August 4, 2012

Leg 3: Nuuk to Ilullisat

From Nuuk to Ilullisat is around 500 nm so not any great distance and we plan to go into some of the fjords to see the great glaciers where all the iceberg are born. This trip is more to enjoy the scenery, hiking etc. Visit some villages on the way.  If you want to take great photos of icebergs and be impressed by enormous glacier fronts then this will be the trip for you.

The strong westerly slowly dies out, the sky clears and we are left with flapping sails and hardly any progress. Just the current setting us westward according to the GPS. The latest Gribfiles give no hope for any wind so we start the engine again. At times ice, at times fog, but never any wind to speak of. In the north we can see the sharp peaks of southern Greenland. We would love to go in there and explore the fjord but nor the ice nor the schedule give any room for that.

In Paamiut we more along side “Best Explorer” They motored all the way from Reykjavik and thus arrived a day before us. We do some jobs on board and when Ashleigh goes for a long walk, I have time to talk to Georgina, our cook. She does not seem to grab the essence of the trip ahead. She still serves wonderfull Caribean style lunches and wanted to leave Reykjavik without any bread on board. When leaving Greenland in a few weeks we need to be stored to reach Dutch Harbor Alaska without any resupplies. With 6 cold and hungry crewmembers that needs some serious planning.

In the middle of the “night” we approach Fiskenæset, a small town deep into the fjords. There are a few anchorages in the charts but they are all useless since the bottom drops of steeply. We find a spot on a short dock. One of the locals is very interested and comes on board for a coffee. Noël - whether it is his real name we do not know, but it is one we can remember - tells us more about the 300 inhabitants. He worked on the international airport for years but returned to his hometown. In the old peoples home he has a quiet job. But not too many elderly here or? Many people do not like to live in the big city, Nuuk (10.000 inhabitants), and choose for a more quiet place without the big town issues, where alcohol is major problem.

My initial amazement on Georgina’s planning turns into irritation. When approaching Nuuk there still is no sign of a worked out stores list. This is the last place to stock up before Dutch Harbor. For a crew member for the North West Passage she still has a lot to learn, it is too late for that. Sorry but this is where it ends for her.

In thick fog , yes again, we find an anchorage 5 miles into the fjord. There are so many fjords and islands that many have the same name. They simply could not think of any more appropriate names, And for the Greenlanders it is no problems for they know which fjord or island is discussed. For a visitor it can be confusing to find 5 Maniitsoqs in the index of the pilot book. Apart from that C-map uses Greenlandic and Danish place names. So if you zoom in too much names change, to add to the confusion the western longtitude of the detail charts are often way off. So our track crosses 500 meter high mountains or we anchor in the middle of town. Then off course the radar helps out. But with thick fog the bigger icebergs give the same echo as all those islands. So with thick fog lots of coffee and stay sharp!!! For Greenlanders fog is no reason to slow down so they speed through the fjords at 20 knots just the same.

Together with Ashleigh things are easy and in Ilulissat another 4 crewmembers will join. That there is no airport means a save anchorage for Ashleigh. In a town you never know… Thera ars some shelters here though. On the island Basisø, in the middle of Disko Bay, we find the remains of 11 turf houses. The village was abandoned 55 years ago. North of the island is iceberg alley: an enormous succession of huge icebergs that are pushed out of Jakobshavn Isfjord. A day later we take 12 hours for the 22 nm to Ilulissat. In balmy conditions we spend hours between these giants. It is hard to believe that they are formed by centuries of snowfall. Slowly all of the Greenland icecap is floating into the sea...

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