Monday, July 22, 2013

Friday July 19th, 2013 – Ilulissat, Greenland

I last left off heading towards the town of Ilulissat on the west coast of Greenland. My return to this community was not without a bit of trepidation. On my last visit, we were treated with an SOI hike of epic proportions – long, exhausting and well, exhausting. But I digress…

In the morning, we awoke to massive icebergs floating past, indicating that we were nearing the famous Jacobshavn Glacier and its massive iceberg field. So naturally, it meant a chance to go out and play in amongst the ice. This is another one of my favourite SOI activities – hopping into zodiacs and just cruising around with no particular destination.

The cruise was, as always, impressive. Massive (and not-so-massive) slabs of ice serenely slid past us as we cautiously weaved our way along, being careful not to get to close. At any moment, one of these icebergs could calve off and create a huge wave throughout the area, not to mention many tons of loose ice. Every so often, a loud crack would resonate across the water as the incredible stresses on these icebergs became audibly evident.

But despite all our patience, not much action was to be had, and so we headed back to the ship to continue our voyage to Ilulissat.

As I said, the highlight of any visit to Ilulissat is a hike to view the massive Jacobshavn iceberg field. Last year, we did indeed view that iceberg field in all its glory by walking a somewhat strenuous 30 minutes or so to get to it… but then finished the hike with yet another hour-long of even more strenuous walking. In the end, even the students in way better shape than me were dragging themselves in.

So this time around, I made a promise to myself I wouldn't strain the limits of my physical abilities, which was still hurting from the ropes course of a few days earlier. Yet of course, I didn't want to miss out on the chance to see the Jacobshavn ice field. I've become quite intrigued with glaciers, icebergs and the like since joining SOI, and I was definitely torn with the thought of not going.

But SOI is known for its great “karma”, and sure enough, it came into play with this year’s Ilulissat visit. As I was about to disembark the ship, our expedition leader Geoff Green, asked me to head straight to a local Museum to check in with them and ensure all our groups were OK there. Naturally, as a Museum nerd, I was alright with that. So while the rest of the group headed off on the dreaded hike, I sauntered off through a town in Greenland to see the Museum.

However, once I settled everything at the Museum, I realized I had nothing to do and more than three hours to go until we had to be back on board the ship. And while strolling the streets of this beautiful Arctic town sounded like a nice idea, the call of the ice was beckoning me. And then I realized – hey… there’s no one else with me. I can walk at my OWN pace.

And off I went, using my memories of last year to guide me through town towards the site of the United Nations designated World Heritage Site. And when I arrived, I eyed the path we took last year with great trepidation. But hark! What is this path just off to the left? It’s fairly flat! And it’s a boardwalk!!

With a spring in my step, off I went to find me some ice. It was still a long walk, and there was a bit of a climb at the end. But before long, I had joined the majority of the group at the edge of the Jacobshavn ice field. And what a sight. Kilometers and kilometers of shiny white ice. It looked so thick, you could have walked across it.

After a few pictures and videos, off I trekked again, taking my time to get back to the ship. As I did, I passed a large collection of sled dogs (I’m assuming some form of husky) relaxing in the warm Arctic sun. Off in the distance, I could hear a few of them starting howling. Within a few seconds, a few more started. And then a few more. Before I knew it, I realized that the howling was getting closer. Then the dogs laying next me started braying to the sky. As they did, the ones in the distance stopped. I have it all on video, but it doesn't compare to being there. It’s like the dogs were taking roll call and checking on each other’s health and well-being. An impressive moment.

Once we got the family back on board, off we went again. Our next destination is the town of Uummarraq, which by coincidence is celebrating its 250th anniversary on Saturday. I don’t know what we’re doing, but we are spending the whole day there, so it should a “typical” SOI day…

1 comment:

  1. Glad to hear you got to see the glaciers in the end, and at your pace. The husky event sounds terrible bone chilling to me, but maybe that is just a childhood fear of howling dogs. Thanks for all the updates and keep them coming.