Greenland: Keep it on Ice
Polar product specialist Sarah Ahern tells us about having a whale of a time beyond the circle...
I was fortunate enough to have the chance to journey into the Arctic last summer - travelling from Iceland, heading around the southern tip of Greenland and completing my voyage in the Canadian Arctic.
Having travelled to Antarctica twice (I know, you’re jealous!), I wondered if Greenland could compare to the vast wilderness, towering ice structures and extraordinary wildlife encounters. It did not disappoint.
The diverse wildlife, pristine and desolate landscapes (almost 80% of its surface is under an ice cap up to 3 metres thick) and fascinating history were just a few of the remarkable experiences I encountered on my voyage.
The first shore landing in Greenland was Tasiilaq. The fog was low on the mountains, and the town itself was shrouded in mist, but as we boarded the zodiacs for the short journey ashore, the fog lifted, revealing a brightly coloured town settlement set against vast snow-capped mountain peaks. After a guided tour of the town and being entertained with an open-air choir concert we headed back to the ship for lunch and spent the afternoon in the zodiacs gliding amongst towering ice formations.
Whilst travelling south along the coast of Greenland the sun was shining and it was almost warm enough to sit out without a jacket (when sheltered from the wind!). It was the perfect time to sit out on the bow, I was mesmerised by the complex ice structures, glittering in the sunlight. We spotted Humpback blows in the distance and as we got closer the blows appeared on all sides of the ship. Two impressively large Humpbacks swam directly towards the ship, passed underneath the bow and surfaced just a few metres from the ship. But the best part of the afternoon, for me at least, was when a pod of Orcas appeared and spent half an hour circling the ship. What a way to spend an afternoon!
Continuing on to the west coast of Greenland, we had the chance to land at Ilulissat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site situated at the mouth of a 40-kilometre long ice fjord, and one of the most spectacular places I have ever visited. Ilulissat Kangerlua glacier is the world’s most prolific glacier outside of Antarctica, calving over 35 cubic kilometres of ice per year (20 million tonnes per day) and producing a tenth of all icebergs floating in Greenland’s waters. We hiked out towards the lookout point, hoping to catch a glimpse of the ice filled fjord. The sun was just starting to break through the clouds as we reached the vantage point. The views into the fjord were truly astounding, with soaring icebergs packed so close together the fjord looked like solid land, gleaming in brilliant sunlight.
After enjoying the afternoon sunshine and phenomenal views, we headed back to the ship for a late afternoon ‘happy hour’ on the stern, followed by an after dinner sunset tour amongst the icebergs. It was the perfect end to a truly fabulous day.
Greenland turned out to be more astounding than I had even hoped it would be.