Monthly Archives: March 2016

Baffin Island & Greenland 11

John from Wildfoot travelled in August from Iqaluit on Baffin Island to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland on one of the company’s Arctic adventure cruises. This is the final day in the log of his experiences.

 

day 12b

Day 12

 

Bags collected from our cabin at 07.00, then breakfast and a zodiac transfer across dead calm but very muddy water to the small harbour. There is no actual town here, the airport was built in the 1940s as a fair weather staging post between America and Britain and still has the longest runway in Greenland, so it is the only international airport and smaller planes, Dash 7s and 8s are what we saw, feed passengers in here.

 

On the drive from the harbour to the airport, we caught a glimpse of the Greenland Icecap in the distance and also saw the swathe of muddy residue which flows down from the glacier to the fjord.

day 12

An interesting fact is that the Greenland flag is actually a representation of the sun rising over the Greenland icecap.

 

Most of our fellow travellers return to Ottawa later in the day, so are off for a excursion in the Arctic looking for musk oxen – shame we will miss this, just means we will have to come on an Arctic adventure cruise again another time!

Day 12c

Last minute souvenir shopping at the small airport shop and we are off to Copenhagen, where we overnight before returning to Manchester.

 

And so ends another brilliant trip to the world’s extremes – where next!

Baffin Island & Greenland 10

John from Wildfoot travelled in August from Iqaluit on Baffin Island to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland on one of the company’s Arctic Cruises to Greenland. This is a log of his experiences.

day 11c

Day 11

 

Early start this morning and out on the zodiacs by 06.30 to go to the Evigshed Glacier. The scale of these things is amazing; the glacier looks small until you spot the little dot near its base and realise that it is another zodiac, probably 1000 or so yards away with the wall of ice towering hundreds of feet above. As we got closer, we could hear the occasional cracks and bangs as ice calved away in the background and then suddenly there was an almighty crash and an enormous chunk of ice fell away into the fjord. We were well back, but were still rocked by the swell it caused.

day 11d

Back to the ship for breakfast and then a sail back along Evigshed Fjord, with high peaks and cirque and hanging glaciers – very picturesque.

 

Today is our last day on board our Arctic cruise in Greenland and Arctic Canada, so have gone through the settlement of accounts – did I really drink that much at the bar?!

day 11a

Then a ship’s tour. First we went to the big room we use as the mud room (where the wellies and life jackets are stored), but this is actually a room with a massive underwater antenna suspended in a frame, which can be lowered through the bottom the hull to a depth of over 1000m to transmit to another ship and chart any underwater objects in between – ours is primarily a research ship built during the Cold War! Then to the engine room and up to the bridge where all the instruments we have seen up there during the trip were actually explained. Fascinating.

 

Sailing back north to Sondre Stromfjord, one of the longest in Greenland with a particularly impressive entrance with kittiwakes and fulmars swirling around where the currents converge.

day 11b

After lunch, we went out on the zodiacs for a final excursion in the Arctic and this time into virgin territory. The ship had never stopped at this point in the fjord before, so the crew looked at maps and off we went to find a suitable landing place about 15 minutes away and there most of us went for a walk across the tundra and up and down rocky outcrops in the bright and very warm sunshine. It is so hard to believe we can walk in t-shirts in Greenland, even in the summer. Mind you, we did also have to cope with swarms of midges, which did not bite but were massively annoying.

day 6e

A pre- dinner presentation of a slideshow of our shared experiences on the trip and our excursions in the Arctic. Carolyn, the trip photographer, had been taking pictures throughout the trip and had made sure she had caught all of us on film. We have this on a memory stick. A dinner of fresh Arctic Char uploaded in Sisimuit followed by a very convivial evening in the bar rounded off our expedition. Tomorrow we will wake up in Kangerlussaq having sailed the length of this massive fjord.

Baffin Island & Greenland 9

John from Wildfoot travelled in August from Iqaluit on Baffin Island to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland on one of the company’s Arctic holiday cruises to the Canadian Arctic and Greenland. This is a log of his experiences.

 

day 10a

Day 10

 

Luxurious late call for breakfast this morning, because we are at sea until lunchtime. Just as well, since I ended up in the bar even later than usual last night with Huw, one of our lecturer guides and Cristian, a professional photographer. Cristian is just coming to the end of a project to travel around the Arctic Circle photographing people who live and also visit the Line. Should be an interesting publication.

 

During the morning, we had the results of the on board photo competition for pictures taken on our Arctic holiday cruise, with some great entries and, afterwards, a final lecture on Arctic exploration.

 

The afternoon was spent in Sisimiut, the second largest city in Greenland, after the capital, Nuuk, but still with a very small town feel. The weather is amazing today, bright sunshine and really warm – I never would have expected to be walking around in a t-shirt on the Arctic Circle. The town is pretty typical with a busy fishing port and lots of bright, colourful buildings. Also, an interesting museum, consisting of several buildings, each depicting different aspects of Greenlandic life. Before we left, we were treated to a display of kayaking by a local, who demonstrated his skills in the water alongside the ship. Our ships doctor then joined him – he turned out to be a bit of an expert himself, having been an Olympic medallist with the USA team in Los Angeles!

day 10b

Back to the ship and pre-dinner drinks on deck in the evening sunshine. After dinner, the very funny results of the on-board limerick competition. Over 80 entries from such a small passenger complement is pretty good and these had been whittled down to just 12. Limerick writing is actually quite difficult! I had managed to come up with three and one of these made the final cut, but was not the winner. An excuse for a consolatory beer.

 

Baffin Island & Greenland 8

John from Wildfoot travelled in August from Iqaluit on Baffin Island to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland on one of the company’s Arctic Cruises to Greenland. This is a log of his experiences.

 

day 9a

Day 9

 

Woke this morning with the sun streaming thought the window, which was brilliant, since we were off on the zodiacs for a pre-breakfast cruise at 06.30. We thought yesterday’s icebergs were big but today we are at their actual source at Ilulissat, where they have broken away from the Jacobshavn Glacier and come away in massive chunks into the Davis Strait. We cruised around in the early morning sunshine for about 90 minutes amongst these massive bergs – truly amazing.

day 9c

After breakfast, we zodiaced into the port itself and went off for a walk. Ilulissat is a world heritage site and after walking about 3km, we found out why. We came to a spot overlooking the point at which the Jacobshaven glacier spews out its ice into the bay. I have seen many beautiful sites but this has to rank with the most spectacular, just a magical sight, with bergs and brash ice moving surprisingly quickly with the current, especially in the sunshine against a deep blue sky. This glacier is moving at a metre an hour.

day 9b

Then, a wander around town with a look in the supermarket and the one souvenir shop open this Sunday morning and then into the very well laid out and interesting museum.

 

Not much wildlife today. Those in one of the zodiacs this morning spotted a pair of humpback whales, but the best we have seen is more Icelandic Gulls, fulmars, wheatears and snow buntings. Not sure if dogs count as wildlife, but we walked past a massive open area where all the sled dogs are kept during the summer. Hundreds of them there with cute pups too, but very noisy and a bit smelly too!

day 9d

Back to the ship for a barbecue lunch on deck in the sunshine whilst sailing out past those magnificent bergs again – running out of superlative adjectives!

 

There is a pair of cameramen/presenters from the Canadian Weather Channel on board. They have been filming each day and having fun too – today’s combination of elements has made them very happy!

 

Lectures today included another by our resident historian, this time about the explorer John Ross, who added to the knowledge of Arctic Canada in the early 19th century whilst seeking the elusive northwest passage – his certainly wasn’t a luxury Arctic cruise!

 

During dinner this evening, there was a call for whales and over the next half hour, we saw several humpbacks at binocular distance from the ship with great displays of blows and flukes.

Baffin Island & Greenland 7

John from Wildfoot travelled in August from Iqaluit on Baffin Island to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland on one of the company’s Arctic Cruises to Greenland. This is a log of his experiences.

Day 8

 

Woke up this morning with a signal on my mobile phone for the first time since leaving Iqaluit on Baffin Island and Arctic Canada. I’m glad I turned off the data roaming, though, I bet that would have cost a fortune just locating where I am! We were coming in to the port of Qeqertarsuup on Disko Island on the west coast of Greenland surrounded by the most amazing icebergs.

day 8b

We could not land in the port until after 09.00, because it is a Saturday and no official is available to give clearance until at least that time! It is a picturesque little town with lots of multi-coloured buildings clustered around the harbour. It is immediately evident that we are now in Europe rather than the Americas – the native signs are Inuit, but the secondary language is Danish and there are lots of other indications that we have crossed continents – no KFC for example and far less big automobiles, plus Northern European style housing.

day 8c

Went for a couple of hours’ walk out of town and then came back to pop into the supermarket and the surprisingly interesting museum. Supermarkets abroad are always fascinating and here was no exception, especially in the frozen section, where there were gulls and seal meat.

day 8a

Back to the ship for lunch and then out on the zodiacs for the most amazing zip around the icebergs in Disko Bay. It is a spectacular panorama of icebergs, big and small and under a clear blue sky, an amazing experience. We even saw one berg tilt and then calve tons of ice into the sea with a loud crack. All these bergs have come from Ilussiat and that is where we will be tomorrow.

day 8e

We saw lots of Glaucous and Icelandic gulls and some black guillemots, but no gyrfalcons or humpback whales – you can’t have everything!

day 8g

These were the best conditions you could hope for an Arctic cruise in Greenland in August, so we are really lucky. I am writing this at 23.30 and it is still barely twilight outside on a flat calm sea.

day 8f

Baffin Island & Greenland 6

John from Wildfoot travelled in August from Iqaluit on Baffin Island to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland on one of the company’s Arctic ship adventures to the Canadian Arctic. This is a log of his experiences.

 

day 6d

Day 6

 

This morning at 08.45, our Arctic ship adventure continued as we crossed the Arctic Circle, celebrated by a deafening blast of the ship’s foghorn and a group picture on the bow of the ship.

 

Then, into the zodiacs and off to the shore. We are in Sunshine Fjord, just round from Cape Dyer. Today I joined a group on a quite strenuous 2 hour walk to the top of the nearest hill and back again. Walking on springy tundra with lots of beautiful wildflowers and lichens and then down to a mountain stream, clambering over rocks as we followed it back to the sea. At last I have walked off a little of all that super food and drink we are enjoying on board.

day 6c

Now we leave Baffin Island and Arctic Canada and move into the Davis Strait for our crossing into Greenland  waters.

day 6b

Day 7

 

Our first day fully at sea and an hour less on the time zones to GMT-4.

 

Turned out to be quite a busy day with lots of presentations, chief of which was actually by one of our fellow passengers. Matthias Breiter is a well known naturalist (of German origin but has lived for years in Alaska) who has written books on northern bears with some of the most amazing photographs. Bears are his speciality and he gave us an hour’s talk based on a lecture he had given to the Smithsonian in Washington. Really gripping and superbly illustrated, including comment on the hybrid bears resulting from grizzlies mating with young female polar bears.

day 11a

Other lectures too, on early mapping of the Arctic by theorists and explorers and also on the science of glaciers.

 

We are sailing slowly today on exceptionally calm seas so that we can arrive at Disko Island in Greenland first thing in the morning, having lost yet another hour.

day 6e

Baffin Island & Greenland 5

John from Wildfoot travelled in August from Iqaluit on Baffin Island to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland on one of the company’s Arctic wildlife cruises. This is a log of his experiences.

 

day 5a

Day 5

 

Woken at 0615 with the call of ‘polar bear on the ice’. Quickly pulled on clothes and up to the bridge, and there she was posing for us, moving across the sea ice, stopping, jumping, and all for our cameras. Then, a few minutes later as we drifted, there were more, including a mother with two cubs trying to make distance between her and a big male on the next floe. What a super start to the day.

day 5c

After breakfast, we had a talk from Katie, one of our historians on board, about the Arctic and the Vikings – all very interesting. Later, as we reached Cape Mercy in millpond conditions and under a bright blue sky, we boarded zodiacs for a cruise in the sea ice, which was amazing, getting really close to ice floes of all shapes and different hues of blue. We even drove the zodiac up on to the ice at one point and all climbed out to take photographs of each other with the ship way in the background.

day 5b

In the afternoon, I went down to a photography workshop to see if there was some way I could learn enough to improve my efforts. We spent 15 mins on theory and then went out on deck for practical. Trouble was that that was just as we came across another polar bear on the ice, this time one with a kill, a seal, which he was busy devouring. Lots of shots here and we’ll have reconvene the workshop tomorrow. One of my other ambitions here in the Arctic was also realised when we saw an Ivory Gull standing waiting to grab his share of the kill too. This gull is one of the rarest of the Arctic species these days, rarer even than polar bears. Also saw a flight of Brunnich’s Guillemots (they’re called thick-billed murres around here), another must see Arctic species plus fulmars and our first Icelandic gulls. What a great day for Arctic wildlife viewing. All followed by afternoon tea on deck with drinks laced with Amaretto or Baileys – not really my cup of tea!

day 5d

Later on, we had a presentation from a professional photographer on board who is just completing a 7 year project to photograph real people around the Arctic Circle. Some super images, which will be published in book form next year and probably online too. When we cross the line for the first time tomorrow, he plans to have all of us pictured for the book too!

 

An evening chat after dinner about the importance of gin and other alcohol to the early British explorers in this region!

Baffin Island & Greenland Journal 4

John from Wildfoot travelled in August from Iqaluit on Baffin Island to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland on one of the company’s Arctic adventure cruises. This is a log of his experiences.

Day 4a

 

Day 4

 

Really bright and sunny this morning as we sailed up Cumberland Sound through the sea ice on our Arctic adventure cruise. Magnificent scenery and then, as if on cue, the call ‘whale’ came from the bridge.

 

Then for the next 45 mins or so, before breakfast, we watched as the bowhead whales came to the surface and blew with a distinctive V shaped blow. They do not have a dorsal fin, nor do they dive showing a fluke, so all you see is part of the back and a glimpse of the distinctive white lip. The bowhead is the 2nd biggest whale and was hunted to near extinction in the 19th and 20th centuries, so seeing 5 as we did today, is apparently quite rare. In fact, the species has recovered enough to allow for limited native hunting again. Limited means that just one community in the whole of Baffin Island has a permit to hunt for just one bowhead each year. This year it is Pangnirtang, where we landed later, and most of the men and boys of the town were out in boats watching the hunt about 40km down the sound, with just two boats having the honour to actually hunt with the hand thrown explosive harpoon. If a whale is caught, it is then shared amongst all the Inuit communities of the island.

 

Pangnirtang is a really small town, which only exists because of the old whaling industry and there are still the remains of the blubber processing plant at the end of town. Now, there is a community with a store, a visitor centre, an ice hockey arena and all the normal health and educational facilities. There is also a craft centre where we saw amazing tapestries being woven, hats and scarves being crocheted and traditional prints and carvings – not cheap, but quite exquisite.

day 4b

Went for welcome walk out of town for about 90 minutes in the Arctic tundra with lots of flowers and lichen (and our first mossies too). Great scenery and views – Pangnirtang is also the gateway to a massive national park which still only sees about 200 visitors a year!

 

Back to ship for lunch and a relaxing afternoon with a photography workshop and a presentation on Arctic climate and projections. Still so warm, we had afternoon tea on deck. What a beautiful day.

Baffin Island & Greenland Journal 3

John from Wildfoot travelled in August from Iqaluit on Baffin Island to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland on one of the company’s Arctic Wildlife Cruises. This is a log of his experiences.

day 3a

Day 3

 

Quiet night on gentle seas and a very misty morning. But, straight after breakfast we were off on our fist zodiac outing to Monumental Island and what a starter it turned out to be!

 

We were only 5 minutes away from the ship when the call went out ‘polar bear’ and there she was (and the consensus do opinion is that it was a she – it is really hard to tell!) sitting there on the rocks looking at us. And then she decided to come down to the water’s edge to investigate us further, a real poser. Lots and lots of images and this is only the first day out.

 

Then, another first for us, an iceberg of reasonable proportions also posing for photo ops as we went around.

day 3b

There were also lots of black guillemots around as well as more ubiquitous glaucous gulls – if the weather had been clear, we might have seen gyrfalcon, one of the key Arctic species, which feed on just about every other bird, perhaps next time.

 

Back on board, everybody was quite euphoric at the PB sighting, which has really set the bar for the rest of this Arctic wildlife cruise. Relaxing afternoon and then an illustrated talk by one of our history experts on the origins and development of polar photography. This included familiar stuff from the Antarctic too, Frank Hurley especially, but also the early Arctic explorers Franklin, etc.

 

A good crowd of staff and guests on board.

Baffin Island & Greenland Journal 2

John from Wildfoot travelled in August from Iqaluit on Baffin Island to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland on one of the company’s Arctic Adventure Cruises. This is a log of his experiences.

Day 2a

Day 2

Early up this morning for the flight north to Iqaluit to board our Arctic cruise ship, 3 hours from Ottawa and a 20C drop in temperature – really noticeable the minute we disembarked, with a chill wind blowing across the airfield. The airport building is a bright yellow irregular shape structure just like the famous submarine, visible for miles, which is probably the reason – you wouldn’t want the pilot to miss it in a blizzard! The airport has one of the longest runways in the world, having been a US base in the Cold War, and is now also used for cold climate testing – the A380 came up here on proving flights, which must have been quite a sight.

day 2d

Iqaluit is the capital of Nunavut with a population of about 7500 split more or less equally between native Inuit and others, mostly European origin. All signage is in English, French, Inuit (using Latin alphabet) and Inuit characters, which are unlike any I have seen before – more runic than anything else. The buildings are all shapes and sizes and colours built on piles above the permafrost and stretch around the harbour and along the ridge overlooking the town. Property prices are high here, a modest 2 bed house is about$350k and you don’t even own the land. Everything else is expensive too – it all has to be shipped or flown in and most households plan in advance and have a container load of supplies of household goods, etc., sent in once a year.

Down to a shingle ramp where the zodiacs were waiting for a choppy and wet 20 minute crossing to our ship. The Akademik Ioffe is a Russian research vessel converted to passenger use and has a mainly Russian crew. There are only 40 passengers on board out of a possible 90 or so, so there is plenty of room.

Day 2c

Various briefings, a decent dinner and a few drinks as we settled in to what sounds like a most promising Arctic adventure cruise.