In Longyearbyn we dropped off and picked up passengers for leg two of our expedition. This is the largest settlement of Svalbard, Norway. Population 2015, 2,144 and is the world’s northernmost settlement with one 1,000 permanent residents. Coal was a big industry (1906...) but now tourism and research are the main sources of income. Also spent time with a walking tour of the town. They have one of the best natural history museums possible explaining the floor and fauna of the Arctic.
As we were trying to break through the northern tip of Greenland. (6 August) We had helicopter rides to see the KK breaking the formidable ice. Trying to negotiate the ice it became futile to go up and over the NE corner of Greenland, so we went down its East Coast instead. Great move in my opinion. This was my favorite leg of the trip for its stunning scenery day after day after day.
After dinner we had a zodiac excursion to a bleak rocky spot along the coast, Antarctic Bay. It did, however, reveal its beauty subtly. There were three kettle lakes, tarns. A very few plants, but a nice swath of snow in a small valley with red algae growing on it. Also a clutch of King Eider, a mother and six chicks diving for food.
(8 August) This has been a working meteorological station since 1948 currently with about 80 workers. The permanent population of the base is eight. Danmarkshavn is also known as the northernmost location on the coast of the Greenland Sea that non-icebreaking vessels can pass through. Therefore, it is resupplied by cargo ship in August every other year. It is located halfway along the cost of NE Greenland National Park. I was lucky to be on another of Nikita’s walks. There were amazing rocks with stripes and patterns in, pink, orange, brown, black.
We headed out at 10:00 for this outing. Nice and bright….. We walked with Nikita through an Arctic desert which had small “garden like” areas and a stream.
Feeling of having been where no-one else has been, so remote.
A helicopter ride to this beautiful place for a hike. There was a large meadow filled with Arctic Cotton Grass.
(10 August) We were boarded in the night by a Danish Patrol to “check us out.” During our excursion on Eskimonaes, we saw a lot of musk ox wool, Soggy soils develop characteristic polygonal and striped patterns.
There was a beautiful double horseshoe beach, I went behind a large rock, stripped and went for my first of four polar plunges of the trip. My skinny dip SWIM! Having had a radio and weather station, the site used to be used as a base for explorations.
The receding Wordie Glacier is certainly a lesson for those climate deniers. Great views and more beautifully marked rocks.
(11 August) is a dramatic landmark in the area. It is 1340m high. BLOMSTERBUGTEN - “Bay of Flowers” where we had another of our 3-4 hour hikes. It was 14C (70˚) one of our warmer days!!! ELLA Ø in Kempe Fjord, a military installation, lakes, great light, birds, dog
“The People with Much Peat.” Our first visit to an Inuit community, at the mouth of the Scoresbysund Fjord, East Greenland’s most northerly community has about 500 people, a lovely Lutheran church, an upscale crafts store, a large store selling everything from food to tools. The weather station here sends up a balloon twice a day to measure wind direction and pressure. Every three hours, the surface weather is observed and ozone measurements are also taken.
The colors of Inuit houses are practical and indicate the function of the building: Commercial houses red; hospitals yellow; police stations black; telephone company green and fish factories blue.
This area is known to have some of the most magnificent icebergs in the world. It did not disappoint as we cruised down the fjord on a gorgeous sunny day, with sunset 11:24pm and sunrise shortly thereafter. Scoresbysund is the longest and largest fjord system in the world. William Scoresby, a whaler, scientist and man of the cloth, mapped more than 400 miles of the Greenland coast.
“Red Fjord” is named for its colorful sandstone on its western side. The stone has been “stained” red by hematite, rare in this part of Greenland. There is a shallow area where icebergs can get trapped ….
“The land at this time surveyed and projected is mountainous, dark and sterile in the extreme. Nothing can be conceived more rugged than it is; yet nothing that I have ever seen equals it in bold grandeur, and interesting character. There is nothing in it that is tame, smooth or insignificant. The mountains consist of innumerable series of elevated peaks, cones or pyramids, with the most rugged assemblage of sharp rocks jutting from the sides. They take their rise from the very beach, and ascend by steep and precipitous cliffs. – William Scoresby on Scoresbysund, July 19, 1822
Our hike went past reflections of mountains in small lakes, rocky ledges with patches of red flowers. We saw many shy musk ox.
One of our most dazzling outings…by helicopter we reached the Rolige Glacier with its sapphire blue lakes and formidable seracs..
One of my favorite walks with Nikita because on our way back we walked to the edge of a cliff... I asked where the trail was. He said: “Follow me.” And took us straight down the face of the cliff!! I still don’t know how we did it! But it was great.
Southbound DANMARK STRAIT - separates Iceland from Greenland
“Like a Still Lake” just south of the Arctic Circle, with a population of 2,000, Tasiilaq is the largest community on the east coast of Greenland. It was here that we dropped off an injured passenger with a broken shoulder. She was to be evacuated to REYKJAVIT.
The town has the same social structure as Denmark; free health care, dental care and schooling. The town is run by a city council, with a mayor elected by the people. In winter, dog sledge is the primary form of transportation. Ice persists for nine months of the year.
Tasiilaq’s large and relatively modern Lutheran church has a scaled, elaborate model boat hanging from the ceiling. It represents the church as a boat. The kneeling pads in front of the alter are made of sealskin and embroidered with Greenlandic motifs. The museum displays stone and ivory carvings, tools, traditional dress and photographs exhibiting the Inuit culture.
Great cemetery with wild flowers in bloom especially fire weed.
Dog feeding, skinning of a freshly caught seal and feeding it to dogs
Tasiilaq Choir came aboard our ship tonight to sing for us.
Only 38m at its narrowest! Pretty exciting. Beautiful reflections of a blue glacier that came right to the water.
Skoldungen is a settlement, which, when abandoned in 1961, had been littered with people’s belongings. So strange to see parts of dolls, kitchen equipment, shoes, clothes, photo albums among the litter.
We visited many such places, having to send off the zodiacs to determine if the KK could navigate the waters. I had never seen CRYSTAL icebergs such as were found here. They were magnificent. It is amazing how much of the East Coast remains uncharted.
120 km long, channel cut by glaciers varies from 76m to 600 m deep
FOG!!!! Made the day. Tiny hamlet: AUGPILAGTOQ, 130 population. The Danish government support: $3,000 @ person in Greenland.
Herjólfr Bárðarson is one of the primary settlers in the History of Greenland. He left Iceland with 25 Viking ships in 985 to settle Greenland. Of these 25 only 14 made it to Greenland, among them Herjólfr.
It was a lovely afternoon with more flowers than we had seen anywhere. Lots of crow berries and blueberries. Nice snacks. Nikita is wonderful to walk with, he tells us just enough, makes it interesting and lets us explore. At the end of the walk, I wandered off towards to rocky beach and as soon as all had disappeared, I went into the water and swam!
Another GEM! And another rarely visited place, one that is off the charts, literally! Some of the crew went out in zodiacs to make soundings in order to know if we could navigate it
The sight was gorgeous. Jagged peaks, with swirling feathery clouds, fog at first, but as has been our luck, sun later. The water in this fjord is jade green and turquoise.This area is known as the Arctic Patagonia! The landscape is considered Greenland’s most dramatic. We had helicopter rides flying among the soaring peaks. A real highlight.
In vast contrast to Iceland, hot springs, fumaroles and similar tectonic phenomena are very uncommon in Greenland, which lies on the North American continental plate (Iceland lies on European and North American continental plates and this friction between them causes Iceland’s volcanic phenomena). One of the rare examples is at Unartoq where a geothermal eflux has been developed into a pleasant swimming hole with adjoining changing facilities.
Viking ruins 985 A.D. - settlement; 1015 - Hvalsey became Christianized; 1261 - the King of Norway visited; 1300 - the church was constructed; 1407 - a man was burned to death for seducing a woman through sorcery; and 1408 - the wedding between a nobleman from Iceland and a woman from this community, the last written reference to Greenland’s Viking communities. Hvalsey was re-discovered in 1723 by the Dane Hans Egede, in his search for the lost Vikings.
Polar bear population, constitutes one of several northern passages deep into the Arctic.
“The Headland.” Main city in Greenland, the world’s smallest capital city, it has 15% of entire Greenland population, 14,000. Nuuk has Greenland’s Parliament and administrative departments as well as the National Museum, National Theatre, the Katuaq Cultural Centre of Greenland, the National Library and the University.
Nuuk lies amongst some of the oldest rock on earth, gneisses that are 3.6 billion years old. This area has been populated for 4,000 years.
We went by zodiacs from the ship in threes due to the very heavy fog. Thirty seconds from the ship, it was invisible!
We visited the excellent Greenland National Museum with its stunning display of the Greenlandic mummies from about 1475. (Qilakitsormiut) It is a haunting and poignant display. The baby even still had some of its eyelashes. What did they die of? What were their lives like? The mummies were discovered outside the Qilakitsoq settlement in 1972 by brothers, Hans and Hokum Grønvold from Uummannaq. There were two graves with six women and two boys.
All the houses have lovely flowers growing and vegetables in frames. Very tidy and colorful houses.
Drop off & pick up, an airport, to edge of ice sheet that covers most of Greenland, to the Russell Glacier. Oldest ice in the sheet, 250,000 years old. Washboard dirt road, 25 kms longest road in Greenland!!! Would take four hours to navigate. Autumnal landscape.
END SECOND LEG: 19 Days, 3,801 Nautical miles - Overall, in looking. back, this was my very favorite part of the trip. Every day I was dazzled by the scenery, loved visiting Inuit villages and in general was awed by the incredible beauty in Greenland.