16 September 2018
Today is another travel day. Our day starts earlier than we would have liked as we haven’t adjusted to the new time zone and then we get an unrequested wake up call. Our transfer to the boat in Greenland will be done in two groups – we are in the second group so don’t have to meet in reception until 9.15. But as we are awake anyway we have showers and go down to breakfast (somewhat unadvisedly as it turned out as it was jam-packed with the earlier group (and the rest of the hotel apparently)). But we did get a table and availed ourselves of the buffet breakfast not knowing if or when we might get lunch.
We meet in reception to find lots of other people with matching Quark yellow parkas and all wearing waterproof over-trousers for the ride in the zodiacs out to the boat. But it will be a long time until then. First we load all our bags onto a bus for transfer to the airport (thankfully the domestic airport 10 minutes away rather than the 45 minute drive from yesterday). Our yellow-clad group fills the check-in area and wait whilst we all have our bags weighed (strict 15kg limit) and get our tickets.
Then we wait in a ‘lounge’ area before going through for International flight security screening. We are amazed by the thoroughness of this process – so much more than I have experienced on any other flight – even our watches have to come off. I am very amused by the sign that says that no electrical stunning equipment is allowed onboard and ask Marcelo whether this was some interesting Icelandic fetish that we should be aware of. He is Italian but thinks it might be the Greenlanders?
After visiting a tiny duty free area we head out to the tarmac wondering which plane was ours. It is a chartered Icelandair flight – 1 hour 40 minutes to Constable Point on the east coast of Greenland where we will get issued with our rubber boots and walk 20-30 minutes down to the shore to board our zodiacs out to the boat. We have ascertained that Gill will be able to go on the truck with the luggage (a great relief for her).
The runway at Constable Point is just a dirt track with a selection of hangars and various tractors and diggers to keep it clear all year round: they can get up to 6m of snow in winter. It is just starting to snow now and it is cold! We are ushered from the plane into one of the hangars where we are issued with our rubber boots for the trip, welcomed, and introduced to the crew. Several of the crew have rifles and we are given instructions for keeping within the group as we walk as polar bears have been known to come down here.
The luggage (and Gill) are loaded into the back of a little truck with 2 trailers and the rest of us don whatever warm gear we had thought to bring with us and set off towards our ship, the Ocean Nova – a modernised icebreaker. We trudge in our oversized boots with super thick and soft soles which are actually quite comfortable once we get used to the unusual sensation of floating around in them.
Once we reach the little jetty, all our luggage (and Gill) have been transferred by Zodiac to the ship and they have come back to fetch us. We are given our life vests and made sure they are all fitted correctly. A quick zodiac boarding instruction and then we are transported to the Ocean Nova. It is getting pretty rough now and our driver Marla struggles valiantly to keep us from getting too wet from the waves. Getting on board requires the assistance of several practised crew members and then we step through sterilizing baths to clean our boots.
We later learn that there are very strong winds offshore (and gusting 25 knots in the sheltered harbour we are in) and they had been praying that 1) our flight would make it in and 2) that it wouldn’t be too rough to get us onto the ship. Thank goodness we made it as the ‘Hilton Constable Point’ is a very basic facility that wouldn’t have been fun with all of us camping in it. The captain and crew are going to change plan and head further up the fjord rather than head out to sea which was the original plan. We later learn that changing plan is the rule rather than the exception.
We are shown our cabins (and our bags have been delivered already). A quick settle in and then we head upstairs to the Panorama lounge on the top deck (5) for hot soup and then another briefing and introduction to the full crew: there are 14 specialists from logistics to wildlife to geology to kayaking etc. They will pair up to take us all out in the zodiacs on expeditions and we have further zodiac instruction.
There are 65 guests on board – approximately 30 of them as one Chinese group. The rest are a mix from all sorts of places. I have met a lot of lovely people already: Ute, Siggy, Freidrich and Erwin from Germany; Christa and Dave from the UK; Mike from US; Zoe from Australia (who will do the Iceland trip with us also).
Next is lifeboat drill. By this stage it is snowing quite heavily and the decks are freezing over so the crew take pity on us and decide that we can be instructed inside the ship. We are very grateful!
Then we have time to sort our cabins and explore the ship before dinner at 7.00 in the dining area just along from our cabin on deck 3 (we have a twin room with wonderful views). Dinner was surreal – it was now snowing horizontally and as we cruised further up the fjord we started to see icebergs (my first ever). My camera roll shows dinner menu, iceberg, iceberg, creme brûlée, iceberg, iceberg …
There is then a lecture upstairs on photographing auroras but it is very technically orientated and I am feeling very tired (also from my seasickness tablets) so decide to have an early night instead. The doctor comes in to see Gil’s foot but doesn’t really add anything more to what we are already doing for it. We are looking forward to the real adventures starting tomorrow and hope that the weather improves.
Please join me over the next several posts as I take you on our Journey to the Arctic (and more).
Arctic Express: Northern Lights
Day 1: Copenhagen to Reykjavik
Day 2: Reykjavik to Constable Point, Greenland
Day 3: Scoresby Sund: Frederiksdal & Flyvefjord
Day 4: Scoresby Sund: Nordvestfjord & Ingmikortilaq
Day 5: Scoresby Sund: Eskimobugt & Immikkeerikajik
Day 6: Scoresby Sund: Danmark Island & Vikingsbugt
Day 7: Scoresby Sund: Cap Hope & Ittoqqortoormiit
Day 8: Scoresby Sund: Steward Island & Constable Point
Day 9: Constable Point back to Reykjavik
Day 1: Reykjavik: Blue Lagoon
Day 2: Golden Circle
Day 3: South Coast
Day 4: Jokulsarlon
Day 5: Eastern Fjords & Moorudalur Valley
Day 6: Moorudalur Valley & Lake Myvatn
Day 7: Akureyri & Trollaskagi Peninsular
Day 8: Grabrok Volcano & Snaefellsnes Peninsular
Day 9: Snaefellsness to Reykjavik
For this and other similar tours see:
Peregrine Adventures (Comfort tours)
Geckos Adventures (for 18 to 30s)
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