Ittoqqortoormiit and Denmark Strait


It’s quite a mouthful, isn’t it? But that is the name of the small village we are scheduled to visit on our last day in Greenland. Before that there is another outing on the cards, in Hurry Inlet, but all that goes by the wayside during the night. As John reminds us, this is expedition cruising, and sometimes, things don’t work out to plan.

Early in the morning I wake up from a thumping noise. At first I think it is the anchor, but then I realise it is actually ice. Given I haven’t been very good at getting up early for photographs and how I’m awake anyway, I figure I might as well get dressed and head up to the panorama deck with my camera to see what it looks like outside.

Ice pack sunrise

Outside it is stunning. There is barely a soul around at this early morning hour, but the light is spectacular. With the sun rising it casts a golden glow over one side of Scoresby Sund, while gently illuminating the mountains on the other side of the fjord system. So there is plenty of photography to be enjoyed, while the ship moves slowly through the ice pack.

As John later explains, the ship hit pack ice at 2am in the morning. As it was dark, the decision was made to stop the ship until first light when an assessment could be made. That assessment at 4.30am was not overly positive. Captain Oleg judged it could take up to three days to work through the pack ice. Access into Scoresby Sund, only opened a few days ago, appeared to have closed up again. At first light the ship started probing her way along the ice pack to find a way through, which were the sounds that woke me up. It turned out that the ice prop was thick on both sides, but thinner in the middle, like an hour glass, and eventually the ship managed to find its way through.

By then, the Hurry Inlet excursion was off the program and attempts were made to see if we could visit the village of Ittoqqortoormiit in the morning instead of in the afternoon as per the original plan. As we moor off the village, the communications continue and we patiently wait until we get word that disembarkation will start at 10am. We are also to bring our passports if we want a Greenland stamp in it. We learn that we are only the second ship to make it to the village this season. The sea ice has kept more ships from visiting so far and our trip is really the end of the season here.

Polar bear skin drying

The village is a collection of colourful houses dotted over the hills. When we land we get handed a map and a list of place that can be visited. I start off at the weather station, to see the release of the weather balloon at 11am. From there I descend into the village and buy some postcards in the local supermarket. A somewhat different selection of products, and I am particularly amused to see the rifles and bullets for sale in a small aisle in the back, next to the female hygiene products.

Preparation of the weather balloon

I move through the village, visiting various art and souvenir places. I am very taken by a beautiful pair of seal skin mitts, lined with Arctic hare fur. They are the perfect fit and wonderfully warm, but I could never bring them into Australia and in Brazil one really does not have any need for such mitts. Reluctantly I put them back on the shelf.

My meanderings finish with a group of Greenland dogs, one of which has a litter of eight puppies. They are all asleep on top of each other, occasionally waking to snuggle closer against one of their siblings and promptly falling asleep again. It is now close to “last zodiac time” so I have to head down to the harbour to catch one of the last zodiacs returning to the ship.

Greenland puppies

After lunch we sail along the outer edge of the ice (to avoid getting caught again) to see if we can spot polar bears. But it soon starts to rain and there isn’t a polar bear in sight. After a few hours captain Oleg decides to to point the ship towards Iceland. There is weather coming in behind us and we are advised that we will be in for a rough ride tonight and tomorrow as we cross the Denmark Strait.

The rough ride is no exaggeration. With Phenergan on hand I knock myself out again as soon as I can after a half-eaten dinner. But even with the meds I can feel how the ship rolls endlessly during the night and at times it feels as if I am standing up in bed and the next moment on my head.

In the morning it is still rough, but the intensity is diminishing from the Beaufort 9 it was and I manage to have a shower and breakfast before heading up to the panorama lounge.

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