Heart of the Arctic – Day 12

Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Itilleq, Greenland, 66˚32′ N  58˚35′ W
Foggy, 5˚C

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Trip photographer Lee Narraway photographs the fogbow on the aft deck.

I went up on deck first thing as usual, before wakeup call. It was an interesting foggy morning, as you could see blue sky above at the same time. Lee was on the aft deck taking photos of the fog bow – a rainbow in the fog. It was gorgeous. The sun was hazy in the fog like a low moon.

01-P1140254The fog didn’t lift as we neared the petite village of Itilleq. All we could see were bare fingers of low lying, rock stretching down to the sea. It was a typical picturesque maritime coast. The ship anchored off a quiet cove near the island where Itilleq is. We could see a pier with blue buildings and that was where the zodiac’s steered for.03-IMG_6157

The staff zodiac landed at the dock and we climbed stairs to the concrete pier and then drifted off to our pointed spots where we would await the guests. I wandered through the misty village to the red wooden church, my station. There was a foot path and only one apparent road, but there are no cars or vehicles here to use it.

The little brightly painted blue and red houses built right on the rock looked straight out of a movie, especially with the mist wafting between them. It was quiet. No one was about. But I knew that the hamlet’s population of 93 was about to triple in size.

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The lovely, well-maintained Itilleq Lutheran church.

I peeked into the tidy Lutheran church before hanging out on the steps for the guests to arrive. It had red shag carpet up the aisle and a menorah on the altar. The silver menorah looked like it fit perfectly there with its bow of seven candles centred below a lovely painting of two Inuks in seal skin greeting Jesus.3-IMG_6222 It was a beautiful little church and through the panes of windows you could see the houses and the sea, a place of true peace and prayer.

Everyone came and looked in the wee kirk, and wandered about the little hamlet. People had also brought things to leave behind for the villagers – shoes, clothes, books  and an afghan one passenger had crocheted on the voyage.

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Ocean Endeavour cheering section at the FIFA regulation Itilleq soccer match.

At 11:00,  we had a soccer match, in the middle of the town, with the Itilleq villagers. Passengers versus locals. There was a boisterous team of red t-shirted OE cheerleaders on the sidelines. Despite the enthusiasm of the onlookers, we lost 7-6. The home team handed us a trophy which had a #3 on it. They kept the #1 trophy for another year. I don’t think Adventure Canada has ever won a match. Mind you we couldn’t practice anything but cheering on board.

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I wandered up the hill behind the village to the graveyard. It was an amazing spot with a view of the village and the sea. The graves were inside a white picket fenced area, and the graves themselves were mounds of rocks overgrown with vegetation. Artificial flowers decorated each grave. It was a lovely, contemplative spot, and a place that I’m sure gets many visitor – seven without ships’ tourists.

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Ready for a polar dip.

I was on one of the last zodiacs back. As I climbed up the gangway into the metallic room, I was surprised to see a crowd of guests lined up in white fluffy bathrobes. They were lining up for a polar dip.

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John Houston attempting to beat his own record of 31 minutes swimming in the Arctic Ocean. He succeeded in staying in for 22 minutes.

This brave group of 34 women and 27 men were ready to take the plunge into the frigid water. I joined the crowd of watchers on the sixth deck and cheered on the dippers below. The Japanese camera crew and Lee were in a zodiac, capturing every jump on film pixels.4-IMG_6453

Despite the squeals and gasps from those entering the water, no one chickened out. Everyone jumped in, some in pairs, some singly, some entire families, like the Freeze family who jumped in together.  John Houston was in a class of his own. He jumped in and didn’t get out! He tread water, dogpaddled, and generally floated about the dipping dock for 22 minutes! And he did not get hypothermia. His record is 31 minutes, but 22 was pretty darned impressive, compared to the 22 seconds practically everyone else lasted. John high-fived the odd dipper who managed to swim the few strokes out to him. Heidi was one indefatigable soul who swam out to John and managed to float around with him for more than three minutes – very impressive.

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Later we had some folks from Itilleq come on board for some dancing. The DJ music didn’t happen but Heidi played her drum and had some of the passengers and locals participated as well.

6-IMG_6460Our last evening aboard ship. It was the Captain’s dinner and many dressed up. The sun was setting as we entered the glorious Søndre Strømfjord. Everyone went out on deck to watch the lovely mountains in the purple twilight pass. The fiord is narrow being between 1.9 and 8 kms wide, but it is 190 kms long. 2-IMG_6469When we passed through in September it was night and so I didn’t see any of it. But enjoyed this trip through admiring the gorgeous mountains on each side. It would take most of the night to make passage of the fiord to the town of Kangerlussuaq at its end where there is an international airport and where we’ll catch our flight to Toronto.

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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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