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Published: October 1st 2015
Dryas at Botanikerbugt
One of my favourite arctic plants is the mountain dryas
“Swans of weird shape pecked at our planks, a gondola steered by a giraffe ran foul of us, which amused a duck sitting on a crocodile’s head... All the strange, fantastic shapes rose and fell in stately cadence with a rustling, whispering sound and hollow echoes to the seas.” Frank Worsley, Captain of ‘Endurance’ - describing icebergs
Anywhere in Greenland is 'out of the way', however, on this voyage we got to some very rarely visited places even more out of the way - even by Greenlandic standards! About a hundred and fifty miles from the open ocean, the mighty Daugard-Jensen Glacier spills stadium-sized icebergs into the vanishing depths of Nordvestfjord, a twisty finger of sea, that ends abruptly at Ingmikortilaq (the land that looks like an island). Getting to this part of Scoresby Sund is a challenge that few captains would take on! Captain Oleg was not fazed by the tangle of ten thousand bergs that floated in the narrow waterways - he got the ship to this relatively unknown region. The scenes left us amazed and awestruck, yet we felt so small and hopeless in amongst the half-billion-ton monsters that we glided past. Floating cities in an uncharted sea - everything about this area was remarkable!
The only settlement in this massive fjord system is the small village of Ittoqqortoormiit which has about 400 inhabitants (if everyone's there for breakfast). Needless to say, Ittoqqortoormiit is a sleepy little place. The locals seem to enjoy life in one of the worlds most isolated communities,
and they have held on to their hunter-gatherer ways. It is a starkly beautiful place surrounded by bleak hillsides and snow capped peaks. It has perpetual light all summer long then slumps into constant darkness for a couple of months in the winter. Most of the year it is below freezing and snowbanks linger in town year-round. There's one store, a gift shop, a small museum and an art shop, and fun locals. They do not get many visitors, so the locals are generally quite pleased when small expedition ships anchor off shore and shuttle folk to town. I enjoyed the place - basking in the cool air trying to conceptualize the reality of living in such a remote location. I chatted with Amaruq (which means 'Wolf'), he said that hunting and fishing are the only ways his community can survive, and the sea ice provides them with a highway to hunt. Indeed there was a lot of evidence of hunting with polar bear hides, musk ox coats and seal fur hanging all over town.
“The whole of the eastern coast is mountainous and picturesque and though it is shone upon by a four month’s sun every year, its snowy covering is never wholly dissolved nor are its icy monuments of the dominion frost every removed” William Scoresby, An Account of the Arctic Regions (1820)
Kalallit Nunaat, or Greenland as it is more commonly called, is a truly epic destination, the scale of which is hard to
Autumnal colours at Harefjord
appreciate! To be immersed in such giant chunks of ancient ice and towering mountains is mesmerizing. It's a beautiful place.
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