang on to the hillside of small bay on the northern side of Scoresby Sound. Hunting and fishing sustain the community, together with a flow of tourist dollars. Dog sled and skidoo are the primary forms of transportation in the winter. Our company makes a donation to the school in the settlement and they are very gracious in letting us land and walk around. There is a beautiful little church in the village which was open to us as well.
Because of the bad storm and heavy weather moving down from the north. the captain decided to head south hugging the Greenland coast. The high winds out to sea blew a lot of the cloud cover of the last couple of days away – the resulting sunset was spectacular. We plan to stay on the south west coast of greenland for another 18 hours or so before heading across to Iceland.
The mornings sunrise found us down the east side of Greenland entering Nansen fjord. Fridtjof Nansen was an early Norwegian polar explorer. Nansen and his team established that ice in the arctic firmed on the ocean and that ice drifted over the pole. He also believed that a strong enough vessel could be constructed to withstand the Arctic ice and travel from Siberia to Greenland. Nansen built the Fram which left on her maiden voyage in 1893 and accomplished just that. Nansen was also a humanitarian who supplied food aid to Russia. He won the Nobel Peace Prize. The Christian IV glacier at the end of the fjord was stunning, as was the trip in and the zodiac cruise among the ice bergs and brash ice.
It is now early afternoon and we have set sail for Iceland. White beaked Dolphins led the way out of the fjord and bid us a farewell from Greenland. A large group of fin whales then met us about 5 miles out into the Greenland sea. We could see their blows all around us. The day was capped off with a celebration of Carol’s birthday in the dining room, following with a viewing of the northern lights from the stern of the ship.
We dock in Iceland this evening. Internet access has been non- existent on this trip so hopefully I can get these sent off once we are onshore. The company that we traveled with, G Adventures, has been outstanding. Everything from food, organization, landing logistics and flexibility in destination due to inclement weather has been handled seamlessly. The crew of Naturalists, doubling as zodiac drivers, range from PhD’s in Geology and Biology, a retired Aerospace engineer, professional botanists, a cetacean biologist, glaciologist and all around ecology specialists, plus a Polar Historian . Other staff members included an X Marine who had 4 tours of duty in Afghanistan (he is in charge of the firearms on board). A singer song writer, naturalist in training rounded out the group. Very diverse community of people speaking 1/2 dozen languages between them. The ship is what I believe people call a “happy ship” – which is a direct reflection of management. The style is casual but safety is rigidly adhered to. Different activities occur all throughout the trip. Big screen movies, concerts in the polar bar, lectures on polar wildlife, geology, polar history etc. Often landings would be followed by a short talk and slideshow about what we had seen.
This is my third G Adventures trip and certainly won’t be my last.
We have three days in Iceland before traveling home. Stay tuned for more photos and impressions