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Exploring Greenland's Arctic Wilderness Firsthand

Jul 17, 2013

Impressive icebergs and awe inspiring scenery, the best of local music and culinary delights, ice fishing, kayaking and the amazing Midnight Sun

 

After a short flight to Copenhagen and an overnight at the city central Hilton my trip began with a spot of city sightseeing. It was very easy to walk and explore the city. The waterside in particular, where we stopped enroute to the famous Little Mermaid and Palace had a bustling cafe culture and some excellent restaurants offering value for money.

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On Day 2 our flight to Kangerluarsuaq with Air Greenland was very comfortable & with excellent inflight meal & drinks service.  Upon arrival at the Quayside our unique & short transfer to the ship was by a former American school bus.  We then donned life jackets for the short polar circle ride to the ship. The sun was shining & the temperature was 18 degrees.  Our first night onboard meant a chance to meet our, crew, expedition team and fellow guests – over a buffet dinner I chatted to some lovely guests  from Israel & the parents of one of the expedition team from Greenland joined us.

Day 3 - Sisimiut – After an early breakfast we had a brief update on Aeco & getting in & out of the Polar Cirkles. We arrived a Sisimiut (Siss – ee – meut) the 2nd largest city in Greenland, small in comparison to many cities, yet it had all the main facilities. Whilst there we opted for the Taste of Greenland excursion – where were treated to a great spread of seafood spread along with the option of  Musk Oxen & Reindeer. After a briefing on what opportunities lay ahead tomorrow and dinner we enjoyed the melodic & relaxing music from the local musician & artist & musician Miki Jacobsen.

Day 4 – Qeqertarsuaq – Sea Kayaking was my chosen activity. After a safety briefing I was suited up in my dry suit and fleece onesie complete with rubbed soled water tight boots and gloves. From the beach we kayaked by icebergs hugging the coastline before taking lunch, and a hike up to a waterfall before taking to the boat again to the edge of Englishman’s harbour where we crossed the mouth to the other side & headed towards town. All in all we covered 10km in 3 hours – a truly exhilarating experience!

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Day 5 – Ummannaq – As we arrived into Ummannaq the sun greeted us & it looked promising for a beautiful day ahead. At 10am I set off on the Qilakitsoq & Ice Cruising excursion. After a brief 30 min ice cruise we arrived at the old settlement of Qilakitsoq, where back in 1972 preserved mummies where found that dated back farther than the settlement had been dated & rewrote the history books. Theses mummies can now be found in the National museum in Nuuk. After a stop of an hour to explore this area we boarded our Polar Cirkle & made our way back to the MS Fram via a 45 min ice cruise around & between some very beautiful icebergs. It was a brief lunch stop then back on the Polar Cirkles to head to the town & start the 3hr hike to Santa’s Summer Hut which peaked at 300m. The Hike itself was a rugged ascent & descent but offered some amazing views of the bay & ship amid the strong & warm sunshine. Once we arrived at Santa’s Hut the crew had arrived & set up Santa’s mini bar where a cold beer was gratefully received. We took a look around the hut before heading back. Back onboard it was time for a buffet dinner before arriving in Ukkusissat for an evening of local culture. The local choir & dance group join the ship to show us some traditional dance & singing. The dance was very similar to a good old fashioned ceildah. We were invited to explore the small settlement of just 150 residents & join them for tea/coffee at the community house.  It was a very pleasant evening amid the warm temperatures & the evening adventure looked promising as for tonight was the night for sleeping out on deck. At 11pm I went out onto deck 7 where the expedition team were readying the beds, Arctic sleeping bags & pillows for what promised to be a great night under the Midnight Sun. Just as I was getting all tucked up in my sleeping bag 2 whales blew their holes alongside the ship just 30-40 feet away. As the ship continued they were soon left in our wake. At Midnight I took a picture of my surroundings & the Midnight Sun looked amazing. By 00.45 I was fast asleep all nice & warm in sleeping bag. The weather was changeable throughout the night but after a truly interesting night’s sleep. In the morning we were woken to warm croissants & coffee.

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Day 6 – Our next day saw royalty join us onboard in the form of King Neptune. Who was onboard to ‘baptise’ those who wanted to be baptised by him, which involved a ladle of ice poured down the neck of the person’s jacket or top! Later, we anchoring at Fredia bay for an ice cruise around some of the smaller bergs before lunch & a hike ashore with the expedition team to a view point off the Glacier.  The 10k round journey was a pleasant ascent of around 200 metres and the view from the top was pretty special. Every now & then the silence was punctuated by the rumbling & cracking of the Glacier. Before joining the ship I chanced what was to become a very quick ice dip in my trunks from the rocky coast line before going back onboard for a BBQ and fruit & ice sculpting.

Day 7 –National Greenland Day – the longest day of the year!!! -  Ilulissat. Opening  my curtains I could see was Ice Bergs of varying sizes for as far as the eye in one direction and the city of Ilulissat jutting out on the headland. We walked through the town along the boardwalk to the UNESCO world heritage sites of the Ilulissat Icefjord. A very pleasant stroll brought us to a fantastic sight of the fjord with some truly majestic  icebergs. The tallest must have been a t least 40m. After lunch we took a boat trip onboard a small icebreaker to Ilulissat Glacier, which was probably the highlight of my voyage. The next two hours gave us the most remarkable scenery amid the Icefjord & bergs filled the horizon as far as the eye could see. We got up close & even touched an iceberg, we had a brief explanation on the difference of Glacier Ice & normal ice. I must have taken over 120 photo’s in 2hrs. We returned to the ship for a quick Jacuzzi before heading down to a Greenlandic Reindeer & Fish buffet. We headed up to the observation lounge where we were treated to a traditional Greenlandic Mask dance by Miki then the fabulous crew show. The show was somewhat rudely interrupted by a stunning iceberg with a large whole through it. The Sun was shining so we decided to stay up for the Midnight Sun. It did not disappoint & a few photos were taken as the temperature started to drop.

Day 8 –The morning consisted of a brief lecture on Itilleq & Kangerlusuaq the following day followed by a tour of the bridge & a chat with the captain. After lunch we arrived into the small settlement of Itilleq & spent 20 minutes trying to find a safe place to stop the ship as the wind had got up. I was then called to deck 2 to put on my floatation suit ready for the fishing excursion with the officers. Only 2 of us had signed up & we headed out on a Polar cirkle boat. It wasn’t ideal weather but it didn’t take long, just 1 cast & I had a fish on, a nice looking cod around 2lbs & after that it was a frenzy of fishing activity. Every cast for the next 30 mins delivered fish & on many occasions in multiples of 2 or 3 ago.  I had hoped for some trout but it wasn’t to be sadly our time had run out & but the ship’s chef was delighted chef as he took the box of fish from us. It was a little cold but the suits meant you never felt it. That night at dinner I was presented with a bottle of wine courtesy of the hotel manager for the fish & then a great surprise for myself & the table of guests I was dinning with as we were presented with my catch. It was cooked to perfection & tasted amazing!!! I would have eaten it all if we’re not for the fact that I had already had 2 courses & the main course of Steak was due after the Cod. Fantastic way to finish a good days fishing. In the afternoon the auction was held for the chart & flag for local charities & a good battle ensued for both items with a good amount raised.

Day 9 After such an enthralling trip it was sad to say my farewells to my fellow guests and crew. Our final day involved a trip to an inland icecap on the longest road in Greenland (at just 40km, originally built it was said by VW to test their cars). From the bus you could see  musk oxen (albeit a long way away) & a reindeer. When we arrived it was a sea of white. Impressive.  I stood on 12% of the worlds Ice on the Greenland Ice Cap. The grip was surprisingly good & we walked about 100metres onto the ice making the most of photographic opportunities before after a pleasant & hearty traditional Greenland meal  it was time for our flight home.

Traveller Danny Giles with Hurtigruten