Tuesday 28 September 2010

Whales, ice and a true arctic experience

Our day started with an introduction to our route, to boarding and disembarking of our Polar Cirkle Boats and to the AECO-Guidelines. AECO stands for Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators and its main objective is to ensure that tourism in the Arctic is carried out with the “utmost consideration for the fragile, natural environment, local cultures and cultural remains, while ensuring safe tour operations at sea and on land”. And a truly Arctic day this was! Already in the morning we could get a glimpse of the snowy Greenlandic coastline in the distance and it was not long until the first icebergs appeared close to the ship.
We reached our destination Umiivik during lunch time and soon after the tender pit was set up and prepared for our first cruising. 

In the meantime, two humpback whales entertained passengers who were looking out from the Observation Lounge or from the forward deck on the bow. The animals seemed not to be disturbed at all by the presence of the Fram and were friendly enough to stay in the area during the whole afternoon. Some of us were even so lucky to observe them directly from the Polar Cirkle Boats! Humpback whales are baleen whales and can reach a considerable size of up to 18 m. They will migrate to the Caribbean soon to mate and give birth in warmer waters. But before, they need to store enough energy in form of blubber to survive several months without feeding at all.
However, not only the whales were responsible for a fantastic afternoon. The icy scenery with glaciers all around was simply stunning. Hard to tell how many different shades of blue, white and grey were present. The crackling of the melting brush ice was interrupted once in a while by big thunders that came from inside the glaciers. Sometimes, if quick enough, one was able to catch a glimpse of some little pieces breaking down from inside of the huge ice caves.
Also, the bizarre and majestic icebergs were breathtaking. The almost transparent blue colour of some of them surely took up thousands of megabits of pictures!
Finally, not to forget that this is also a very important historic place: it was from here that Fridtjof Nansen started his 40-day journey across the Greenlandic Icecap in 1888.
An exciting day ended with the Fram sailing out of the icy area in foggy conditions, which again reminded us of where we are: in the ARCTIC!