Back on board ship, we dressed up for the Captain’s dinner. Our German captain, resplendent in his dress uniform, told about the ship, originally an Russian survey ship retrofitted for expedition cruises.

We ate dinner with John Houston and his wife, Ree Brennan, who’s a marine mammalogist. John’s father was drawn to the north, settled in Cape Dorset in arctic Canada, and introduced the rest of the world to Inuit art. John is a film maker who’s made numerous films about Inuit life. It was a stimulating evening.

We topped off the day with eclectic music by Tom Kovacs, who had made a point of learning the names of all 110 passengers in only two days and introduced each of us by name to the captain. And Steve photographed the sunset. When it’s a month after mid summer, the sun does set here for a couple of hours, but it never really gets dark.

Steve had fun photographing lush cotton grass by little ponds. We climbed rocky slopes for stunning views of snow streaked mountains above the fjord where our ship lay anchored. The ground was mossy, with willow, white cotton grass, pink river beauty and purple harebells. It was sunny, so warm I zipped off to shorts. Arctic Adventures?

July 24, afternoon

Late afternoon, we went ashore for a hike in a green valley. This involved waiting our turn for an transfer by zodiac, while swapping tales with Ken and Janet Campbell from Toronto, who share our idea of what’s fun. Once we were ashore, we pulled off the life jacket, changed from rubber boots to hiking boots, and set off to see what we could see.

First Full Day on the Sea Adventurer (Thursday, July 24)

All night, the Sea Adventurer steamed down the Kangerlussuaq Fjord. Here are some photos of the scenery. Early in the morning, we  turned north along the western coast of Greenland.

We learned after breakfast that our expedition had two problems. First, one engine was inoperable, so repairs would be needed at one of the villages along our route, before we leave Greenland. Second, there was fast ice blocking two northern ports we’d planned to visit, including our final port of Resolute Bay. The ship would have to go somewhere else, likely along Baffin Island to Ilusiat. The fast ice has to do with too much melting further north, which sends huge ice floes south, where they jam into the ports.

We enjoyed some interesting programs by staff members, usual with photos on three screens in the forward lounge. These included photography (ended abruptly when someone spotted humpback whales), marine mammals, and Inuit traditions. 

Aboard the Sea Adventurer

Busses took us to black Zodiaks, which we boarded for a short ride out to our ship. We found our room on the lowest deck and settled in. Two bunks, a porthole, a desk, twin wardrobes with drawers, a tiny bathroom with shower, a TV screen in case we wanted to see the daily schedule or watch one of the talks from the comfort of our beds. We could have gotten larger quarters by spending thousands of dollars more, but why would we do that? Our last trip we lived in a tent.

We all gathered in the forward lounge for coffee and sandwiches and ever-present cookies, before Matthew Swan introduced the staff and we learned about logistics from Stefan, who speaks with a heavy Swedish accent.

Steve said he’d seen the dinner menu and we could choose between hamburgers, spaghetti and flatbread. Sounded fine to me—first nights on the raft trips tend to be simple. Instead, in the nicely appointed dining room, we had onion soup, salad Nicoise, stuffed cabbage or cod caught from the ship that day, chocolate mousse.

After dinner, we explored the ship. There’s a little library with travel books, fiction, games and two computers we never used. The forward lounge for updates and programs, plus an intimate little bar. Three levels in front for observation, and three in back with tables and lounging furniture. And the bridge, where guests are welcome.

We slept well, rocked by the ship as it headed down the long fjord. (Note the mountain with a snow patch in the shape of a Canadian maple leaf.)

Kangerlussuaq

From a high point, we could see the fjord, with our ship, the Sea Adventurer, moored in it. In the other direction, we could catch a glimpse of the interior ice cap. And far below, through binoculars, we could see one solitary musk ox.

Kangerlussuaq

The airport at Kangerlussuaq stands at the end of the longest fjord in Greenland, surrounded by low barren mountains. It was built by the USA during World War II. All international flights arrive here, then people take ferries or smaller planes or helicopters to get to other towns and villages that dot the 18,000-mile coast of Greenland.

Boarding busses, we got a brief tour of the area. From a bridge we saw torrents of meltwater from the interior ice.

Arriving in Greenland   (Wednesday, July 24)

Up at 4:30 AM, we stumbled around to get dressed and pull our bags over to the airport. Checked in, found a Starbucks, and did our final e-mail checks for ten days (or so we thought.) Incongruously, the name of the charter airline flying us from Toronto to Greenland was Air Florida.

Four hours later, we were flying over the coast of Greenland. From the air, it looks just like the map we’ve been studying. This is the largest island in the world, now a home-rule province of Denmark though the population of 30,000 is 85% Inuit. The interior, 95% of the land, is a vast sheet of ice three miles thick, so heavy that it’s compressed the land down below sea level. The ragged brown edges are mountains and fjords. Ice, rock, water, with enough grass in places around the edges to support some herds of musk oxen and reindeer. And it was pretty cool to get off the plane in Kangerlussiat and think how we were actually in Greenland.

The name, by the way, was a ploy by Eric the Red and his son, Leif Erickson, who’d been banished from Iceland in 1000 AD for “some killings.” They sailed west and found this land of rocks and ice that they named Greenland in hopes of luring others to settle there with them. The ploy worked. Thirteen ships full of Vikings arrived to colonize the place. Their descendants survived here for 300 years, attempting European-style agriculture, before succumbing to a cooling climate. 

Tags: greenland

Scenes from Toronto

Toronto

Arriving in Toronto, we checked into the airport Radisson. On Tuesday, we caught a cab downtown and went through the well done Museum of Inuit Art. Took a tour boat with views of the Toronto skyline to the islands that lie just offshore in Lake Ontario. We walked around on a very hot and humid day, about 88 degrees. Had tasty sandwiches and sweet potato fries at the Carousel Cafe, walked on the beach, waded in the lake, thought about how soon we’d be in icy Greenland.

At the pre-trip meeting, we heard from Matthew Swan, owner of Adventure Canada, and Stefan Kindberg, expedition leader. There were over 100 passengers milling around, and 20 staff members in black golf shirts. Far more of both than we’re used to. Many questions on logistics for the next day, which would start very early.