Thursday 30 June 2011

An Evening That Would Inspire Poets

Combine perfect weather with giant landscapes that stir the soul and cultural experiences that warm the heart and you will be left with a day that you will not soon forget.  Our day today could not have been better.
By 10:00 we had dropped anchor in Uummannaq and the first excursions boats picked up their passengers at the ship.  Soon as the excursion boats were away the Polar Cirkel boats started shuttling people to shore.  A group of people went off for a talk with a local hunter while others explored Uummannaq on their own.  At 12:00 a large group of epicureans met at the Uummannaq hotel to sample the Greenlandic cuisine.  Just a few of the items on the sumptious buffet were: reindeer, minke whale, narwhal, muskox, harp seal, smoked halibut, crow berries, blue berries, ammassat (capelin) and various salads.  M-m-m-m-m!!!!
At 1:30 a large group met at the landing site to go on a 5 km hike to the other side of the island.  There was a long line of blue jackets stretched across the rolling hills behind Uummannaq.  Our destination was Santa’s hut.  Greenlandic and Danish children believe that Santa Claus lives here in Uummannaq because of a television series that ran in Denmark in the “90’s.  When we arrived at Santa’s Hut we were surprised with some very welcome snacks and beverages – tea, coffee, hot chocolate, water (and even a shot of whisky in your beverage was available if you wished)!  The hotel staff had whisked everything around the island in the polar ?cirkel boats!  There was even a surprise visitor, hmmm... we were the visitors and were surprised that the owner of the hut was home!  Santa Claus showed up (he looked an awful lot like our chef).
By 16:00 all of the hikers were back and at 16:30 the last polar Cirkel left shore.  As we cruised towards Ukkusissat we encountered more and more ice.  It was incredibly beautiful under nearly clear blue skies.  The ice became so thick that we were forced to reduce speed in order to navigate safely.  We were scheduled to arrive in Ukkusissat at 19:30 but the heavy ice dictated our arrival time.  We dropped anchor at 20:00 and transferred many of the people from the village to the ship.  These aren’t strangers.  These are our friends.
In the Observation lounge the people from Ukkusissat entertained us with folk dances and songs by their choir. Some of the people were dressed in traditional clothing.  Anja Erdmann gave an expalnation of the work and materials involved in the clothes.
At approximately 21:00 it was our turn to visit the village.  Rasmus Lyberth is a folk music hero in Greenland and is well loved wherever he goes here.  Everyone in the village gathered around while Rasmus gave another stirring performance.

 At 23:00 the last polar Cirkel boat left shore.  We waved goodbye to our friends and turned our bow to the south.
Now as I finish writing the blog for today (yesterday) it is 00.30 and it is the type of evening that inspires poets.   Fram is surrounded by icebergs.  Thousands of them.  We are picking our way through a maze of ice on a slow, weaving, zig-zagging course.  The sun has dropped behind a large dark mountain on our starboard sun.  It hasn’t set.  It won’t set. The light is warm.  The sea is calm.  Each piece of ice is a new ephemeral work of art.  We are all so very lucky to be here, to see this, to have experienced a wonderful day like we did today. 

Wednesday 29 June 2011


The weather today was perfect!  A balmy 10˚C and for much of the day there wasn't a cloud in the sky.

The number one thing to do on our visit to Qeqertarsuaq is to hike into the Valley of the Winds.  It is not a difficult hike and the landscape is majestic.  It is now prime time for the wild flowers of Greenland.  Small splashes of bright colours decorate the somber tones of the landscape.  Some of the more beautiful flowers like the Flame-tipped Lousewort and the Wooly Lousewort are easy to over look.  Lots of people were seen huddling over wildflower field guides and crawling on the ground to photograph the flowers.

Once again Humpback Whales were spotted amongst the giant icebergs in the bay.  That makes three weeks in a row!
At the waterfall one of the Canada Geese that we spotted last week was still sitting on its nest.  We are all hopeful that we will soon be able to report the successful hatching of some Goslings.
In town a few local people were selling handicrafts.  The open-air meat and fish market was also open for business.  We stopped in for a peak to see what they might be selling.  Lots of fresh minke whale meat and blubber!
By 15:30 everyone was back on the ship.  The lectures in the afternoon were just nicely underway when Humpback whales were announced! Who wants to sit in a lecture room when there are whales to see on a gorgeous sunny afternoon?  Uh...  no one.  Soon the railings on deck five were crowded with people eager to get a glimpse of a whale.  There were three humpbacks.  One of them was probably a calf as it was quite a bit smaller than the other two.  We followed them for several minutes and then it was time to steer our course for tomorrow's landing at Uummannaq and then Ukkusissat.

Tuesday 28 June 2011

Palasip Qaqqa

We offer a wide range of activities/excursions in Greenland.  For example there are many great hikes at various destinations.  One of the best is in Sisimiut, our port of call today.  From the ship the hike looks intimidating.  The mountain Palasip Qaqqa looms over the harbour.  Our goal was to reach the top and the top looked very far away.  Forty adventurous souls signed up for the hike.  When everyone became aware of exactly where we were going, you could see a few people swallow hard.  We do our best to inform everyone in great detail as to the nature of all of our excursions.  If the hike is difficult, we say so.  We want everyone to have a great experience.  Once it was made clear that they could stop half way if they wished, you could see a collective sigh of relief.
First there was a ten minute shuttle ride to the base of the mountain after which we set off in three groups of 13 or 14 people, plus guides.  The weather was perfect.  Sunny and cool.  Cool enough to keep the mosquitoes grounded.  The beginning is quite easy.  There are a few glacial melt-water streams to ford and there is a gradual incline.  After about 45 minutes it gets steep enough that the guides need to assist folks over some scrambly bits.  
Half way up we reached a small grassy plateau.  A perfect place to take a breather and also the perfect place to stay, have your excellent packed lunch, admire the incredible view and relax while the keeners set out for the top.  It turned out that most people wanted the satisfaction of going all the way.  Of the original forty, 28 made it to the top.
As you can see in the photos, on a day like we had today, the view is stunning.  Sisimiut lay far below us to the south.  To the north and east lay nothing but mile after mile of rocky, mountainous landscape.  It was surprisingly warm with little to no wind.  We enjoyed our lunch and then began the descent.  With the aid of the guides, the hike back down was accomplished easily.  Many of us paused at the glacial stream and filled our water bottles with some of the best water in the world - straight from a Greenland glacier.   When we reached the rendezvous point at the bottom we all felt a great sense of accomplishment

Monday 27 June 2011

The Stress of a Vacation

Part of the great fun of any vacation is the anticipation leading up to the day of departure.  The excitement builds until finally, the taxi is waiting and it is time to go to the airport.  But for some people the tension  builds and travelling can be quite a stressful time, "Where are the plane tickets?  Where is my passport?  Did I turn off the stove?  Did I pack my contact lenses?  What did I forget?  Did I leave the key for the cat sitter?"  After a while the journey seems to be one queue after another.  Wait for the checkin machine.  Wait for the baggage drop off.  Wait for security.  Wait at the gate. And then wondering, "Where's my boarding pass?  Did I leave my passport back at security?  I hope Fluffy doesn't starve while we're away."  Some people may go through three or more airports on the way to Greenland.  Endless queues.  Endless struggles with luggage.  The stress of it all.  Does it ever end?
Yes. Finally.  The last flight.  Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq Greenland.  After our Greenland air charter jet touched down in Kangerlussuaq, we walked 100 metres across the tarmac into the Kang' airport.  There to greet us were six members of the Expedition Team from the MV Fram.  Incredibly, they told us we didn't have to worry about our luggage.  The luggage would follow us to the ship in a truck. There was no lineup.   In fact, all we had to do was walk outside to a waiting motor coach and enjoy the 20 minute ride to the ship.  Indeed, you could define that as the precise moment when our holiday had well and truly started.  From now on we wouldn't have to wrestle with our luggage.  No more waiting in airports.  No more stress.
At the harbour there was coffee and snacks.  There was a team of people to help us into life jackets and then into nifty little craft called Polar Cirkel boats.  Okay.    There was a teensy little bit of stress for some people.  There were a few mosquitoes at the harbour checking people for blood type. But really, it's hardly even worth mentioning in a blog. A short brisk boat ride brought us to the ship. Once on the vessel we were efficiently issued our ship's ID and cabin keys and then escorted to our new home away from home.  Before a delicious buffet dinner we were each issued blue wind breaker jackets.  
At 20:30 we all attended a mandatory safety drill which was followed by the Captain's welcome cocktail in the Observation Lounge on deck seven where we were introduced to many of the key personnel on the ship.
Wow.  That was a long day!  But now you can kick back, relax and get ready to meet Greenland.  

Saturday 25 June 2011

A Special Day In Itilleq

Our visit to Itilleq was special today for a couple of reasons.  There was a wedding in the settlement!  It was a very special day for the happy couple, Frode and Najaaraq Jensen.  It was special for us because we had been invited, along with the rest of the community, to the reception. The reception was held in the brand new school (not a year old yet).  In some respects the setting was typical of what you might find at many wedding receptions in North America or Europe. A table laden with gifts was on one side of the room.  Children gathered in groups.  The teenagers huddled covertly together.  The youngest children were running around or playing games in another room. And, there was lots of food.   People were sitting at a half dozen tables casually helping themselves to a really fine buffet.
The sweets table was loaded with familiar looking delicious desserts.  The main course table was filled with Greenlandic delicacies which included: Harbor Porpoise and Mattak (skin and blubber from the porpoise) roast reindeer, dried Narwhal, Humpback Whale (in sort of a soup), Greenland shrimp, dried cod and halibut. 
The bride and groom were dressed in their beautiful traditional Greenlandic clothing.  They were very obliging hosts and quite happy to pose for photographs.
It was also a special day in Itilleq because we won our weekly soccer match.  Last week the two teams were fairly evenly matched but Itilleq won by two goals.  This week MV Fram reined victorious with a score of 5-2.  Let's see what happens next week.  Somehow I think it will be a much tougher match

Spider Town

The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray (Robert Burns).  In Expedition Cruising sometimes it seems you create a plan in order to have something from which to deviate.  You can plan all you want but if the weather or ice are against you, the old plan goes out the window and it's time to be spontaneous.  And that's exactly what happened today.  Like last week, today there was too much ice for us to even get near Ilulissat. 
What were the options?  
The town of Aasiaat was fairly close by and in the right direction... 
Aasiaat is the fifth largest community in Greenland with a population of 3100.  Aasiaat means "spiders" in Greenlandic.
It was amazing how quickly a new plan was put together by the Expedition Leader Anja Erdmann.  By mid-morning key people in Aasiaat had been contacted and a nice program arranged for us. At 14:00 we began landing operations. The museum and tourism office opened for us.  Coffee and cakes were available in the community centre at 16:00 as well as crafts for sale and a performance by the local people. At 17:00 the church opened and the choir sang for us, after which we were free to roam on our own until 20:00.  At 21:00 we were entertained in the Observation Lounge by a drum dancer from town.  It was quite impressive that so much had been arranged on but a moment's notice.  This was Fram's first visit to this delightful town.  They were so cooperative I couldn't help wondering if we would see them again?

The Aasiaat coat of arms is a stylized spider web on a blue and white background.  Blue representing the oceans surrounding Greenland and white representing the Greenland ice sheet.

Friday 24 June 2011

Things That Make Navigation Officers Tense

There are some forces of nature that can put navigation officers on edge.  High winds.  Low visibility due to weather such as heavy fog or snow.  Lots of ice.  Put any two of these factors together and you might find a quiet tension on the bridge that you can cut with a knife.  Today we had lots of ice and lots of fog for most of the day.  If either of these factors are heavy enough, the ship will reduce speed.  The thicker the ice and the denser the fog, the less progress we make.  In heavy fog the navigation officers rely on radar and the GPS.  There is also an extra AB (Able-bodied seaman) on watch in low visibility conditions.  Usually it means that the Captain spends many more hours on the bridge.
For the rest of us, today's fog and ice translated into a nice relaxing day.  It was really great to see large icebergs suddenly appear out of the mist.   Our experience was pretty much the opposite of what the navigation officers were experiencing.
Our day was filled with lectures in three different languages: English, German and Danish.  In the afternoon King Neptune made an appearance on the bow and demanded we pay a price for crossing the Arctic Circle.  The price?  Ice cold water poured down the back of your neck - followed by a shot of whisky.  Maybe we should have asked him if there was something he could do about the fog.
Eventually if became clear that we would not be able to reach our destination, the glacier Eqip Sermia.  The ice was too thick and we had lost too much time.  The decision was made to launch the Polar Cirkel boats and go cruising amongst the icebergs.  Meanwhile the chefs and galley staff were busy barbequing our dinner on deck seven at the stern.  When we returned from our ice cruise we were treated to a delicious buffet of various barbequed delights in the dining room.
At 21:30 the ship's officers and expedition team put on a fashion show in the Observation lounge.
By 23:00 the fog had mostly cleared.  Most of the ice now lay on our port side.  We cruised past literally thousands of icebergs as we make our way south towards Ilullissat.

Thursday 23 June 2011

A Time To Reflect

The dominate feature of Uummannaq is the looming heart-shaped mountain for which it is named.  It is not a large island.  Only 12 sq. km. but it feels big.  Wandering around the barren landscape which begins on the edge of town, there is a feeling of  large, open, empty space.  But it is only empty if you don't pause to listen, if you don't take the time to see.  Snow Buntings sing their cheery song.  Ravens croak and gurgle.  Insects whine and buzz.  A soft wind caresses the land. Every patch of sand or soil in the mostly rock environment supports plant life.
Time passes differently here.  For those of us from a western culture time seems to pass us slowly.    A Greenlandic friend says that time does not pass us but it is always coming towards us.  I think about these thinks on our guided hike to the other side of the island.  The land seems heavy. Perhaps there is a psychological impact from all of that rock on my western psyche, used to grass and trees.
In town there is a juxtaposition of past and present.  I pause to photograph some Greenlandic dogs and in the background is a tarpaulin-wrapped snowmobile parked right beside a dog sled.  Past meets present but both the snow mobile and the dog sled have their different uses.  Climate change is effecting how much use people can get from their dog team. There are fewer days when a hunter can get out on the ice with his dogs.  
In the early evening we visited the village of Ukkusissat.  Icebergs surrounded the peninsula on which the village is situated and invade the small harbour.
We invited the people from the village to the ship where they entertained us with Greenlandic folk dancing and singing.  Some of them were dressed in traditional clothing.  Obviously there is a lot of skill and time required to create the intricate detailing in the clothing.
After the singing and dancing we jumped into the Polar Cirkel boats and visited Ukkusissat.  We were free to roam at our leisure.   We watched a woman feed her hungry dogs raw halibut which the dogs enthusiastically gulped down.  
There was plenty of time to explore. 
By 21:00 we were all back on the ship and under way once again.  It was a very full day.  There is a lot to reflect upon.

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Greenland's National Day & the 1st Day of Summer!

We arrived in Qeqertarsuaq at 09:00.  There isn't a large pier here so, as usual we dropped anchor in the beautiful natural harbour just outside of the marina.  Soon Polar Cirkel boats were zipping to and fro, from ship to shore, each carrying a cargo of eight passengers.  Everyone arrived on shore by language group.  First to arrive this morning were the Scandinavians.  As soon as they were all assembled, the entire group set off on a hike through town and then out to the beautiful countryside.  And so it went for   six different groups.  
As we walked through the small community three canons were fired to commence the celebrations and events for Greenland's National Day.  Many people were gathered to sing in front of the community centre, some had Greenland  flags and some were dressed in traditional costume.
It took only a few minutes to walk through the centre of town to a beautiful dark sandy beach.  There were lots of bergy bits washed up on shore and many large icebergs lay just offshore.  It was a perfect place to stop for a few photographs.
 Carrying on, we soon left the town behind.  We had just crossed a small river when one of the expedition team announced that there were Humpback Whales just off shore.  The whales were feeding in the exact same place as the week before.  It was almost like Hurtigruten had these Humpbacks on the payroll.  They even obligingly moved closer to the beach as we oh-ed and ah-h-ed from the hillside.
It was difficult to tear ourselves away, but after awhile even the most ardent whale watchers had satisfied their desire to see whales.
The hike ended at a beautiful waterfall.  The Expedition Team pointed out a pair of Canada Geese nesting on an isolated pinnacle of rock adjacent to the falls.  Some of the Team had been coming to this same location for several years and it was the first time any of them had seen  Canada Geese nesting there.
On the way back into town we could see many local people picnicing and barbequing on the edge of town.  There was also a demonstration from the town firefighters.
At 15:30 the last Polar Cirkel boat left Qeqertarsuaq.  We heaved anchor and set our course for Uummannaq and Ukkusissat.  
Our afternoon was filled with lectures and briefings about our plans for tomorrow.

Tuesday 21 June 2011

The Last Day of Spring!

Today is the last day of spring.  However, the vegetation in Greenland is on a different time frame.  Looking at the plant life on the historical hike to Tele Island in Sisimiut one might say that spring is just beginning.    Around Sisimiut, Arctic Willow grows in abundance.  It is the northern-most woody shrub in the world, and its catkins are just beginning to bloom.  Arctic willow is dioecious, that is, the male and female catkins grow on different plants.  Pictured are the beautiful male catkins about  2.5 to 4 cm (1 - 1.5 inches).  You can also clearly see that the leaves are only about half grown.  
The plant in the second photograph is  Roseroot.  Right now it is easy to overlook these plants as they are just sprouting.  In July they will grow to more than 20 cms but right now are only about 5 cm. The root and leaves of this plant are edible.  Like Arctic Willow, one plant has male bits and another plant has the female bits. Of course plants aren't the only thing to see when walking around Sisimiut.  Take a walk along the dockside area and you will be reminded that this is very much a hunting and fishing society.  In Greenland there are approximately 56,000 inhabitants of which fully 20% are licensed hunters.  On the pier a few locals were selling fresh Arctic Char and some fresh seal meat.
 As always there is a riot of colourful fishing boats of all sizes in the marina.  If you know what to look for, it is easy to spot harpoons mounted on the bow of some of the larger boats for hunting whales.  
Heading up the hill into town there is a small but excellent museum, a church, restaurants, cafes, gift shops, a couple of very good shopping centres, an excellent book store and a variety of other shops and businesses.  Afterall, Sisimiut, with a population of 5,498 is the second largest city in Greenland!

Monday 20 June 2011

300 Cloud Free Days Per Year

At approximately 15:45 our Greenland Air charter flight touched down at the Kangerlussuaq airport.  Stepping off the airplane onto the tarmac, one could feel an Arctic bite in the air.  It was definitely cooler here than when we had left home.  The people coming on this adventure in Greenland were a broad international mix from 15 different countries.  One of the great opportunities about a trip on Fram is that you usually have a chance to meet like-minded people from many different cultures.

In the summer time Kangerlussuaq experiences the best weather in all of Greenland with approximately 300 cloud free days a year.  Today was slightly overcast in the morning and through the afternoon.  It was also somewhat windy.
In the airport we were quickly ushered to four waiting motor coaches.  A short 20 minute ride through the rugged, rocky Greenlandic landscape brought us to the end of the fjord where Fram lay at anchor.  We were all issued life jackets at the pier while one of the Expedition Team demonstrated how to put them on.  Even though there are only two straps on the life jackets it seemed like wrestling with an octopus!  
The wind we had experienced in town was also blowing on the fjord.  From the pier you could see that the sea was very choppy. We were all cautioned that the ride to the ship in the Polar Cirkel boats would quite likely be a very wet ride.  And so it was.  
Once on board the ship we were issued ID cards and shown to our cabins.  A delicious buffet was available in the dining room from 18:00 until 20:30.
At 20:30 we attended a mandatory safety drill on deck 5.  Right after the drill we were invited to the Observation Lounge where we met the Captain and many key personnel from various departments on the ship.
Now it is 21:45.  The sun is still shining.  The skies are mostly clear.  The wind has dropped.  It is a perfect evening to cruise down the 180km long fjord.  A great way to start our Greenland Voyage of discovery!

Saturday 18 June 2011

We Have a Great Group On Board Fram

We have a great group of passengers.  The weather had turned during the night. Gone were our  clear blue skies.  Gone was the Mediterranean feeling for which Greenland is famous!    ;^)  
Instead the sky was completely overcast and the temperature (with wind chill) at 08:15 was a brisk -1˚C.  B-r-r-r.  But I didn't hear one complaint, or one person lamenting the lack of sunshine.  Instead people were talking about the nice change in the weather.  A few people commented that a day like today gave one a better sense of what Greenland is really like.
When we visit Itilleq we have the opportunity to join people in their homes for a Kaffeemik (cakes, cookies and coffee).  Once on shore everyone scattered in various directions looking for the particular house to which they had been invited.
Around 11:00 people began to gather around the Itilleq Soccer Stadium (see photo) to either participate in a soccer match between Fram and Itilleq or to cheer everyone on.  The two sides were evenly matched but Itilleq squeaked ahead with a final score of 6-4.
By 13:30 everyone was back on board Fram and we turned our bow to point south once again.  As we edged our way closer to Kangerlussuaq the skies began to get a little brighter.  We were hopeful of a clear evening for cruising up the long fjord later in the day.
Our afternoon was filled with lectures and at 17:30 we met in the Observation Lounge for the Captain's Farewell Cocktail.

At 21:45 we joined the three muscians; Gitte, Nikolaj and Michael  for their final concert of the voyage. 

Friday 17 June 2011

Be Careful of What You Wish For

How many times have you heard that before?  Be careful of what you wish for.  We were all wishing for ice, lots of ice on a nice sunny day.  Well we got it.  W-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-y-y-y too much of it.  There were so many icebergs in all shapes and sizes in front of Ilulissat that Fram could not get within 6 nautical miles of the UNESCO World Heritage Site city.  That is 6.905 land miles or 11.112 kilometres.

It was disappointing to have to cancel our visit to Ilulissat but it was physically impossible to get through the ice.  So why cry about things you cannot change?  It is better to get busy and figure out what you might be able to do instead.  A new 2 stage plan was quickly formulated by the Expedition Leader Anja Erdmann and Captain Tormud Karlsen.  First: scenic cruising from the ship through the dense ice.

Second: once slightly more open water was obtained, we would go cruising in the ice in the Polar Cirkle boats!  Yea!  Few things are more fun than going in the ice in the Polar Cirkle boats.  The rugged Norwegian boats are at their best in those conditions.
It was wonderful to be on the sea dwarfed by giant ice bergs.  Everywhere you looked was ice.  Everywhere you looked was another photo-oportunity.

Once everyone had their turn in the Polar Cirkle boats, Fram slowly got under way once again.  At about 14:30 the Captain announced that a whale had been spotted and that we would slow down to have a look.   Soon all the railings on the outside decks were crowded with people hoping to get a glimpse of a whale.  It turned out to be a solitary Humpback.  There were lots of opportunities for everyone to get photographs of the whale as we were able to stay with it for about thirty minutes.

At 16:00 the lecture program began once again which was followed by briefings on the plans for tomorrow in Itilleq.
Sure, the day wasn't what we had planned originally but it certainly still turned out to be a really fantastic day!

King Neptune, More Ammassat & A Stunning Glaciar

Today was one of those days that starts off slowly, builds momentum throughout the day and then has a spectacular finish.

At 09:00 we had bridge tours for the 1st three groups.  the Captain was a very genial host and seemed in an especially good mood today.  Not that he isn't usually in a good mood but today was Captain Tormod Karlsen's birthday!  Happy birthday Captain Karlsen!!
Our lecture series continued at 09:30 and featured not only the Expedition Team but also guest lecturer Bud Ward from the United States with an informative talk on Climate Change - Confronting the Challenge.

We enjoyed excellent scenic cruising throughout the day which was interspersed with briefings about our plans when we arrive in Ilulissat tomorrow.

At 15:15 we had a surprise visit from King Neptune.  Perhaps it is to Neptune that we owe a big thank you for the marvellous weather we have been experiencing.  Apparently a "thank you" was not enough appeasement for crossing the Arctic Circle.  We had to pay a bigger price.  The price was frigid ice water poured down the back of our necks.  I was amazed at how many people lined up to have the experience.  Masochists!

After carefully working our way through many miles of  ice-filled waters we finally arrived at Eqip Sermia. At 17:00 we dropped anchor and around 17:30 we began Polar Cirkle boat operations whisking everyone to shore.  As we approached the beach we could see thousands, maybe millions of Ammassat (Capelin) swimming in the water.  Soon word about swimming piscatorial delicacies  reached the ship. A Polar Cirkle boat with crew armed with fishing nets was dispatched.  In less than 20 minutes they had netted enough Ammassat for the entire crew!

Meanwhile, the Expedition Team had constructed a makeshift landing platform out of wooden pallets which turned out to be the perfect thing as it allowed us to get to shore without getting our feet wet!

Once on shore we were free to wander but were cautioned not to venture down to any beach areas as there was an ever present danger of tsunamis from the calving glaciar.  Sure enough around 20:00 we heard white thunder from Eqip Sermia.  A large piece of ice had calved off the glaciar.  In about 5 minutes large waves washed the shore line briefly interrupting landing operations.

By 20:45 the last boat had left the beach and everyone was back on the ship enjoying a delicious barbeque in the warm sunshine on the stern deck.  The backdrop for the barbeque: beautiful Eqip Sermia.

Thursday 16 June 2011

Uummannaq and Ukkusissat

Our stupendous luck with the weather continues!  We dropped anchor just before 10:00.  The first people off the ship were the folks going on morning excursions but after that we were all free to go ashore and explore the community of Uummannaq.
After lunch at 13:30 about 60 people set off on a guided 2.5 hour hike to Santa’s Hut.  Along the way we saw nine different species of wild flowers which included; Lapland Rose-bay,  Entire-leaved Mountain Avens, Arctic Mouse Ear, Moss Campion, Purple Saxifrage, Blue Heath, and one lonely Artic Poppy.

We are now at  ~ 76˚32' N and spring arrives later here.  These were the first few flowers bravely baring their petals to the warming rays of the Arctic sun.  Rays that (barring a cloudy day) are now beaming down 24/7 until the end of July.  In a few days there will be a profusion of wildflowers but even now, if you looked about carefully, you could see small patches of bright pinks, purples, yellows and whites. As I walked along I couldn’t help wondering if these flowers received more or less daylight than the ones at home.  Certainly it is a short growing season here, but an intense one!

On our way back to the ship the expedition team led us on a slight detour from the well-marked path to a spectacular view.  You could see for miles. Far below us lay Uummannaq and the MS Fram.  You could see hundreds if not thousands of icebergs.  It was a terrific way to end the hike.

At 16:30 we were all back on the ship.  We lifted the anchor and  set off for our second destination of the day, Ukkusissat.  We had ideal conditions for scenic cruising.

As we approached Ukkusissat there were icebergs everywhere.  So many icebergs that we had to reduce speed in order to make our way through the dense ice safely, which of course delayed our arrival time in Ukkusissat by about a half hour.  At 20:00 we put the polar Cirkle boats in the water and began bringing people from the village to the ship.  In fact it seemed like the entire village came aboard!  This was our first visit of the year so they were happy to see us and we were equally happy to see them.  Over the years we have made some very good friends in Ukkusissat.

Soon everyone was on board. We all rendezvoused in the Observation Lounge where the people from Ukkusissat entertained us with folk singing and dancing and modeled some of their traditional clothing for us.

At about 21:30 we all went to the village and explored at our leisure.  The two musicians from the ship brought their guitar and accordion on shore.  It was their turn to entertain everyone. 

By 23:00 everyone was back on the ship and fifteen minutes later we were underway once again.  Phew!  I'm tired!  If tomorrow is half as good as today it will be a spectacular day.