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.”