Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Day 12, 01.09, Ísafjörður

After a rough night with a lot of waves we woke up to calmer seas and land it sight. We had reached the north west coast of Island. As we had not yet reached our final destination of the day, we started the day with a nice breakfast and four lectures.
At 12 o’clock we reached the port of Ísafjörður (ice fjord in Iceland), the largest town in the peninsula of Vestfirðir with its 4000 inhabitants. We had almost twelve hours to be able to see the town, buy souvenirs, go to the museum, go hiking, taste the flavors of Island and to ride on the famous Islandic horses. It was a great first day on Island.

Today the crew had made Philipin food for us and they finished of the night with a spectacular show at the bar. The show made us sing, dance (even if it was only in the chair) and laugh a lot. Thank you for that =) As the show  finished, so did our stay in Ísafjörður. As we all went to bed the ship sailed of to our next destination: Flateyri.

Day 11, 31.08, Scoresbysund and heading for Iceland

Early this morning we suddenly got a new signal on our cell phones. It said Tele Greenland. This could only mean one thing… We were very close to the only town in Greenland we were going to visit. Scoresbysund (Ittoqqortoormiit). This is considered one of the most isolated places in Greenland, with 450 people living there. This small town is for many not even considered a town, more like a tribe of people. But in Greenland it is real, it is not a tribe. We got a program and map delivered by the landing site and after that we went out to explore – even though it was a bit windy and rainy, it did not stop anyone. It was nice to see people again, visit the stores, being able to buy souvenirs for once, seeing the East Greenlandic nationalsuit, the church… Well. It was a good landing.

At noon we departed Ittoqqortoormiit heading for Iceland and the afternoon was spent on lectures in both English and German. This was nice, the Denmark Strait was still pretty calm. But around dinner time the storm hit us. Between 20-30 m/s and waves between 4-6 meters high. A quiz was arranged in the panorama lounge, but this we had to cancel due to lack of guests (And staff for that matter). Seasickness took over most of the ship late evening and it was extremely quiet in the hallways.         

Day 10, 30.08, Alpefjord and Mestersvig

Waking up this moring we found our selves surrounded by high mountains, but due to references no one could imagine that these were more than 2000 meters high, some even close to 3000 meters. This is of course Alpefjord in Staunings Alper. The area is a mecca to climbers, there is also several unclimbed peaks for those interested in trying to conquer the wonders of geology. The aim for this morning was to get everyone into the tender-boats for a 30 min cruising along the glacier in the bottom of the fjord. It is actually two glaciers, the Gully gletcher and Sefstrøms gletcher draing parts og the Staunings alps. It was very impressive to sit in the small boats listening to the sparkeling glacier ice and have a look MV Fram in this enormous fjord.
During lunch we cruised out of the fjord only to be met with the impressive geology in Segelselskapets fjord, consisting of more than 500 my old colourfull marine sediments.
In the afternoon we dropped anchor at Mestersvig, Nyhavn. This is and old mining town from the 1950s’ and 60’, where one of our guides used to live as a small kid with the world largest nationalpark as his playground. Today Nyhavn is used by the yearly supply-ship to the Royal Danish Naval Guard and the Mestersvig airfield built in 1952. The station is manned by two men all year round, normally “retired” men from the Sirius patrol or Station Nord. Visits are rare, as we are the second and largest cruise-ship of the season.
Today we offered a kayak tour and a hiking trip to the airfield and the surrounding mountains and some good old stories from our “home-sick” guide ;0)

This is also our last stop as we leave the Nationalpark of NE-Greenland heading for the civilization in Scoresbysund…

Monday, 1 September 2014

Day 9, 29.08, Blomsterbukta and Ella Ø

The sun was shining and we were all getting ready for a busy day, with two landing in front of us. We started out with Blomsterbukta (meaning Flower Bay), were activities like hiking, kayaking and wandering around enjoying the nature were on the list. As we got ashore we could all understand why the bay was called Blomsterbukta, as the area was full of flowers all though we were by the end of August. The flowers and their surroundings together with the iceberg just by the landing beach made the view breathtaking. Also the fauna showed itself from it best side as very many of us got one or many glimpse of the musk ox. The hikers got beautiful hike up to a lake colored red by the sediments and across several small mountains, while the guides enthusiastically told everything there was to tell about the surroundings.
The kayakers got an amazing trip with quite water and a very close encounter too five musk ox, which showed of their climbing skills. The guides also demonstrated how a rescue would be done on the open sea in case someone falls out. 
We went back to Fram and continued on our journey. Our next stop was Ella Ø, a beautiful area with around dozen of houses. Ella Ø is a large island at the mouth of Kempe Fjord in the inner Kong Oscar's Fjord. It was named by Nathorst during his 1899 expedition as Ella Ø, after his wife. The station was continuously manned 1931-1943 and 1947-1952. It was also used by Lauge Kock's expedition as a summer station in 1958. These days Sirius patrol is using it as their base during the summer months. From here they use the summer to supply all the smaller huts around the area. The five Sirius patrol members and two of their dogs were supposed to have left the area for the season, but luckily they were still here. The guest therefor got a chance to meet the real Sirius patrol and see how they lived during the summer. The guests also walked around in the area enjoying the surroundings with its flora and fauna.

The rest of the evening we enjoyed on board. And as most of the guest enjoyed their evenings in their normal procedure, some of the guests were getting ready for Arctic night, meaning sleeping under open sky on Fram’s deck.

Day 8, 28.08, Myggbukta

Myggbukta, also known as Mosquito Bay. This was a former Norwegian radio and meteorology station established in 1922. On the 14th of October the first weather report marking the first wireless connection between Greenland and the rest of the world went out. In 1931 five Norwegian trappers hoisted the Norwegian flag and claimed the area. The flag was lowered again in 1959 and the station shut down eventually. Today it still gets visits from different cruises, scientists and so on.
This morning we had quite a lot of wind at the landing site. Around 15 meters per second. This was the reason our kayaking at the site was cancelled, but the hikers went out for a couple of hours and got to see a lot of both dead and living musk oxes, snow hares, geese and so much more. The hut placed in Myggbukta was actually in a very nice shape. It was bigger than other huts we have visited, it had loads of food and everything was ready for the next visitors by the time we left. Because it is very important to clean the huts before we leave.

We spent the rest of the day sailing in fjords. We went into Kajser Franz Josef fjord, with the amazing moutains all around the ship. Greenland is a huge country and you very easily feel small. We definitely felt small today while sailing here. We also went into the Nordfjord and here we are going to stay all night, because of the glacier that is lying right next to us. This is a very beautiful place. So goodnight from us here at Fram. See you in the morning!

Day 7, 27.08, Kulhus

After a couple of days with clouds, heavy fog, rain and sleet we woke up to clearing weather. Finally NE-Greenland was going to show us her beauty. A thin cover of sugar snow was on the mountains and the sun forced away the last clouds, reveiling the pack-ice. Not long after we found the first polar-bear, then the second and the third. The deck was bustling with activity and thousands of photos were shot. One bear found a seal to eat and one did not even bother to wake up as we slowly drifted towards him/her. The day had only started and more was to come…
In 1908 during the Denmark expedition geologist Håkon Høeg Jarners found an great layer of coal, which therefore was called ”Jarner’s coalmine”. It later changed name to Kulhus, meaning Coalhouse, as Lauge Koch built an expedition station in the area in 1932. It was made for traveling, but in 1932-33 and 1934-35 four and three people, respectively, overwintered on the station. The Sirius patrol used the station occasionally up until 1960s. The area has supplied many stoves along the nearby coast with coal.
We landed in beautiful sunny weather. The wind had picked up since we were in the pack-ice along with large swells. With excellent and cold work the expedition team and the crew managed to everyone safely on the shore and back on the ship, though it was a wet experience. Being a bit wet does not matter when you have a day like this ;0)
Most of us had a good walk up to flat plains behind the old station with a stunning view of mountains from 1000-1800 m. Names like Matterhorn gives associations to the people and places expeditions came from which gave the names.
At the landing site at the beach it was possible to see and touch coal seams. The yellow coloured sandstone next to the coal was a beautiful contrast in the evening sun.

During dinner we slowly sailed south and met a narrow belt of pack ice where we found a big whalrus enjoying the sun and the hundreds of cameras on the Fram.

Day 6, 26.08, Aalborghus

The weather was not as good as many hoped for, but we were eager to get ashore to see and enjoy today’s destination. The destination was Aalborghus, a former Danish trappers’ station at Gefion Havn on the south side of Godfred Hansen Ø. The first group was set ashore at 8.30 hrs to start their exploring. Even the huts Danish flag was put up by one of the passengers which made the hut even more welcoming.
The area was, as most of the other stations on Greenland filled with history. The first building erected on the site was a trappers hut built in 1933. But when a trapper team of two arrived in august 1938 they build a hut in three days. The name Aalborghus was given as the house was built with funds raised in Aalborg and Nørresund, by a company called Nanok. The station was then manned in from 1938-41 and 1945-52, were also a shed was built. This contained a rather unusual toilette; even though it was only a bit more than one square meter it was combined with a sauna. The huts were later used and maintained by Sirius until 1988. After this it was left for itself until Sirius and the Danish Navy again did renovations both in 1999, 2002 and 2006. In 2006 the Queen decided to sponsored a new stove too the hut, after a previous visit by the queen and prince of Denmark. We could also see that someone else had visited the area recently, as it was polar bear track straight outside of the hut.
After venturing the huts, the guests could choose between two small hikes or both. They both gave beautiful scenery, one with a great overview of the area and the other one overlooking an area with plenty of huge stranded icebergs.
After boarding the ship, the guest could get back their warmth with a nice lunch. Following evening two members of the Expedition team held some very exciting lectures about their own experiences; Majken about her native country, Greenland and Bjarki about his three years as a member of the Sirius patrol.

Finishing off with a great dinner and a briefing for the following day, everyone seemed happy with another great day at the ship.  

Day 5, 25.08, Danmarkshavn and Hvalrossodden

This morning we finally reached land. But unfortunately the fog and rain from the previous sea days had followed us, and this was the weather we met on our first landing in Danmarkshavn. It was set up in 1948 and has between 5-10 workers today. This place is also visited by the Sirius Patrol and the passengers went to the trappers hut Danmarks Minde. Though it was a bit cold, rainy and foggy most of the passengers were very excited to away from the ship again. We flagged a route for them to follow throughout the place and they went on their own small adventures. Since Danmarkshavn is used as a weather station today, we also watched the weather balloon being sent on its way. Some of the biggest attractions today was of course the trappers hut, but also the three Greenlandic dogs moved to the station from Ittoqqortoormiit (Scoresbysund). Very friendly and they even came down to the landing sight to great the passengers. A little past noon we went on our way again and next stop was Hvalrosodden in the afternoon. This time Greenland showed herself from a much better point of view as the weather had cleared up.

A beautiful sandy beach in the middle of… Well, pretty much nowhere? Hvalrossodden is a former Danish trapper station built in 1920. It was used for this purpose until the 1960’s. Today it is being maintained by the Sirius Patrol. Smaller icebergs had been stranded here because of the tide, so they were very popular amongst the passengers. So was the variety of different colored rocks and the huts nearby the beach. Not everyone went out this time, but that is also understandable. You get a lot of fresh air. Especially up here in the north where there was fresh new snow on all the mountaintops and a steady breeze from the water.        

Day 4, 24.08, still at sea

Still at sea we continued the lectures about Greenland and the bridge visits. The weather had deteriorated with more clouds and fog. During the night we had sailed along the edge of the pack-ice to find a hole which could lead us closer to the coast of Greenland. Due to the fog it was difficult to find the easy way through the ice, which caused slower speed and the hope of a landing late this very afternoon. 

Day 3, 23.08, First day at sea

Our first day at sea was a very calm one. The sea was completely flat so no worries about getting sea-sick. The weather was light clouds and we had a temperature in the sea of about 7 degrees.
During the day lectures were given on different topics about Greenland by members of the expedition team, to bring our clients up to date on what we hope to see on our trip.

Bridge visits to how this ship is being run was also possible for everyone.

Day 2, 22.08, Ny-Ålesund and Magdalenefjorden

Early in the morning we woke up to our first real day on this exploration cruise. The weather was a bit cloudy, but turned out to the better.
The origin of the Ny-Ålesund settlement was coal mining, but after a serious accident in 1962 mining was ended. Today the settlement is an international scientific station conducting Arctic research.
Ny-Ålesund was also the starting point for several attempts to reach the North Pole by planes and air-ships. Amundsen, Ellsworth and Nobile are some of the historic names linked to this beautiful place. Several thousand tourists visit the settlement every year, most in the short and hectic summer.
Guided tours were offered around the settlement to those who wanted extra information by our guides to see the remnants of the old mining town and the different scientific stations. This was also the last chance to use the credit card on land until we hit Scoresbysund in NE-Greenland.
At lunch time it was time to leave Ny-Ålesund and head north to our next stop, Magdalenefjorden and 80N.
Enjoying a delicious lunch we passed Sjubreene aka the seven glaciers in beautiful weather.
In the afternoon we entered the fjord Magdalenefjorden surrounded by pointy peaks and glaciers and dropped anchor at Trinity harbour. It did not take much imagination to get the same feeling as Willem Barentz had when he discovered Svalbard in 1596.
Gravneset in Magdalenefjorden is a large cemetery, dating from the whaling period consisting of of 130 graves. The funerals took place over a period of almost 200 years, with the earliest graves dating from the early 1600s and the more recent ones dating from the late 1700s. On the beach by the cemetery there are four blubber ovens.
The expedition team are always the first to go ashore, to make sure everything is safe for our clients. Some went on a cayak trip while the rest had a good walk along the beach to look at the blubber ovens and have a closer look at the beautiful mountains and glaciers.
A colony of wahlrus had been discovered, so on the return to the ship everyone had a chance of a closer look to these lazy creatures weighing 1-2 tons.
During the evening we headed north towards Danskøya on our way to 80N. On our way we met the misty and mysterious fog.

The discussion onboard has been the tremors in a volcanic area in Iceland, but as we move out of coverage of the satellites we can’t do anything else but wait and hope for the best. At least the geologist onboard are very interested in this ;0)