Monday, September 22, 2014

Latitude: 66˚57′ N                  Longitude: 50˚77′ W
Speed: 0.8 knots                     Wind: 9.6 knots
Temperature: 3.2˚C (37.7˚F)

Our last morning aboard ship. The view out the portal is a dull grey sky with a bit of fine rain. We are looking at the rocky coast of the Kangerlussuaq Fjord. The Vavilov cruises down the long 180 kilometre (120 mile) fiord to its final anchorage at the end of the bay. The gloominess of the morning mirrors how I feel about ending this wonderful trip.

Cathie has collected large rocks at all the landing places to show people, but is not about to take them back to Vancouver. So we go out on the deck by the folded up gangway and she tosses them into the ocean.

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We take our final staff zodiac ride to the dock where we form another bucket brigade line from the zodiacs to the truck that will take the luggage to the airport. Then the passengers take their last zodiac ride ashore and get on the two waiting buses. I am sitting on the first bus when a voice bursts some directions to someone over the radio still hanging around my neck. Nate turns around to see who has a radio at the same second that I realize I didn’t hand it in. He says I can return it to Jocelyn of One Ocean at the airport. She’ll take it back to the main office.

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The bus drives slowly up a dirt secondary road, although I think it is a main road. We are having a bus tour of the vicinity. The driver gives us a commentary on the region. He explains that the roads are made of glacial silt and so are very slippery when they get wet. This is the reason we are driving so slowly.

Kangerlussuaq (Camp Lloyd) has a population of 500. It was set up in 1941 as a U.S. air force base when Denmark was occupied by the Germans. During the Cuban Missile Crisis the town swelled to 1,200 people. The town and airport was sold to Greenland in 1992 for $1. It remains the largest airport hub in Greenland.

Kangerlussuaq is surrounded by grey bare hills. Coming into the town from the bay, the flat silt valley looks like the tide is out, but the driver said it is actually an old glacial bed. The river running through this flat plain overflowed in 2012 and washed out the main bridge.

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The bus tour stopped first in a low area beside this glacial bed where the sled dogs are penned. The driver tells us we have 20 minutes. Twenty minutes to stretch our legs, and not much else but pat the puppies wandering about. So I take pictures. The rain stopped and a rainbow arched over one of the hills. Then back on the bus, we head up the mountain road.

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Someone spots muskox by the side of the road and the bus stops where it is. We get out, but the muskox are in a bit of a dip and the grass is very high at the side of the road. I can’t see them that well. I cross the road to take photos of the valley instead.  Then back on the bus, we continue slowly up a very steep hill, stopping at various lookouts over the valleys where we get out and take more pictures. At the very top, we glimpse the ice cap beyond the mountain peaks.

Back down at the bottom of the mountains where the town of Kangerlussuaq is, we are dropped off on the road beside the airport. A tent is set up beside a tourist shop across the road from the airport. This is where we sit and eat our brown bag lunches. Everyone made their own sandwiches on the ship before leaving. Brittany made a whack of sandwiches for the staff who went ahead in the zodiac on luggage detail. The sun has come out and it’s pleasant eating outside. I wander over to the gift shop and then to the airport, and collect my luggage from where it was unloaded outside the building in the parking lot.

Insi118-IMG_3813de, sitting with the AC staff, Mark mentions that he heard we saw muskox on our bus tour. So I shrug it off as being rather uneventful and say there was really nothing to see. Michelle, pulls out her camera and shows us her close-up shot of two magnificent muskox. (She was on the first bus ahead of us). Everyone laughs at my poor eyesight. Mark asks Michelle to take a picture of Latonia sitting on the seat across from him, so he can “see her better.” I deserve the ribbing for that.

Our flight to Toronto is aboard Miami Air. Fortunately it is an uneventful one. We gain three hours in Toronto, arriving at 18:30. As we stood around the luggage carousel at the Pearson Airport, the AC team burst into the refrain of Stan Roger’s Northwest Passage. It was a fine ending to a marvellous, magical trip.

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About Season Osborne

I am a writer with a passion for Arctic history. After finding a photo of Capt. Joseph-Elzéar Bernier, who claimed the Arctic for Canada in 1909, I was inspired to write my master’s thesis on Bernier’s contribution to Arctic sovereignty. This ultimately led to extensive research into Canadian and ‘foreign’ expeditions to the North, which morphed into my recent book, In the Shadow of the Pole: An Early History of Arctic Expeditions, 1871-1912.
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