Friday, 31 July 2009


Our approach to Sisimiut was through a grey overcast morning but the weather gods continue to smile upon us. Just as we neared the harbour the sun broke through. For the rest of the day we had sunny blue skies. Perfect weather for a stroll in Sisimiut to visit the museum or for one of our excursions such as the historic hike to Tele Island or a short boat ride to visit the ghost town of Asaqutaq just outside of Sismiut.

As a point on interest, Sisimiut means "inhabitants by the fox burrows". One would have to assume that at one time there were plenty of Arctic Foxes near Sisimiut! It was founded in 1756 as a mission and trading post and was called Holsteinborg. Today Sismiut is the 2nd largest town in Greenland supported largely by hunting, fishing and tourism.

Our day in Sismiut ended with a terrific synchronized kayaking demonstration right beside the ship by two Greenlandic kayaking experts. Elias and Emaanooroq showed us many of the 36 different ways to roll a kayak.

Sisimiut in the sunshine puts a smile on everyone's face!!

Wednesday, 29 July 2009


Living in Ilulissat means you live with ice. That's not surprising when you live right beside one of the most productive glaciars in the world. The Glaciar Sermeq Kujalleq produces 10% of all the calved glacial ice in Greenland and is the most productive glaciar in the world outside of Antarctica. Sermeq Kujalleq has been studied for over 250 years and has helped us understand climate change and glaciology.
Of course all of that ice effects our day on the Fram in several ways. It obviously poses navigational hazards. When navigating through heavy ice we must reduce our speed. The direct route no longer exists and we must weave our way in, around and through the ice. Heavy ice can cause delays in our scheduled landings and then have a ripple effect making us late for the next landing.
But we wouldn't want a trip to Greenland without ice. It is one of the main things we have come to see. Brash ice. Growlers. Ice floes. Icebergs. Glaciars. For us it is other worldly. Beautiful. For a Greenlander it is a backdrop to every day life.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Equip Sermia

This was the view from deck seven on the stern of the MS Fram where we had a truly amazing barbeque tonight. No wind. No clouds. This photo only shows you a small part of the scene. You are missing the other 245 degrees of an absolutely killer view and you're also missing the steaks and the chicken and the yummy fish burgers and the sausages and the salads and the cakes and...
It was really good. You should have been here.
Our day started out very cool and very overcast. Despite a day spent at sea there was plenty to do.
Our morning was filled with lectures. In the afternoon there were more stimulating talks and a visit from the King of the sea - Neptune. Perhaps it was Neptune that arranged a perfect end to our day.
Looking out the window right now the sun is just sinking behind some low hills. There are icebergs all around. The sea is like glass. Still no clouds in the sky.
Oh heck! It's easier for me to show you than it is to try to describe it in words. It's 23:48. I just ran outside and took the last two photographs.
I hope you make it to one of our barbeques at Eqip Sermia. Perhaps you will have a perfect day just like we did.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Uummannaq and Ukkusissat

Every week we hike into the rugged hills behind the town of Uummannaq. The destination is a modest turf hut where Greenland and Danish children believe Santa Claus lives. The hut was built for a television show that ran in the '80's and '90's. The ever present icebergs in the back ground provide a note of elegance to the austere but beautiful landscape.
In town, children never fail to greet us at the dock. They insist on helping us with our Polar Cirkle boat operations. They are always welcome and are a lot of fun to have around.

Later in the day, at 19:00 we stopped by Ukkusissat. It was a gorgeous summer night. About thirty people from town came to the Fram to entertain us and show us their traditional clothing. Again, lots of children are present and like always, they are pleasure to have around.
After the singing and dancing on board Fram we were invited to the village for coffee and cakes in the Community Hall.

Saturday, 25 July 2009


Qeqertarsuaq has a history of whaling. The first whalers arrived here in 1773. Last year the International Whaling Commission granted Greenland its first Bowhead Whale quota since 1937. They are allowed two Bowheads each year between 2008 and 2012.
In the spring Qeqertarsuaq whalers successfully landed a Bowhead. It was the 2nd of their alloted four for 2008-09. On National Day - June 21st, the meat was shared with everyone in the community and in many other towns in Greenland.

These days there are few people with the equipment to hunt such a large animal. Seemingly simple things such as turning the whale to get the meat from the entire whale become a big challenge. Bowheads are extremely large and can weigh more than 60 tons.
After the residents of Qeqertarsuaq got as much meat as they could, they decided to try to salvage the skeleton which would eventually be put on display in front of the museum.
The most efficient way of doing that is to let the sea and the denizens of the sea aid in the decomposition.

For the past few weeks the remains of that whale have been floating about 200 metres from where we drop our anchor beside the village. The whale is wrapped in nets and floats are attached to the nets.

Some of us took a trip out to the carcass in our Polar Cirkle boats. There is still one heck of a lot of whale to decompose.


Today felt more like the Arctic than it has for the past two weeks. There was a real change in the weather with cloudy skies and a bit of a nip to the air. But isn't that part of what we are here for? To experience a bit of Arctic summer. To get an inkling of what it might be like to live here. To see Greenland in the present and try to gain some insight to its past.
Sisimiut is very much a modern day town. A lot of people from smaller villages moved to Sisimiut years ago because of the many benefits of living in a larger community - sometimes abandoning their old homes.
An excursion to the abandoned village of Asaqutaq (a short boat ride form Sisimiut) on a cloudy, chilly Arctic July day is an excursion into the past. It is a ghost town. In 1969 through 71 the 80 or so inhabitants of Asaqutaq moved to Sisimiut. Some of the houses are still in very good condition, obviously still under someone's care. Some of the houses are collapsing. Fishing nets adorn the old fish processing plant.
Today was certainly a day of contrasts. Modern Sisimiut and the ghosts of Asaqutaq.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009


There was a gentle roll to the sea today. It was the first time we had actually felt the graceful Fram moving when she was underway. There was just enough of a breeze to keep the Northern Fulmars and Glaucous Gulls soaring effortlessly. It was a beautiful morning to be cruising on our way to Itilleq.
We filled the morning by attending lectures and strolling about on deck.
At 13:30 we dropped the anchor. It was a short two minute ride in the Polar Cirkle boats to shore.
Today we met David, a very warm and friendly man that was born and raised in Itilleq. He makes a living and supports his wife and three children mostly by hunting and fishing. There is plenty of game to hunt: caribou, muskox, narwhal, beluga whale and seals. His freezer was full of Arctic Char. He and his family eat what they need but he sells most of what he hunts to markets in nearby Sisimiut and Uummannaq. In the spring he hunts seals using his dogs and dog sled on the ice. We were invited to his home where he served coffee and showed us photos of his family and some of the game he had hunted.
A nice diesel furnace in therliving room supplied heat in the cold weather but he explained that many of the homes used water radiators. For electricity, the town has large diesel powered generators.
Of course, our weekly soccer match of Team Fram vs Itilleq took place today:
Itilleq 4
Team Fram 2


There are plenty of things to do in the third largest town in Greenland. There are helicopter excursions to one of the world's most productive glaciars - Sermeq Kujalleq. Flying over miles of icebergs and then over the glaciar itself is an experience you will not soon forget.
A short hike through town along a very nicely kept boardwalk will also bring you to the icebergs of Sermeq Kujalleq. The terminus of the glaciar is about 4okm from Ilulissat and Icefjord is just a short 30 minute hike outside of town. The hike takes you to several extraordinary views of the icebergs.
A boat excursion from the Fram will take you to the entrance of Icefjord. Cruising around gigantic icebergs in a small boat is really, really great! From July through September, Humpback whales are frequently seen in Icefjord.

It is not for nothing that Ilulissat is an Unesco world Hertitage Site!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Eqip Sermia

Sometimes travelling to and from a destination is just as interesting, just as much fun, as the destination itself. Such is the case when travelling by ship. Today our destination was the Glaciar Eqip Sermia. It took most of the day to reach the glaciar but our day was filled with fun, interesting lectures and really outstanding scenery. We cruised by a seemingly endless parade of icebergs.
In the middle of the afternoon we were visited by King Neptune himself. It was his royal obligation to baptise (with ice cold Arctic water) all of those that had crossed the Arctic Circle for the first time. A lot of that c-c-cold water went right down the necks of the poor victims, er,... baptismal candidates?
On shore everyone spread out to different scenic views of the glaciar. 23 of the hardiest people climbed the mountain to get a peek of the icecap from an elevation of 400 metres. The climb and the battle with the mosquitoes on the way up was worth it. It was a truly stunning view.
By 21:00 we were all back on the ship enjoying a delicious barbeque. But that was not the end of the day. At 22:00 three of our crew from the galley showed us their impressive skills at ice carving and food sculpting.
Now it's midnight and as we look out the window the sun is just above the horizon. It is a clear sky with no wind. Simply beautiful.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Uummannaq and Ukkusissat

Uummannaq lies 570 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle. Our time in Uummannaq is filled with options like hiking to Santa Claus's House, boat excursions to the desert and walking around the very picturesque town. Many of us chose the challenging hike to Santa's hut on Spraglebugten Bay. Children in Greenland and Denmark grow up believing that Santa lives in the small turf hut which was built for a Danish television show.

When we arrived to Santa's house we were surprised to have coffee and hot chocolate delivered by sea! Those of us that did not have the energy for the return hike, rode back in the comfort of the Polar Cirkle boats.

At about 17:00 we lifted anchor and departed for Ukkusissat, our second landing of the day. We welcomed the people from the tiny town on board the Fram where we were treated to folk dancing, singing and a showing of their traditional clothing. At about 21:00 we went on shore to visit the small community. In the town hall we were treated by the local people to coffee and cake.

The people of Ukkusissat are always warm, friendly and very welcoming. The children are always evident and interact with us with ease. It really is a great cultural experience.

Uummannaq and Ukkusissat make for a very full day and a very rewarding day!

Saturday, 18 July 2009


Qeqertarsuaq means "the large island" which is both the name of the island and the name of the town on the island. Qeqertarsuaq Island is more commonly known as Disko Island.

Nearly everyone went on the hike to "The Valley of the Wind". It is a beautiful region. It takes about five minutes to walk through town. En route we pass a few bicycles. At home they would be under lock and key but here, the very thought seems ridiculous.

On the edge of town there is a gorgeous dark sandy beach. Many grounded icebergs lie just off shore. Sometimes Humpback Whales can be seen amongst the icebergs. The whole area is irresistible to anyone with a camera.
A large number of Greenland's plants can be found on Disko Island. Several of us crawled on hands and knees, field guide in hand, to photograph the many flowers. Just this afternoon we saw: Snow Buttercups, Pygmy Buttercups, Alpine Barstia, Matted Cassiope, Cassiope, Alpine Speedwell, Arctic Poppy, Arctic Cotton, Labrador Tea, Blue Heath, Moss Campion, Alpine Lousewort, Flaming Lousewort, Large-flowered Wintergreen, Alpine Catchfly and Arctic Harebell.


Sisimiut is also known as "the Pearl of the Coast". It is not hard to see why. It is beautifully situated on the sea. It has lots to offer in terms of hiking, fishing, scenery, shops, acommodations, artisans and a museum.
It is also a centre for vocational training, it has a large scale fishery with the largest cold water shrimp plant in the world, a growing tourism industry and year round air and sea travel.

If the past few weeks are any indicator - it has pretty fine summer weather too!
Those of us that went on the boat excursion to Assaqutat had calm seas and sunny skies and an added bonus of two breaching humpback whales!
It was also a perfect day for hiking around Sisimiut and over to Tele Island. Our guide took us down to the water's edge and showed us ruins of old habitations spanning a time period of several hundred years. The hike was at a very relaxed pace. There was even time to identify and photograph the wild flowers.

Friday, 17 July 2009


Stepping off the plane in Kangerlussuaq the temperature was so warm, it seemed down right tropical. It was as if the plane had gone south. We soon learned that Kangerlussuaq has the warmest weather in Greenland, the most stable weather patterns and the most cloud free days. In fact it has about three hundred days a year with cloudless skies. It sounds more like Phoenix Arizona. What do a lot of clear dark nights mean? It means that later in the year, Kangerlussuaq is one of the best places in the world for watching the Aurora Borealis.
Despite the warm temperatures no one was complaining about the heat!
Once on the ship we were shown to our cabins, issued photo I.D.s, our luggage was distributed, we had an amazing buffet dinner, a mandatory saftey drill, a welcome speech by the Captain and introduction to the other officers and the Expedition Team and then... time to kick back, relax and watch the longest Fjord in Greenland slip by our window.
A long day? Yes. But now our incredible adventure is about to begin!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009


While in Greenland, every week the MS Fram holds an on board charity auction to raise money for the Association of Greenlandic Children and for Siorapaluk students for study tours in Greenland or Denmark. The school is located in the town of Qaanaaq (Thule). Qaanaaq is the northernmost inhabited settlement in the world. There are about 14 children in grades one through nine . As one can imagine it is very expensive to travel from Qaanaaq because of the great distances involved. Last evening we raised 12,000 Norwegian Kroner. Last year in Greenland we raised 170,000 Kroner in total!

Today we made our weekly visit to the tiny community of Itilleq. Rasmus Lyberth entertained everyone with another impromptu concert while the weekly soccer match raged on at the same time.

Rasmus dedicated his first song entitled Takuat Paninnguaq (Look Up Little Daughter) to a young Greenland woman and her baby. The song is well known throughout Greenland. It is about a man singing to his sick daughter to comfort her. He tells his child to look out at the stars and the moon and to listen to the birds singing in the morning and then she will be better. It was very touching. The young woman from Itilleq could not hold back her tears while her Greenland Folk music hero serenaded her and her baby.

We see the children of Greenland almost everyday in tiny communities like Itilleq and Ukkusissat. We are invited into people's homes. They come to visit us on the Fram. We experience the nature of Greenland everyday. We feel a connection. A charity auction is a small way that we can give back to Greenland.


Ilulissat is about 200 km from the Arctic Circle and is the third largest settlement in Greenland with about 5000 people. Only Nuuk (the Capital) and Sisimiut are larger.

Knud Rasmussen (1879-1933) the noted polar explorer, was born in Ilulissat. He was the first man to cross the Northwest Passage using a dog sled. The incredible journey is told in Across Arctic America (1927) - a classic in polar literature. A Canadian film entitled The Journals of Knud Rasmussen also dramatizes this incredible feat of polar exploration.

There is always lots of ice that the MS Fram has to push its way through in order to reach the harbour at Ilulissat. The reason for all of the ice is simple. The 56 km long Icefjord is just behind the town and North America's most productive glaciar, Sermeq Kujalleq lies at the head of the fjord churning out 20 billion tons of ice a year. That's a lot of ice.

All of that ice makes for stupendous ship cruising!

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Eqip Sermia

Our day was filled with stimulating lectures while we cruised through ice-laden waters on the way to Eqip Sermia. It seemed like we had already put in a full day when we dropped anchor at 17:30, but the best was yet to come.

On shore we spread out to various points on land where the Fram's Expedition staff was waiting. Many of us chose a rather difficult hike up the mountain. Our efforts were worth it! We arrived breathless and sweating to one of the most spectacular views you can imagine. Before us lay the incredible glaciar Eqip Sermia. In the distance we could also see the Greenland Ice-cap. Way down below were our friends and fellow travellers from the Fram looking like tiny blue ants.
Back on board the ship at 21:30 it was time to watch our talented crew from the galley demonstate their ice carving and food sculting skills.
At 22:30 Rasmus Lyberth the talented Greenland folk singer gave us a concert that many of us will not forget.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Uummannaq and Ukkusissat

Our boat trip to the desert just outside of Uummannaq was about sunshine, relaxation, fun, hiking, picnicing, iron, sulphur, salt, icebergs, waterfalls, 1200 metre cliffs, fabulous scenery, photography, light, colour, texture, Arctic dipping and a dried fish head.
The excursion to the desert is just as much about the journey there and back as it is about the desert itself. The boat ride is along some of the most beautiful scenery in Greenland and with weather conditions such as we had yesterday – very relaxing with plenty of stellar photo opportunities.
The desert is different from the surrounding landscape in every way. The geology is different. The colours are different, the textures are different. The landscape is yellow, red, brown and white due to the iron, sulphur, quartz and salt content. It is quite striking.

Later in the evening we welcomed the people of Ukkusissat on board the Fram. It was a delight to be entertained by them with singing and folk dancing. We learned all about traditional Greenlandic clothing and marveled at the workmanship involved.
Afterwards we headed to shore in the Polar Cirkle boats. We were treated to a surprise outdoor concert just in front of the town hall by the famous Greenlandic singer Rasmus Lyberth. The entire village was in attendance. It was plain to see that everyone in Ukkusissat is a big fan of Rasmus Lyberth.

Oh… you’re probably wondering about “Arctic Dipping” and a dried fish head. On our excursion to the desert some of our group went for an Arctic skinny dip and on our picnic lunch stop we found a dried fish head. Species unidentified.

Saturday, 11 July 2009


Sunny skies again! Two icons of Greenland were very much in evidence today as we hiked through town and on out to the Valley of the Winds.
  1. The Greenland Dog
  2. Niviarsiaq or Broad-leaf Fireweed.

The Greenland Dog is one of the oldest and purest dog breeds in the world. In Greenland it is forbidden to breed Greenland Dogs with other breeds. They are working dogs, able of surviving the harshest Arctic conditions and are very powerful, capable of pulling one and a half times their own weight over great distances. Greenland Dogs have a strong pack mentality. In any group of working dogs there is a clear hirearchy which all dogs respect. To make a pet of a Greenland Dog you need to establish exactly who the dominant animal is. You, or, your dog. Hiking high on the beach just outside of town we passed by several groups of Greenland Dogs. The puppies are free to roam around, but the adults are not permitted to run loose. As tempting as it was to stay and play with the puppies and to photograph grounded icebergs along the dark sandy beach, the volcanic landscape of The Valley of the Winds beckoned. Beautiful warm brown cliffs rose to our left and in the distance ahead of us. The cliffs have a stratified terraced look which is a result of different periods of volcanic activity. The warm red layers are a result of high iron content and oxidization.
Greenland’s national flower, Niviarsiaq (which means young woman in Greenlandic) is now in full bloom. Niviarsiaq is also known as Broadleaf Fireweed, Dwarf Fireweed and River Beauty. It is a member of the evening-primrose family.

Friday, 10 July 2009


Warm sunny days in cold water regions sometimes contrive to produce sea fog. Those were the conditions we met first thing this morning. As we approached Sisimiut the sun burned through the fog. We ended up having the warmest day so far this summer with temperatures reaching a scorching 18˚C. People were walking about town in short sleeves!

Heat, energy and power seemed to be the theme for the day. On our hike to Tele Island we walked past huge oil storage tanks. The main heating source for the homes and various buildings in Sismiut is from oil delivered from the oil tanks by truck.
The sounds of a working helicopter provided a constant backdrop to our hike around the island.

A hydroelectric power station is being built just outside of town. You can see some of the new hydro towers high up the mountain. The helicopter was carrying parts and supplies to the workers at the top. This power station is scheduled for completion towards the end of 2009 and it will start producing environmentally sound energy for the town in 2010.

Thursday, 9 July 2009


Touch down! Greenland and Kangerlussuaq at last. It feels remote. The surrounding landscape is rocky, rugged and treeless. Walking across the tarmac of Kangerlussuaq airport one gets the feeling of being in a wilderness region.
The ship’s Expedition Team greeted us inside the airport and then escorted us to the waiting buses that would take us where the MS Fram lay at anchor. After a short 15 minute bus ride to the head of Kangerlussuaq Fjord and a quick introduction to life jackets and Polar Cirkle boat procedures we were finally whisked to the ship.
For most of us everything shipside is a new experience. Photos are taken and I.D. cards are issued. Credit cards are registered at reception. People are signing up for excursions. Our luggage is delivered to our cabins. Learning the layout of the ship is a fun challenge that we all enjoy. Where’s the dining room? The bar? Can we find our way back to our cabin again?
At 20:30 there is a compulsory abandon ship drill. It is plain to see that the entire ship’s compliment is well rehearsed in emergency procedures.
At 9pm we all meet in the Observation lounge on deck seven to meet the Captain and other ship’s officers and the Expedition Team.
Phew! What a long day. But now we can kick back and relax in our new home for the next week.

I’m sure our cabin was just down this corridor…

Wednesday, 8 July 2009


When one walks around small towns in Greenland such as Itilleq, it is very evident that hunting and fishing are a big part of life. On many front porches you can see large racks of reindeer antlers. The two sets of reindeer skulls and antlers you see in the first photograph were found on the beach.

Wander a little further and discover a house with part of a beautiful walrus skull lying on the porch - right beside the skis and the laundry. On other porches are muskox skulls replete with large curving horns. Still other houses have various sorts of fish hanging to dry in the wind.

In the small harbour small boats come in with the daily catch. In the third photograph you can see a basket of Spotted Wolf Eels and Halibut that were just caught in nearby waters.

Today many of the men had gone out hunting seals. We thought that with so many of the Itilleq soccer team out hunting that this would be a perfect opportunity for Team Fram to steal a win in the weekly soccer match.

Nope. We lose again. Itilleq 4 - Team Fram 1.


Not for nothing is Ilulissat Greenland's most popular tourist destination. Just behind the town lies Ilulissat Icefjord and not far up the fjord lies the ice machine, the glaciar Serme Kujalleq. Sermeq Kujalleq is one of the most active glaciers in the world. Each year over 35 cubic kilometres of ice calve from the glaciar making it the most active glaciar in North America. It is this phenomenal flow of ice that makes Ilulissat a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Many of us saw Icefjord and the spectacular icebergs in two ways during our stay in Ilulissat. There is a very easy hike from town that ends with a really amazing view of the icebergs grounded near the end of the fjord. The other option is to take one of the boat excursions to see the icebergs from the water. Both options are highly recommended. On the boat excursion we even saw two humpback whales!!!