Heart of the Arctic – Day 13

Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, 67˚N  50˚68′ W
Sunny, 14˚C


The National Geographic cruise ship that arrived after us. The passengers were also catching charter flights home to the U.S. later in the afternoon.

Our final, sunny day in the Arctic.  We anchored at the end of Søndre Strømfjord.The hills were rounder, less mountainous, than they were at the entrance to the fiord last night. Another cruise ship arrived after breakfast and anchored not far from us. It was the National Geographic cruise ship that had started it’s cruise from Iceland.


A zodiac being loaded with luggage.

We were instructed to leave our luggage outside the door before we went to bed and it was gone when we awoke. Before breakfast I watched from the deck above while the staff loaded it into the zodiacs before it was zipped ashore. We would next see our bags lined up in the pseudo parking lot outside the airport.


All aboard for the ice cap tour.


Our fearless leader Matthew James Swan taking a kip on a bag of life preservers on the Kangerlussuaq pier before the passengers arrived.


Our final zodiac cruise to the dock. We are miles from the town, but this is where the ocean part of the fiord ends. I helped collect the lifejackets for the last time as folks disembarked off the zodiacs and got onto buses according to their chosen destination.

Passengers divided into two tours – one group headed to the icecap, and the other on the “nature” tour of Kangerlussuaq and area.


View from the top of the mountains beyond Kangerlussuaq. The Greenland icecap is in the distance.


View from one of the lookouts on the mountain near Kangerlussuaq. In the distance is the bay where the two cruise ships were anchored. Students on Ice would get on the Ocean Endeavour later in the afternoon for their cruise through the Arctic.

I boarded the nature tour bus, which turned out to be a drive about town and up the mountain outside of town. I recognized the driver as the one who had toured us around in September. He drove up a very steep slope, with one hand on the wheel, the other on his cell phone. Most of the time, he wasn’t talking to anyone, just holding it. The road is narrow, not paved, but constructed of packed glacial silt. There is no guard rail, only yellow 45 gallon drums line the edge of the road or edge of the cliff. The plunge down the side is overly steep. But I just looked straight ahead and not out the side window at the view below. At the top of the mountain, we got out for a short walkabout. Gorgeous vistas,  we could see for miles the tops of mountains and the ice cap in the distance.

5-IMG_6514It was pretty rocky at the top with huge slabs of granite scraped by the receding glacier. There were plenty of flowers, grass and rocks but no wildlife. 1-IMG_6543

There was a possibility of seeing wildlife, but we didn’t. Kangerlussuaq apparently has the most diverse wildlife in the country with caribou, muskox and gyrfalcons. It was pretty scarce during our nature tour, though.

From a lookout we could see Kangerlussuaq, and the wide silt ravine that meanders through the valley tracing the course of the river. It looks like mud flats where the tide has receded, but is actually silt left over from the glacier.

5-IMG_6573One lady, with a bandaged foot and sandals, hobbled down beyond the lookout limit to the edge of the cliff, and held up her iPad to take a photo of the view. I was very nervous that her good footing might not be so steady and she wouldn’t  make it back up to show off her photos. Thankfully, she did though.

3-P1140322The town of Kangerlussuaq was built by the Americans during WWII as an airbase after the fall of Denmark to Germany. It served as one of the Distant Early Warning bases during the Cold War. It came under Greenlandic rule when the Americans left in 1992, and is the site of the only international airport in Greenland. The town’s population has declined since it was an American base and is now about 515 people.


Kangerlussuaq airport crowd.

Both icecap and nature tour groups arrived back at the airport in the early afternoon. We needed two planes to take us all back. I was on the earlier 3:15 plane, and it looked like I’d have plenty of time in Toronto before catching my connection to Ottawa at 22:30 (10:30 p.m. my last ship time entry). I even thought I’d be able to change my Ottawa connection to an earlier one. But then the planes were delayed, and the passengers from the National Geographic cruise arrived.

The airport isn’t that big and it became a very crowded place. It seemed the stress level was rising and the noise with it. 2-P1140338Then suddenly a saxophone started playing in a corner of the room.  It was Brian Faber. Immediately, the atmosphere changed. Another passenger got out his fiddle and the two played an unusual duet. Folks started tapping their toes and one couple started dancing. It was a terrific note to finish a marvellous trip on.

3-P1140344The planes arrived, and I boarded after 5:30. I sat with one of the Japanese film crew who lives in New York. Chatting with him made the flight home shorter.


One awesome last view of Greenland before we headed across Baffin Bay to mainland Canada.

Arrived in TO around 9:15, managed to grab my luggage, go through customs, caught the train to the next terminus, and boarded the plane to Ottawa at 10:10. It left on time for my flight home. I finally got home after midnight. It had been 40C that day  in Ottawa. I wasn’t sorry to have missed it. The house was a bit stuffy and hot, but it was great to be home. Now I look forward to looking at the 2,400 photos I took, and reminiscing about my amazing voyage through the Heart of the Arctic.


About Season Osborne

I am a writer with a love of 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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2 Responses to Heart of the Arctic – Day 13

  1. Claire Barton says:

    Hi Season,
    Really enjoyed reading about your arctic adventure.. pictures are beautiful!
    Claire Barton


  2. AJ says:

    Season, I have followed your blogs, regularly, and have thoroughly enjoyed reading about your travel adventures, every one of them! Thanks so very much!


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