(29th June) Narsarsuaq
This morning we were awake from 5 am. After a quick breakfast, it was down into the Palladium to wait for our ‘Boat trip among the icebergs’. We had previously arranged to go and see the ancient, abandoned settlement of ‘Erik the Red’, a short boat ride away in Qassiarsuk, but it was cancelled a few days prior, as the landing pontoon was considered too dangerous. In replacement, we had opted to go and see the icebergs on the first tour of the day leaving the ship at 6.30 am.
In Greenland, trips that involve a sea journey use local fishing boats and only take place if they are available and not required for their livelihood of catching cod, therefore it is never certain how many, if any, will turn up to transport groups of eager tourists. Often they do not. Today we were lucky, we were in the first group of eight berg enthusiasts to board the little fishing smack directly from deck 4 of the Ambience.
Unluckily, it was raining and heavier than yesterday. Our little boat had a real turn of speed and with windscreen wipers swishing rapidly backwards and forwards, cramped into the cockpit of the craft we sped away from the comfort of our cruiser into the mist and rain.
We were soon into the berg field, huge lumps of ice spilling unseen from a glacier many miles away at the beginning of the fjord. Thankfully our seemingly fragile boat slowed and we spilled onto its narrow deck to marvel at the sight around us. We spent an hour weaving around towering blocks of ice, dwarfing our little craft, I felt so insignificant and vulnerable. The beauty of these huge monoliths has to be witnessed to be understood, their shapes, the pristine white and best of all, the blueness of some. Probably annoyed at our presence, we
disturbed a flock of seabirds sitting atop one mammoth floe, as one they flew silently away, skimming ghost-like over a freezing leaden sea, no doubt into the murky depths of Valhalla.
Gliding to a gentle stop, we eased up next to one of the smaller blue bergs (a giant against our boat), they seem so out of place against the drab, rain-laden sky, grey sea and their shocking white brothers and sisters. We ran our fingers over its cold, clear and icy smooth surface, even up close it radiated blue. This one would satisfy quite a few gin and tonics with a hint of colour.
It must have rained non-stop because we got soaked, but it didn’t matter. Yes, it was annoying to continually wipe the lens of cameras and mobile phones to capture these memories, but I forgive nature for choosing to dampen our trip around one of its wonderful creations, it has provided an experience that was so mind-blowing, that I never really noticed the rain. We didn’t see the promised seals or whales, but then they are animals and unpredictable, we were truly fortunate to witness one of the wonders of this planet and considering global warming, I count myself as being among the lucky few and when we do eventually return home and I find time to insert some of the photos into this blog, you can appreciate why.
Back on board before 8 am we put our clothes to dry and finished off breakfast before chilling out for a couple of hours in our cabin. By 11.30 am we felt invigorated enough to catch a tender over to the shore and visit the small settlement of Narsarsuaq. The Americans built an airfield here in 1942 and though now in Greenlandic control, is still used today. The small harbour in which our tender berthed is a mile away from the cluster of buildings centred around the airport and spread along the one hard-surfaced road.
From the tender, we caught the shuttle bus to the airport museum, however, even though raining, many passengers chose to walk. The museum is unusually free and quite large. The rooms are mostly dedicated to describing the building of the runway and its occupation by the American airforce, though there are good displays of the local wildlife and the Innuit culture. I was hoping to see some information and artefacts on ‘Erik the Red’s presence in the area, but I found none. Sue and I did take a fancy to a painting and bought it as a reminder of our time in Greenland. As the artwork was being wrapped, we left the museum to continue our exploration of this tiny linear settlement.
We had planned earlier to hike up to the top of Signal Hill overlooking the runway, to take photos of the views over the fjord but low clouds and rain put an end to that. Instead, we opted to walk along with other cruisers beyond the airport to a slight rise where we could get a better view of our surroundings. We stopped often to photograph flowers and in one location Sue went on a rock collecting expedition, the proceeds of which ended up in my rucksack!
We collected our painting on the way back to catch the shuttle bus and tender to the Ambience, arriving just in time for a late lunch.
We ate dinner late with a pleasant couple from Brighouse before watching the ship’s dance troupe perform to rock music of the seventies. A marvellous show and superb music, we climbed the stairs to our cabin with familiar tunes running through our minds, it has been a long day and a great way to finish it.
(30th June) Sea Day
We are heading north towards Sisimiut which lies roughly halfway up the eastern Greenlandic coast. We slept in, taking breakfast around 9 am, it was a clear day, the seas had a swell but not too deep as to be felt on board, and the air was decidedly chillier than experienced so far.
We were steaming a couple of miles from the coast but the bleak and rugged coastline could be seen. We have been to some pretty inhospitable and mountainous places on this planet; Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, etc. but here is a place several notches higher on the desolate places to live scale. Fishing and hunting have been the main reason to want to inhabit this ‘rocky freezer’ of an island, but with limits on whaling and hunting the indigenous population are now looking to tourism and the exploitation of minerals for an income. Global warming will undoubtedly help them in this venture as the ice sheet recedes further, making mining cost-effective and providing better access for tourists. Those wishing to see bergs and experience land-based activities associated with the ice cap will have to seek their pleasure with the mainly Innuit communities further north, no doubt bringing prosperity and their modern attitudes and influence. Swings and roundabouts?
The highlight of the day was the guest speaker, Wendy Searle, the award-winning Polar Explorer. She described how she soloed to the North Pole and the hardships she faced.
The coastline continued to be bleak as we ploughed our way north, the icebergs got larger, some seemingly as big as small islands, we kept well away from them!
As usual, we finished off the night with an evening performance in the theatre entitled ‘Concerto’, we were treated to a medley of songs by the ship’s excellent singers.