August 9, 2012

Leg 4: from Ilulissat to Pond Inlet, the NW Passage has begun!


Ice blocking the entrance to IlulissatIlulissat has a very small harbour and lots of fishing boats in all sizes. Moored Greenlandic: an old badly worn rope tied to a mooring that is already in use by 6 other boats. Put some big chunks of glacier ice in the mix and the chaos is complete. Turns the wind or tide and all has to find a new order in the chaos. A 20 tons piece of glacier ice loses balance and starts to turn over ever so slowly. With a force that accepts no resistance, wood splinters to pieces, a stay breaks under the pressure and the aft mast of a fishing vessels breaks and falls in the water on the other side. Nobody pays any notice…..

Just too much to take in

Upernavik fjordCountless icebergs on our way out of IlulissatFrom Ilulissat we motor through Vaigat Strait. With 4 new crewmembers we slalom between all the huge icebergs with of course lots of smaller ones in between. Just south of Ilulissat the most productive glacier of Greenland spits out iceberg after iceberg. All has to go over a 200 meter deep bar. The ones that run aground get pushed over the bar by the mass behind it. We go slow at first how else can we take this all in?

Church or Polar Bear trap

Anchored of the Bear TrapA well fed polar bear. Beautiful white coatOur first anchorage is at the tip of the peninsula. The Vikings came here for their summer hunt in the 1300’s and erected a small chapel here. Later it was in use as a Polar Bear trap by the Greenlanders. Enough reason for the Norwegians on board, Eirik and Hanne to explain us what a great sailors the Vikings were in their time.


How do we get to the Glacier?

gaining info from localsWe get into a small place called Prøven. We could not get a detailed chart of the fjords here but we heard that yachts used Angmarqua sound to get to the Upernavik glacier. We could not find any info or soundings so we need to find a fisherman who can tell us more. He sketches a route and some possible anchorages for us. Once in Upernavikfjord, about 5 nm from the glacier front we get into 5/10 ice cover. Lots of it are small chunks of glacier ice, frozen together. It easily splits under Jonathan’s bow. But also plenty of lager and harder bits of glacier that we need to avoid. We measure the iceberg in front of us with the sextant: 78 meters  high!!!

Once again

Jonathan in light ice conditions in Upernavik fjordThe tablet decides to pack up once again. So we go on by sight following the track drawn by the fisherman from Prøven.  Barny is a software engineer and designer. He does not really understands what went wrong but he manages to get it all working again and we can see on the screen again how we pass the intricate track between the islands.


Nova Zembla Island

Icebergs, mountains and the low light of the midnight sun .........Upernavik is our last port in Greenland before heading across Baffin Bay to Baffin Island.  370nm as the crow flies, quite sizeable for a bay. At the Canadian side there is an Island called Nova Zembla. No clue how it got it’s name or is this our navigation software playing up again? Guess it is named after the Nova Zembla in the North- East Passage.  A pleasant breeze just keeps us moving along at 5 -6 knots under sail. Yes Jonathan is in there!!! We can cross Baffin Bay in a straight line since the pack ice has melted early this season. Closer to Baffin and Bylot Island we might have some. Now we have some larger icebergs at first but halfway we hardly see any. By the time we get to Nova Zembla Island we get icebergs again but we can spot them only on radar. We do not see much of Nova Zembla anything above 100 m is covered in low cloud.

Sounds nice??

So we move on to Pond Inlet. The “hamlet” Pond Inlet is on the southern shore of Eclipse sound. It all sounds quite idyllic: an Inuit village at a sound with a name like that. But not now since we arrive with a strong wind with the current flowing out. It makes the open anchorage more than lively. Cups slide of the table and Barny has to put up his lee cloth to stay in his bunk. Ah well, we are in Nunavut, the Arctic part of Canada!!!


Barny getting the flags ready for Canada

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Georgina Bedford said...
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