Heading home

Airport farewells, including to Stephan, who was exhausted after all the engine troubles. It took a total of five flights to get home. 

Postscript: Adventure Canada offered us 85% off on one of their arctic cruises next summer—on a nice new ship. And we’re looking forward to it.

Final night in Greenland

At a community center, we enjoyed a final night of music by Tom Kovitz and friends, and hand drumming by Becky. I tried on one of Becky’s Inuit dresses. It was a lot of fun. We’ve gotten to know a lot of these people, and we were sorry to leave so soon.

Back to Kangerlusuaq (Sunday, July 26)

We woke as usual to Stefan’s voice on the intercom: “Good morning, good morning, good morning!” There would be an update after breakfast and a staff meeting in the library right now. The news was what we’d feared: the engines could not be fixed any time soon, and the cruise would be aborted A plane would  be shuttling us all back to Kangerlusiaq, to await a charter flight to Ottawa. There’s not much to do in Kangerlusiaq, but they’d work on some activities. The loudmouths started demanding answers about compensation, lawyers, and whether the owners had been honest with us. The rest of us figured we’d make the best of it. And the owner promised they’d make us whole. His son, also named Matthew Swan, had flown in the day before to work on all this.

So we packed our bags, disappointed that we wouldn’t get to see polar bears, narwhals and walruses. Steve and I walked to town in search of Greenlandic art. We bought a caribou antler carving of spirit faces. Photographed the church with an iceberg behind it. Returned for a nap and one last lunch on the ship: freshly caught halibut, melt-in-the-mouth delicious. We enjoyed more conversation with Ken and Janet Campbell (above).

We were slated for the first flight out. Arriving in Kangerlussuaq, we checked into the very long, spartan airport hotel, amazed that the company had managed to secure 50 hotel rooms in such a tiny town on a day’s notice. This place used to be a U.S Army barracks. 

After a nap, we took a walk on a gravel road over an ice melt river on a warm, breezy day. We found a picnic table with a pretty view.

Evening in Ilulissat

After dinner, we gathered in the forward lounge for an update on the engine problems. After a day of work by the ship’s engineer and the local machine shop, the engines had not been repaired to the captain’s satisfaction. The plan was to continue working on them all night. If it wasn’t fixable by morning, Adventure Canada would abort the cruise and send us home. We were definitely not going to venture across the open ocean toward Canada without two good engines.

These meetings involved a lot of questions and concerns Most of the passengers were understanding and supportive, but a few were aggressive and obnoxious in their outcry against Adventure Canada. I found that annoying. In these situations, you learn what people are made of.

We were in Disko Bay, and there was to be a disco party on board. Steve and I skipped in in factor of a walk to the UNESCO World Heritage site overlooking the mouth of the ice fjord. We walked with another family with two grown sons, plus some of the young adult staff, setting off at 11:30 PM as the big orange sun colored the sky and sank into the ocean.

It was delightful to walk and talk with these energetic, good humored young people, through town, past local children playing soccer at midnight, yards full of sled dogs and over a board walk until great icebergs loomed before us on the bay. Those who’d been here in the morning couldn’t believe how much the ice had moved. We climbed over rocks to a grand visit, with fishing boats down below showing how huge were the bergs.

Steve and I walked back with Andrew, the archeologist, who showed us a site where paleo-Eskimo people lived. It was 1:00 AM as we walked back  through town, still light and hopping with young Greenlanders dressed up for a night out. 

Ilulissat, Greenland, by Zodiac  (July 25, 2014)

(High time to finish this travel blog. Too much else to do at home) 

After the helicopter ride over the Ilulissat ice fjord, it was our turn for a zodiac ride. Suiting up quickly, we boarded a zodiac driven by Tom, the irrepressible singer. We zoomed out toward the bigger bergs under a clear sky with mist on the water at the base of the towering bergs. We turned back at a radio all from Ree, the naturalist, saying that water was coming into the back of her boat. Soon she was flied by two boats so her passengers could transfer to them. Fortunately, we both had room. Her husband, John, offered to ease that Zodiac back to the ship.

It was immensely cool to move among those enormous icebergs, glistening in he sun, with glowing mist at their base. They were maybe 30 feet high, with fulmars (ocean-going birds) perched on top. In one boat, people saw a big chunk calve off.

Ilulissat Icebergs by Zodiac

As we headed out in Zodiacs, mist hovered over the water at the foot of these icebergs, 30 feet high (and nine times that under the water).  Sun glistened on the ice. It was stunningly beautiful.

Scenes from Ilulissat, Greenland, with Danish-influenced architecture.  Huge icebergs routinely pass by just offshore. 

The harbor is choked with small boats. About 85 percent of the population owns a boat. There are no roads between villages, so few people own cars.

More scenes from our helicopter ride over the Ilulissat ice fjord, meltwater waterfalls, and the town of Ilulissat

Ilulissat Ice Fjord

These are scenes from a helicopter ride over the ice fjord of Ilussiat, source of many of the icebergs in the North Atlantic. The glacier has melted back eight miles in the past 20 years. The face of the glacier is about 100 feet high—you really can’t see the scale of it. 

Assaqulaq

This is Assaqulaq, an abandoned fishing village in western Greenland. It has a lovely rock harbor that would provide protection for boats. Some of the houses have been maintained as summer homes and a venue for summer camps for Greenlandic youth. 

That’s the flag of Greenland, which is not a country but a home-rule territory of Denmark. Greenland is vast—especially compared to Denmark— but fewer than 60,000 people live here. About 15 percent are Danes, and the rest Greenlandic, an Inuit people. 

The E8 painted in huge letters on a roof was a navigation aid for American pilots in WWII trying to find the airport in Kangerlussuaq. In another town they’d find E7, then E6. Greenlanders are rather proud of this heritage and they repaint the signs.

It was rather buggy there while Steve and I were clambering around with others, taking photos. The one time I donned a bug net on this excursion.