17 September 2018
After the storm last night I am amazed that I had a wonderful night’s sleep and woke up feeling great. Then I opened the curtains to the most amazing view of a glacier. We have sailed overnight and stopped at Frederiksdal – in the longest, deepest fjord in the world (Nordvestfjord). It is breath-taking scenery and a brilliant clear day without a breath of wind and at a balmy 3C.
Breakfast is at 7.30 and then we prepared for our first shore expedition heading out at 9.00am. We will divide into 4 groups depending on our desired level of exertion: there are the Chargers, Medium-fast, Medium-slow and Contemplative. I decide on Medium-fast and Gill will stay with the Contemplatives but will have a great opportunity to go ashore and still see quite a bit. We will be there around 3 hours.
We dress-up in all our waterproof gear again, don life jackets and back packs with spare gear. Then we head down to level 2 to board the zodiacs, signing out as we leave the ship. On shore we divide into our groups and head off. We head off at a cracking place up the hillside and I begin to think I am in the wrong group but once we have separated out from the others (and reached the top of the rise) we slow down to a more acceptable pace.
Some musk ox have been spotted grazing on the brilliant autumnally coloured tundra so we are going to see if we can get closer to them. So far they just look like black dots, even through the binoculars. We come across some musk ox remains: first some skulls that are perfectly white and clean (our guide Amalia thinks that they are 50-100 years old) and then we find a complete skeleton that still has lots of the coarse hair as well as the insulating underlayer. This underlayer (called qiviut) is superfine and warm and locals collect it from the bushes where animals have passed or comb it from an ox that is brought in to eat. It makes exquisitely fine and warm (and expensive) knitwear.
Then we get to see a small group of musk oxen that are close enough for us to observe for a while. There are some little ones in the group as well. Unfortunately someone opened their Velcro and the oxen got spooked and ran off around the corner. We see hoof prints and lots of spoor – some are obviously ox but there are some droppings that look at lot smaller and tightly packed. I’m told that they are also ox droppings but I think they are too different and must be from hares or something else.
We then start to head back down and stop overlooking the iceberg-filled bay for a time of peaceful contemplation: it was so quiet and then we heard the unmistakable thundering sound of icebergs calving off in the distance. It was such a loud sound even from the huge distance away that we are that it must be positively deafening up close.
Back down near the beach we see remains of Thule winter houses. The Thule people are the predecessors of the current Inuit people. In summer they lived in tents but for the colder winters they dug oval shaped pits (or more like caves – the ones we see have collapsed) with small rock-lined entrance holes. There are also piles of stones around that were used to mark meat stores.
On the beach we meet up with Gill and the other Contemplatives. Laurie (the expedition leader) gives us the option to go swimming if we want before heading back to the boat. A couple of hardy souls were mad enough to take up the challenge but even though the day had warmed up considerably (it was perhaps even double digits we decided that keeping fully clothed was a much better idea.
Then it was back to the ship to sort ourselves out again before another sumptuous meal in the dining room. Even though we have done some exercise we are going to be as big as ships ourselves by the end of the week if we keep eating like this!
After lunch we have free time and I choose to go up to the Panorama lounge to write up these notes while gazing in amazement at the scenery passing by; and even racing outside into the bracing wind to take some photos. We are now heading even further up the fjord to one of the least visited places on the planet: Flyvefjord. The wind has picked up a bit but the crew will be keeping a lookout for a more sheltered area for us to go out on our zodiacs again this afternoon – not to go to shore but to scout around in the zodiacs. Even though it was warm this morning when we were walking we will need to make sure we have multiple layers on for a long spell out on the water.
When we passed the Flyvefjord branch of the fjord our captain decided that it didn’t have enough ice to be interesting so we would continue further up the Nordvestfjord. It turns out that our captain is an intrepid explorer himself and loves to push the boundaries. We are in the largest national park in the world and in uncharted waters. The Ocean Nova (our boat and our captain) is the only ship to have ventured this far.
We have a chance to explore this area more ourselves in the Zodiacs this afternoon. The deepest fjord in the world is in places 1400m deep and the steep sides can tower another 3000m out of the water so the scale is breath-taking. All the icebergs in this area come from the Dauggard Jensen Glacier at the end of the fjord and we can see some that look like they have recently fallen off the end of the glacier and others that have seen a lot of weathering.
The size and shape of the icebergs are fascinating and as they are constantly changing, we are the only ones who will ever see them looking like this. The icebergs flip over so sometimes you are seeing parts that have been underwater, or the seams where ice has melted and refrozen, or weathered edges that are now at different angles. We see arches that look different at every turn, huge cracks, large ice seams passing through the middle, some that look like the texture of golf balls …
Marla is a wonderful guide and takes us through the bergy bits (yes that is a real term) and to see the most spectacular icebergs from many angles with the sun streaming down on them. The colours and reflections are simply awesome. There are not many seabirds in this area but we do get to see some flying above us and perched on some of the icebergs.
The zodiacs are great for this sort of exploration because they can just go straight over the top of the ice bits (they feel strange at first as they bump underneath us. We again hear the crack and boom of the icebergs cracking and calving.
We are having so much fun (and the weather conditions are so amazing) that we stay out for a long time and get back just in time for the evening briefing. We have captain’s welcome cocktails before dinner, meeting our intrepid captain for the first time.
Then we have yet another amazing dinner and then listen to a seminar by Lauritz on 10 things you didn’t know about Greenland. It is a brilliantly clear night and we are hopeful of seeing the northern lights tonight. Several keen photographers are staying up to watch. Ute promises to knock on our door if it shows so we head to bed.
About 11.30 the knock comes and we pull on all our warm gear and race up to the top deck and are not disappointed. It is so bright that we can see it easily with the naked eye and it is dancing all over the sky. We hear that often you can only see a haze and it is not until you see it through the camera (those that are capable anyway) that you can see the green colours. It was so bright that I even managed to capture a small bit of it on my iPhone (my camera had jammed so I couldn’t try that out – thankfully it came right in the morning). I am very grateful to Mike for sharing his photos with me.
We were grateful to Ute because after we came up on deck, the general announcement was made but once others had come up the best of it was over. It did continue on for another hour or so after we came back down but not as good as we had seen.
I went to bed very happy that I had seen the Northern Lights (and we have only just started the trip).
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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