Saturday 30 June 2012

Fly, Hike & Ride

How long can 26 nautical miles be..? Answer: A whole long night. The vast ice field around the port entrance of Ilulissat forces us to slow down to under three knots, some people swim faster than that. But there's no choice, except turn around and skip this important stop. This is not something our Captain HÃ¥rvik would do, let alone Expedition Leader Karin who spent the whole night on the bridge watching for icebergs.
But as everyone else wakes up in the morning, we are already at anchor in front of Ilulissat, the "Paris of the Arctic". Well, couldn't find the Moulin Rouge, but it is true that a lot of the cultural and social life of Greenland takes place here. And of course it is the hub for Greenlandic tourism of all sorts.
We are profiting from this by going either on one of the hikes leading down to the incredible Sermermiut Fjord, taking a boat ride to the mouth of the world's most productive glacier, or - and this is a killer thing to do- enjoying the bird's eyes view from the helicopter. The weather is not only playing game, it is pampering us with clear blue skies and temperatures you would expect in the Baleares.

Whatever activity we decide on, it is dominated by one thing, and one thing alone - ice. The size of the icebergs in Sermermiut is mind-boggling, gargantuan white cathedrals of the most impossible shapes are towering all around us, being reflected beautifully in the clear, dark water. Although the actual glacier is about 60 km away, its emissaries tell the tale of the power of frost. And who would think how abundant life can be here in this cold world? Plankton, shrimp, fish, all kinds of birds, and - if you are really, really lucky - whales is what you see.
Some of us are lucky indeed, having a big humpback whale right next to the fjord boat. What a day to remember! Already entertained by nature, all sit down with a big smile in the observation lounge later in the evening, when the famous MV FRAM crew show is presented, with the backdrop of thousands of icebergs and a gentle midnight sun. Life can be good, right?