August 18, 2018
Reflections on Greenland while at anchor in Iqaliut
Before taking this trip we had scoured the internet for books on Greenland and settled on “This Cold Heaven” by a Danish author, Greta Erlich.
The book was a well written mix of personal stories and the history of the waves of inhabitants in Greenland, but focused more on the areas north of Ilulissat, which is as far north as we went on this trip.
The two towns north of the Arctic Circle we visited were much like the descriptions in the book. However, Greenland is moving so quickly into the modern world that much of the Inuit traditional life seemed to us to be swallowed up by cars, modern buildings, stores, café’s, airports, and modern small boats. The movement of people from the small settlements into the larger towns and the construction of more and more apartment blocks has been swift. Several of the towns had massive fish processing plants to handle the fish caught from the productive waters fed by the Labrador Current.
Greenland has also been “discovered” by tourists like us, with more cruise ship visits and the allure of adventure travel to one of the last isolated places on earth. So, some of the towns cater to skiers, hikers, fishermen and other outdoor enthusiasts. Just in Ilulissat alone we saw four other cruise ships, some just scenic cruising, others like the Seabourn Quest anchoring off the town and going ashore or cruising the Icefjord in Zodiacs. There was a thriving business of locally operated whale watching and iceberg tours.
I think what surprised us the most was the amount of “green”, the variety of vegetation thriving in the brief summer season. We also did not realize how much of the western coastline is ice free all year, even north of the Arctic Circle.
Last night we anchored off the town of Iqaluit, the capital city of Nunavut. Before the Northwest Territories were split in two, the town was called Frobisher Bay and sits on the bay itself. We are not allowed off the boat and into the town, it is Canada Customs clearance only. There are still patches of snow on the surrounding hills, which are much lower and rounded compared to Greenland’s west coast.
The morning was overcast, but by noon patches of sun broke through the clouds as we prepared to head for our next stops, zodiac tours by three islands, Monumental Island, Lady Franklin Island and Akpatok Island, where we may see polar bears and other wildlife. This will be possible only if the wind and seas permit launching the zodiacs.
Sunday, August 19, 2018
Lady Franklin and Monumental Islands
The ship is lying still several miles off the islands, which are in Davis Strait and in the open ocean. There are icebergs of various sizes visible all around the horizon. The winds are light as promised, with a low swell. At 0530 we headed to the embarkation point for the zodiac tour at 0600 to Lady Franklin Islands. The first departure group was small, only 21 people and 2 zodiacs. Heading to the islands, the fog began to settle in as the sun rose higher above the horizon through broken clouds. Our guides spotted a polar bear on one of the islets comprising the group and we were able to approach quietly and get some photos and observe through binoculars. The were also Ravens, Black Guillemots and Fulmars on the island or in the water.