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Iceland & Greenland Adventures - Part I

Author: Linda V. (More Trip Reviews by Linda V.)
Date of Trip: July 2005



We listened to a lecture in the morning by Morten, "North Atlantic Pinnepeds." The Arctic doesn't have fur seals or sea lions - these are the seals with ears. Instead, the Arctic has harp seals, bearded seals, ringed seals, and a bunch of others with holes for ears. Walruses also live here. Morten isn't very encouraging about the possibility of seeing walruses. The seals are a favorite food of polar bears and Inuits.

We ate and ate and ate all day long, hanging out in the lounge and running out to the bow to crunch through the ice, look at seals and birds. We saw quite a few little auks also known as dovekies. These are tiny birds and very common this time of year.

At 3PM we went to a short video documentary on Scoresbysund and the Ittoqqortoormiit village (pronounced ee-ta-kor-two-me). This means "those who live in big houses". There is a population of 500 (with 180 children). They live in cute colorful houses, but it looks like a rough life. These are Inuit people, and the area is rich with polar bears, muskoxen and seals. Helena Dejak (owner of Nonni Travel in Iceland) presented the video. She helped produce it in 1995 to help the villagers market tourism to their area. She made a comment that they were so lucky that the white people came there to help them. (She didn't mean this in an insulting manner.) We got to watch a dog sledding trip on the video - too cool!

We enjoyed yummy warm peanut butter cookies at tea time. Great stuff. We visited with Margaret from Toronto. She had trouble getting to Iceland - stuck in the Boston airport overnight. I had to complain that our flight got in early AND we got upgraded. She and her husband, Brad, were also on our Antarctica trip.

Suddenly around 5PM, Kim announced that there was a polar bear swimming on the port side of the ship. We all ran outside - even left my coat and gloves behind. He was a little far away, but I had my binoculars and was able to see him pedaling through the water. Kim said he was distressed, so we would not follow him. He would climb out onto an ice flow and then slip back in the water. He was very large. From way far away you could see him lumber across the ice. Yeah! We saw one.

We had a briefing at 7PM and heard from Kim and the naturalists. We are being very flexible with our schedule. Our captain is continuing to push through the ice and hopefully we'll be able to zodiac around tomorrow. It will be neat to visit Ittoqqortoormiit. Now I'm just hanging in the lounge, reading, writing, and looking at photos as Renee downloads them...

July 4, 2005 Monday; 2:55 p.m. The Explorer - Day 4; Vacation - Day 6 Entering Scoresbysund, Greenland

"Give me dogs, give me winter and you can keep the rest." -- Knud Rassmussen, the famous half Greenlandic half Danish explorer

We've had quite an interesting day. I went to bed around 1:15AM. At 3:45AM, Kim came over the intercom announcing that there were 3 polar bears on an ice floe with a kill. You didn't have to tell me twice! Nina and I hopped into shoes and jackets and stumbled up on deck. Oooh - it was c-c-cold. I had on my flowered pajama bottoms with a fleece, jacket, and my Russian hat. Unfortunately, I only brought my glove liners, so my hands got cold. I was the only goober wearing flowered jammies also! I was afraid to miss the bears and didn't want to change into real pants.

When we first arrived on deck the bears were pretty far away, but you could see their heads once in awhile popping up (as I looked through the binoculars). The boat was making her way through sheets of ice, just pushing forward.

Nina and I dashed up to the top of the boat for better views. Eventually the bears moved into clear view, and the boat got pretty close. Sometimes, the bears would pause and look at the ship and stand up. They dragged their kill around. This was a mama polar bear with a boy and girl cub - around 2½ years old. She ushered the bears off to the right and they began walking on the ice floes, their reflections in the water below. It was incredible. I only wish my digital camera had a better zoom. My binoculars certainly came in handy. I could see their black tongues as they ate scraps of the kill. There were two bloody kill sites. Poor little seal. Not much left of him - just a flipper and some insides. The cubs went back to the kill and started flinging it around in their mouths - back and forth across the ice. After about an hour, they started retreating, so Nina and I headed back to the room to continue sleeping. It took me the longest time to warm up enough to fall asleep. Before I knew it, an announcement came over the intercom saying it was 9AM and breakfast would be served till 9:30. Well I certainly couldn't miss a meal, so we got up there in time to grab a plate.

At 10AM, we had a lecture from Morten on polar bears. They are also known as ice bears, white bears, and Nannuq. It was interesting. The babies are tiny, tiny when they are born in December or January. Mama keeps them in the den until spring time nursing them. Depending on which part of the world the bears live in, the mama will care for the bears until they are 2 to 4 years old. Here in East Greenland, she'll kick them out at about 2½. The bears we saw this morning will get the boot pretty soon.

Went out on deck to see the ice. The captain has tried numerous routes trying to get us to Scoresbysund. We spent hours plowing through so much ice. Darlene and I were outside the bridge laughing and talking and observing our progress when the mean captain pulled the door closed. Oops. I went to the other outdoor area near the bridge. There were about 4 of us out there. As we got to a nice open area of the sea, I commented to Roger (the ornithologist), "Full steam ahead!" Then the nice captain, Paul, closed the other door to the bridge with a glare. Oops again. Guess I should take a hint and stay away from the bridge. Went back inside where it was nice and toasty.

Before we knew it, it was time to eat again. Our captain had to turn the boat around and try a new entrance to the Sound. Fortunately, after another hour or two we made it to Scoresbysund. Spent more time at the bow of the boat admiring the icebergs and stuff. It was cool to lean way over the side of the ship as we slammed into pieces of ice. Sometimes they would push out of the way; other times they would split apart and move out of our way.

As we moved through the sound you can see large-ish mountains covered in snow. We passed Ittoqqoortoomit. I was hoping to see those colorful houses, but we were kind of far away, and all I could see were a few brown looking houses on grey snow. Bummer! We will be stopping to pick up a few Inuit people to join us for a few days. That should be interesting. Uh oh...I'm getting tired. We will be doing a landing soon. It will be great to get out and walk ON Greenland.

-- later -- 11:45 p.m.

I haven't missed teatime yet - 4PM everyday - with yummy warm cookies. I'm partial to the peanut butter and the shortcake cookies. Do you think 3 cookies adds a lot of calories? Oh well...

At 4:45PM we were ready for our first zodiac adventure. Nina, Darlene, Mary Jane and I hopped into the first zodiac with Morten as our driver. The water was like glass - so smooth. The mountains, icebergs and ice floes all reflected into the water - it was so beautiful. I think 4 zodiacs went out with passengers. We cruised between the ice and found two little awks and trailed them. I took a ton of pictures of everything - hopefully some will be great. You could see where the red paint had rubbed off the bottom of the ship. Slamming into all of those ice floes tends to help you lose a lot of paint. Frank, the photographer, was in our zodiac and took a ton of photos for GAP. He's supposed to create the GAP Arctic brochure.



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