(27th June) Sea Day
We woke to another bright, sunny day but the sea conditions were rough with white tops to the waves making it difficult to gauge whether we were surrounded by the largest pod of whales on the planet or it was just wishful thinking. The wind was bitterly cold, making for an unpleasant after-breakfast tramp around the decks, it had gotten worse by the time we ventured back into the elements for our pre-lunch exercise. Struggling into the teeth of a gale on the forward march towards the bow used up enough calories for several meals, we called it a day after just one circumnavigation and descended into the bowels of the Ambience to replenish stocks.
The afternoon lecture was a highlight; Louis Rudd MBE, record-breaking polar adventurer, expedition leader, former Royal Marine and SAS soldier, was the only person to have traversed Antarctica twice using human power alone. This first of two lectures focussed on an expedition where with a small team he crossed the Greenland Ice-sheet in 2018. A fascinating account of the highs, lows and dangers of adventuring in such a remote region.
Around four in the afternoon and soon after the mountainous snow-capped island of southern Greenland appeared a few miles away on the port bow we encountered icebergs. We were running along a coastline that looked like the most inhospitable shoreline I have ever seen. Grey, threatening mountains rising vertically upwards through a layer of ice-cold mist. I can’t believe anything would choose to live here, not even the hardiest of animals, but the naturalists on board inform us that they do. Our captain kept the ship well away from the icebergs ominously floating by, forcing me to use the zoom on my camera to its greatest extent to capture these deceptive lumps of ice. Even on the sheltered aft deck outside our room, I couldn’t stay very long with
fingers exposed on the shutter button, yet a crazy couple of cruisers wallowed with glass in hand in the steaming hot tubs for over an hour, toasting the passing scenery. Not my idea of having a good time.
Just before we returned to our cabin for the night we spent a little time on the aft deck watching icebergs of varying sizes slowly drift by the ship. At 10.30 pm it was as light as could be, the sea was dead calm and the ship had stopped. The rest of the passengers were either still enjoying the entertainment deep inside the Ambience or were snugly tucked up in bed, it was lovely and peaceful and we were alone in a scene of raw nature. Then it began to spit with rain!
(29th June) Qaqortoq
We were due to begin a Cultural Walking Tour of Qaqotoq at 8.30 am on the quayside of the port, but this was a tender port which meant that we had to assemble in the Palladium for 7.45 am and ferry to the shore. But that didn’t happen.
We duly breakfasted for 6.30 pm and were disappointed to discover that it was raining. Our anchorage a few hundred metres from the town afforded a miserable view of the surrounding scenery. There was another smaller cruise ship at anchor a little closer to the settlement and around both of us and in the water as far as we could see were icebergs of all sizes. The sea was calm and flat, disturbed only by falling raindrops. Some of the bergs were a striking blue while others contained bluish streaks in vivid contrast to their polar bear whiteness. On a clear sunny day it would have looked magical, but today the camera was never going to capture that image.
We were the first to take our seats in the Palladium at 7.30 am and along with many other early tour passengers were still sitting there two hours later. A few messages had been relayed concerning difficulties with the port authorities on clearing the ship for port entry. It was some consolation that the other ship was also having the same problem. Eventually, the captain appeared to inform us that it was a Covid-19 issue and that negotiations were ongoing. Soon after we were instructed over the Tannoy by the captain that we should go and enjoy the comfort of the bars and lounges and we would be updated as soon as there was news. We have some Covid cases on board and I thought there was no way we are going to land in Greenland today. I was wrong.
After a couple of coffees, lots of murky photos from the deck of icebergs, the other cruiser and lots of distant colourful buildings, it was announced that we would after all begin disembarking. I wonder what arms had been twisted or paperwork provided for that to happen? Soon, Sue and I were chugging our way through the rain on the first tender to step onto shore, beaten by brightly attired passengers from the other ship who had a slightly shorter journey to make.
Our group of around 12 assembled by the Tourist Information Office and met our guide. She was young, had a calm manner, spoke perfect English and was of obvious Danish heritage. Through the rain, we followed and listened to the history and descriptions of the various buildings we paused at, moving on when enough photos had been taken. Some of the structures were as old as the 1700’s but the earliest settlement was as far back as 2400BC. It has always been a harsh place to survive in and there have been many extended periods when there were no inhabitants in the region of Qagotoq at all. Today the town is the main administrative centre of the area and the principal industry is fishing. It is also where outlying settlements board their children for secondary education.
The rain did pause for a while, but then the midges arrived and became a nuisance when standing still for any length of time. Sue and I didn’t bother to don our face nets (we have experienced much worse), but many others did. We visited the town’s two museums, both are small and contain a variety of artefacts and literature which thinly attempt to describe the history of the place, not surprisingly there are no interactive displays or Hitech projection equipment employed here, this is a tough working settlement, the past is important but not dwelt on.
Our tour was titled a Cultural Walking Tour, it was disappointing from the point of view that we didn’t get a feel for the people and their past or present way of life. Maybe the dismal weather conditions had something to do with that, but I suspect that the town’s 195 inhabitants are just too busy getting on with life to spend time explaining how they do it to soft Europeans. The maze of roads linking the pretty coloured houses; red for government-owned, blue for fishermen and green for land workers were very busy with vehicles, making it difficult to crocodile around the town following our guide on our quest for understanding.
With museums and church thoroughly visited Sue and took a walk to the town’s other notable feature, the Great Lake. It turned out to be a not-so-great affair as its name implies, one group from the ship was booked to complete a hike around it in less than two hours. I felt for them, we marched up to the nearest viewpoint, took our photos and chased by midges retired back into town and a return tender to the haven of Ambience.
The evening show was a tribute to Broadway by an excellent Brazillian singer, very professional with a stunning vocal range, we are looking forward to his next performance in a few days. It is another early start tomorrow so it was off to bed before 11 pm.