by Guest Blogger

August 2, 2005

Greetings from Narsaq on the west coast of Greenland.

Yesterday at 3:30 a.m. the ship entered Prince Christian Sound, the eastern

entrance to a maze of fjords that zig zag through the southern tip of

Greenland and join the east and west coasts.

The other option for

getting to the west coast was via open water around the tip of Cape

Farewell. Much like Cape Horn and Tierra del Fuego, Cape Farewell is the

confluence of three or four currents and some other nautical nastiness

that I know nothing about, the bottom line being the conditions are

really bad on a good day and utterly horrendous on a bad day.


to say I’m glad Arne (captain) opted for the inside passage route which

proved to be quite an excellent adventure, especially given it was

Sunday and most of us had the luxury to gawk at the surroundings.

At any rate, we entered the sound when it was still dark. Now that we

are below the Arctic Circle and are getting on into August it gets dark

for a few hours every night (you would think this is a welcome

occurrence but to me it just signals that the short Arctic summer is

coming to a close).

The wind topped 30 knots as Peter and Texas

maneuvered the ship into the entrance of the Sound. The ship heeled a

few degrees to port because of the wind and that’s no small feat since

the ship weighs SOMETHING LIKE 900 tons. It was a full-on squall with

sideways rain which can be lovely if you’re tucked inside a strong,

capable ship, warming your hands over a heater as you look out the

window at the snotty weather.

I couldn’t help thinking about the

explorers who first entered the fjord 1100 years ago. They had no

charts, no idea of where the route would take them, no radar or depth

finder to show where the icebergs or rocks were located. Crazy stuff,

especially in the harsh weather we were encountering. It’s certainly

inhospitable here and I tend to forget that when I look out at the world

from the comfort and safety of this ship.

As the sun rose it became easier to see the dramatic cliffs on either

side of the fjord. Huge waterfalls spilled from the cliffs, often the

wind was so strong that it blew the raging streams back up, turning them

from “waterfalls” into “waterups.” Likewise, from a distance we saw a

big tabular iceberg in the channel with what looked like four water

spouts jetting out of its top. We couldn’t figure out what was going on,

but as we came alongside the berg we figured it out: channels of rain

and melt water running down the sides of the berg were being blown back

up by the wind, which at this point was gusting to 50 knots. Nick

snapped plenty of pictures so hopefully you’ll get a peak at what I’m

trying to describe.

The entire fjord system was spectacular, lined by jagged

peaks draped with glaciers and waterfalls. The water in the fjord was a

gorgeous turquoise blue-green, and later in the morning the rain

stopped, making it a lot easier to spend longer chunks of time outside.

At one point we circumnavigated an island in the fjord system, which

added another beautiful hour or so to the transit.

Later in the morning I huddled with some other folks on a small deck

below the bridge where the life rafts and survival suits are stored.

It’s a great place to hang out because you’re outside yet shielded from

the wind (unless it’s coming from the bow) and have a perfect vantage

point for taking in the scenery. I feel like such a halfwit because it’s

taken me years to figure out that this “sweet spot” exists on the ship. Duh.

After six hours we got to the end of the fjord system and were on the

west coast of Greenland. Lots of big bergs in striking shapes were

floating around, the sky turned dark and the wind starting whipping up

again, painting a very surreal picture. The sun poked through the dark

sky here and there, casting a shiny veneer on the icebergs, some blue

and some white, making them look even more stark against the black sky.

We reached Narsaq last night at 9:30 and I was already in bed when the

anchor dropped. The early bedtime had nothing to do with waking up at

3:30 a.m. and everything to do with a major food coma brought on after

dinner. Hughie had the bright idea of melting Mars bars (like a Milky

Way bar in the U.S.) and pouring the resulting warm goo over ice cream.

I’m not usually a big ice cream person, in fact, in the world of

nutritionally devoid foods, I prefer salty bad things to sweet bad

things any day of the week. But something happened last night and I

gobbled down three bowls, which was lovely, but the after effects were

anything but. Hughie also had three bowls full, but I guess that’s more

routine for him coming from Scotland where they deep-fry their Mars bars

before eating them. Even so, as he waddled off to his cabin to sleep it

off, he muttered, “I feel like a python that’s swallowed a donkey.”

– Melanie

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