Route of the Vikings – Part 4
August 7, 2018
After holding station in the wind and waves for several hours, we listened to the local pilot describe his experiences during the eruption in 1973. He was 11 years old at the time and talked about the noise, earthquakes, sirens waking people and the ash. Fortunately, the fishing fleet was in and all 5000 residents were evacuated to the mainland, where many remained for more than two years. There are now about 4000 residents in the town, with regular ferry service to the mainland.
Turning around in the 40 knot winds, we headed back down the east side of the Westman Islands, past the final Island of Surtsey, the newest volcanic island in the chain.
Heading just slightly south of west, our ship then headed out into the Denmark Strait for the 850 nautical mile crossing to the south of Greenland and Prince Christian Sound where we will do scenic cruising. The ship continued moderate rolling in the seas and winds, which gradually calmed overnight.
August 8, 2018
Today is a quiet day at sea, with a mandatory briefing required for passengers on all ships belonging to AECO (Arctic Expedition Cruise Organization), similar to the briefings required before we landed in Antarctica several years ago. The briefings cover protection of the environment, wildlife, plants and indigenous cultures we will be exposed to while ashore. No passenger will be allowed ashore if they did not attend the briefing.
We then attended a lecture with photos on all the Greenland ports we will visit, with information on what we will see and do, very informative.
The Captain’s Reception was held this evening, it was a low key event, just the introduction of part of the senior crew and two short performances by members of the shipboard entertainment staff. Later in the evening, the fog horn started sounding as the visibility decreased. Dinner this evening was in “The Grill”, the Thomas Keller specialty dining venue emulating a 50’s-60’s Steakhouse with a modern flair. In our opinion the food we chose was good, but not great and the portions were too large for us.
The foghorn continued all night.
August 9, 2018
This morning we are approaching the southern tip of Greenland, in dense fog. Our destination for the day is Prince Christian Sound, which separates the mainland from the southern island and Cape Farewell via a narrow channel not unlike the fjords in SE Alaska, Norway and British Columbia. We will enter from the east and exit on the west coast some 100 kilometers later.
The fog lifted about 3 miles from the coast and we entered the narrow passage in rain. The ship stopped about 5 miles up the passage and offloaded 4 zodiacs for our tour. We were in the first wave, 40 people/10 per zodiac. In cold rain, heavy at times, we explored ahead of the ship and into the first tidewater glacier coming down from the Greenland Ice Cap. There were a number of bearded seals lounging on the ice floes and the glacier was actively calving. By this time, the ship caught up with us and waited outside the inlet while we pushed as far into the ice as possible, getting to within about ¼ mile from the end, the closest safe distance if a large calving were to occur.
Returning to the ship, after disembarking and having some hot chocolate, Patrick headed out on the second zodiac tour. The rain was much lighter and when close to the glacier face, a large segment splashed down creating a miniature tsunami. The waves were about three feet high when they reached the zodiacs.
After returning to the ship the zodiacs were loaded back into the stern compartment and the Seabourn Quest continued its transit of Prince Christian Sound, zig zagging our way to the west coast of Greenland past more glaciers and spectacular jagged peaks and one small town of 130 people. We exited back into the open sea and more fog banks about 1800.
August 10, 2018
Our stop for today was Qaqortoq, the largest city in South Greenland, with a population of more than 3200. The Seabourn Quest anchored in the fog about 0630, just off the small harbor, which was often not visible.
Shortly after, the cruise ship Nautica also anchored. At 0900 we departed on our Zodiac tour, in the fog, for a one hour ride to the Norse Greenland Unesco site at Hvalsey, consisting of a church and other buildings, partly excavated, dating to the 10th century. The site was abandoned sometime before 1500, the exact date is not known. The fog lifted for most of our one hour visit and then settled back in as we headed back to the ship, past several large bergs.
Due to fog, Patrick’s kayaking tour was cancelled, so after a quick lunch during which the fog disappeared and the sun appeared, we both headed ashore and took in some local sights, including a fish market with freshly caught whale meat and shops selling very expensive souvenirs.
August 11, 2018
Most of the evening the ship sailed in clear seas, but in the morning the fog settled in close to the coast as we approached our anchorage off the small town of Paamiut. The fog lifted just before the decision to cancel the water tours, so we were able to go. Miriam did a Zodiac Tour and Patrick did sea kayaking. Both tours passed by shipwrecks, icebergs, whale carcasses and fishing equipment. After lunch we headed ashore and walked the town, went through the museum and hiked up to a viewpoint. Although small, this town had a lot of charm, with a restored turf house and old fishing vessels on display.
Returning to the ship we were treated to views of a number of humpback whales as we exited the anchorage. The weather was nice enough to eat outside at the Patio Grill, although we did have blankets for added warmth. During dinner we passed a section of the Greenland Ice Cap looking like a massive fog bank lying on top of the land.
August 12, 2018
Nuuk is the capital of Greenland and its 17,000 inhabitants comprise about 30% of the total Greenland population. One of the apartment blocks houses more than 1% of people! The town is situated on a rocky hill projecting out at the intersection of two fjords.
Seabourn Quest docked at the port, the first time we have been dockside since leaving Reykjavik. Patrick took a zodiac tour up Kobbefjord to a lake and research station. The relatively warm weather brought out millions of mosquitoes and took the edge off an otherwise great excursion. After Patrick returned to the ship Miriam and Patrick headed into town for a guided tour of the Greenland National Museum, led by Dr. Colleen Batey, who is an expert on vikings. The visit included the “Norse” Greenlanders and the Greenland mummies dating to 1475 which were found a few years ago.
August 13, 2018
Arriving in dense fog off the town of Maniitsoq, all operations were delayed until the fog lifted enough to see the shore. The ship was about 2.5 miles from town due to reefs too dangerous to anchor near. The morning kayak trip was cancelled, so when tender operations were started, 90 minutes late, we headed into town, visiting the fish market, museum, hotel, jewelry workshop, church and graveyard. It was also the first day of school for the local kids, so that was interesting. Both the children and parents were dressed in traditional costumes for the event. Patrick did another kayak tour in the afternoon. These are really small towns, reminiscent of towns like Wrangell in SE Alaska (minus the seal and porpoise meat and musk ox in the local meat market).
August 14, 2018
The second largest city in Greenland, with 5600 inhabitants, had a dock long enough for the Seabourn Quest to dock, rather than anchor and tender in to shore. The town is built on a rocky headland below a mountain, with steep roads, colorful houses and ancient archeological sites dating to 4500 BC and the Saqqac people believed to be among the first human inhabitants in Greenland.
We are now above the Arctic Circle and the Greenland Sled Dogs are now everywhere. They are either chained up in town or loose on many of the small islands around the town. Passing by the islands on the kayaks was amazing as the dogs followed us, howling all the time.
We have still not seen much marine wildlife, perhaps more in Canada.
August 15, 2018
This town, now the third largest in Greenland, lies at the mouth of Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO world heritage site. This single glacier drains between 7 and 10 percent of the entire Greenland Ice Cap and is believed to have spawned the iceberg that sank the Titanic more than 100 years ago. We approached the town and icebergs starting about 0300, with many guests watching from the observation lounge.
At 0800, after anchoring in the middle of several large bergs, we headed out on Zodiacs, weaving among the big bergs and stopping to watch Humpback Whales feed. After 2 hours, we headed back to the ship and changed out of zodiac gear and took the tender into the town. Ilulissat is growing rapidly, with much construction, but still has thousands of sled dogs chained around town, howling as one walked by. The town has an airport and many outdoor activities possible, from fishing, winter sports to visits to lodges at the terminal edge of the glacier some 40 kilometers away.
Patrick walked the several miles each way trek to Sermermiut, both the site of settlements from 4500 BC, and of spectacular views of the Ilulissat Icefjord.
After a “Caviar on the Ice” sail-away party on the pool deck, the captain wove his way through the icebergs passing very close to some spectacularly shaped bergs and back into the relatively open sea for our crossing of Davis Strait and on to Canada for the rest of our voyage.
August 16, 2018
Transiting Davis Strait
This day at sea gives us time to sort through our photos, attend some lectures on our upcoming destinations, both the cultures of the Inuit and the wildlife we are looking for. There are still bergs visible, some large but most relatively small. The visibility was poor, with the ship’s foghorn sounding much of the day and into the evening. This was the second formal evening, with a set “Chef’s Menu” in the main dining room.
August 17, 2018
Transiting Davis Strait
The weather deteriorated overnight and we woke to 30 knot winds and rain from the south. We will arrive at the town of Iqualuit for customs clearance into Canada about 2200 this evening. No one is allowed off the ship. We are arriving early due to the need to hit slack water at the entrance channel, which has currents of 6-7 knots.