Thursday, August 9

Ilulissat
69˚15′ N, 51˚17′ W

5˚C –overcast, calm waters

Ilulissat

Awoke at 06:00, we were slowly steaming through broken, slob ice towards the port of Ilulissat.  All this ice has delayed our arrival by several hours. We start the day with a zodiac cruise through the icebergs close to where the mouth of the Sermeq Kujalleq (Jakobshavn) glacier discharges the  35 billion tonnes of ice into the sea annually. Because there are 200 passengers, we have two one-hour zodiac cruises, 12 zods with 10 passengers in each. The passengers are split into colour groups: yellow, white and green are in the first cruise. Red, blue, and orange colour are in the second. Like the other staff, I am fortunate to be on both cruises.

Ilulissat iceIt is extremely overcast, almost like a fog has descended. And everything looks dull: grey sky and lighter, grey/blue ice. The greyness makes it feel colder. I dress in my thermals with several layers of fleece. It’s cold sitting on the rubber side of a zodiac surrounded by ice for more than two hours. Still, it’s so awesome to float among these giant hunks of ice. There are only five passengers in our zodiac for the second cruise. Some people have chosen not to come out.  It surprises me. It’s not like you get to do this every day.

We are fortunate though, there are humpback whales around this time.humpback

We hear an exhale, a blow of water in front of an glacial icy wall.  The zodiacs all stop, and idle. Everyone looks around, anticipating, searching the water in front of the glacier for another blow. Then we see a dark arc as a whale surfaces and dives. A ring of ripples spreads on the surface where the whale was. They are humpbacks. Several groups of two or three swim together in front of an enormous iceberg.1-P1000743

It is thrilling to see even glimpses of these enormous animals. We keep our distance, and though some passengers want to get closer, I’m glad we don’t. I am always conscious that we are in their territory, intruding.  Then they are gone, and we head back to the ship.

After lunch we zodiac in to the Ilulissat port. The inner harbour is too small for large ships and there are no wharves to come alongside here. But there are many small fishing boats at anchor.

Knud Rasmussen museum

Some of the photos, paintings and artifacts that belonged to Knud Rasmussen, Greenland’s famous explorer and ethnographer.

Folks have the opportunity to wander about the town and out to the board walk to see the ice fjord. It is so overcast, I wonder how the view of the glacier will be without the sun glinting off all its many icy facets.

I’m stationed at the museum where the famous Greenland explorer Knud Rasmussen was born. Not as many pax come to the museum as the one in Sisimuit – only three. The ice field is infinitely more appealing. But it’s a nice place to hang out. An old three story house with little rooms onthe second floor that feature Knud Rasmussen’s explorations of Greenland.

One of his most famous expeditions was his Fifth Thule (1921-1924) expedition where he headed west across the Arctic to Siberia, conducting ethnological studies to find the origins of, and the connections between, the Inuit who lived across the Arctic. He and his seven man team collected an enormous amount of valuable ethnographic, archaeological and biological data.

The views across from the museum are breathtaking – a red church overlooking the iceberg studded ocean, colourful kayaks lying on turf by the the kayak club, houses perched on the rocky shore.

1-P1000792On the way back to the ship, we passed the Sergei Vavilov at anchor. That was the ship that AC leased in 2014 for the Out of the Northwest Passage trip — the first trip I was on. Fun to see it again. Glad I’m on the Ocean Endeavour, though. The gangway was scary on the Vavilov with it’s rickety metal stairs descending down the side of the ship.

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We weighed anchor, setting a course northward up the coast. The sky was still gloomy and overcast and we watched enormous icebergs gliding eerily out of the mist and pass alongside us.

The sun finally came out before dinner. The icebergs were breathtaking with the sun glinting off their plastic sides.

You can never see too many icebergs.

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Greenland iceb ergs

Thirty-five cubic kilometers of icebergs calve off the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier every year.

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Dinner is usually from 19:00 to 21:00. Afterwards, there is usually a concert in the Polaris Lounge. Tonight, we dressed in the best 70s garb we can find in the plastic tickle trunk and hit the dance floor for a disco, as we passed Disko Island. –A fun salute to pure silliness.

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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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1 Response to Thursday, August 9

  1. Marie says:

    I missed the museum as the Icefjord was so enthralling. Guess I have to return as I have read books about Knud Rasmussen’s adventures.

    Like

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