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Iceland & Greenland Adventures - Part I

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

What a beautiful day we've had so far. The sky is blue; we're surrounded by snow peaked mountains; and lots of icebergs are floating nearby.

At 6AM, Kim woke us up with an announcement of a zodiac cruise before breakfast. We had 45 minutes to get prepared. We were in a protected area called Rødeø, and there were huge icebergs everywhere. Nina and I were both tired - up till 2:00 - back up at 6:00 - but what the heck. Can't miss a viewing opportunity. I didn't wear my protective rain pants - hey it's sunny out, but had on my coat and a turtleneck. We hopped in the zodiac with Morten as our driver along with Ernst, Frank and the Icelandic couple.

The icebergs were enormous and many were so blue. The shapes were varied and spectacular. We saw an iceberg arch and wanted to cruise through it. Now we know - very bad idea. We were heading toward one large iceberg, and all of a sudden the backside calved into the water. Bummer! I wished we were on the other side to capture photos. Uh oh! Now the part we were facing calved into the water. How amazing! I tried to get photos, but my camera doesn't click fast enough. All of a sudden a tsunami-like wave started rolling toward us bringing the debris from the calving. Cool! I tried snapping more photos. Suddenly the tsunami wave caused yet another iceberg to calve and sent a flying piece of ice at our boat along with water. Unfortunately it smacked right into my back and knocked me across the zodiac. Ouch! It was rather painful and was a fairly large chunk of ice - at least 2 feet in length. Nina tossed the ice back into the sea. I asked, "Did anyone get a picture?" No. Bummer. They were all worried about me. Lucky it hit me in the back instead of the head. I might have been seriously injured. How many people can say they were attacked by an iceberg? My back is still sore - probably just a bruise.

We continued cruising, but now we were all apprehensive when we heard the rumbling sound of a calving. We all know how sudden and dangerous they are. We saw a blue iceberg with a little waterfall and many more interesting shapes. Up on the mountain, the Iceman saw muskoxen. We all whipped out the binoculars to take a look. Okay - I saw two or three brownish specks moving along.

Got back to the Explorer around 8:30 or so - just in time for breakfast. Then we had an hour and a half to rest before we made a landing at Angervik. After resting we headed out for the long hike - about 2½ hours. The terrain here was spectacular. It was so warm outside, we were all removing layers. There were tons of different wildflowers growing. It was so beautiful. Little creeks flowed down the mountain, and there were green mosses. Just lovely. I wore my hiking boots instead of my wellies this time. We had a fantastic hike - with Morten and his rifle in front and Heidi bringing up the rear (accompanied by me quite often). We had to keep stopping to take wildflower photos. The flowers are only there for a short time - from June to mid-July or so. This was great and colorful stuff. We walked to a little cliff-like drop with the glacial creek racing to the ocean down below. The mountains were majestic. It's all I could do to stop myself from bursting into song, "The hills are alive...with the sound of music..."

We got back to the ship around 1:15 - just in time for lunch. This time we earned it. Scooby and Kim sat with us, and we had enjoyable conversations. Our boat, the Explorer, will take on a group of 70+ teenagers at the end of July for a 14-day cruise - Kids at Sea. These are primarily 14-18 year olds from the U.S. and Canada. What a great opportunity for them. Lucky they have generous parents! Scooby looks a bit like Popeye the sailor, and was quite interesting. He's originally from Manchester, England, but has lived in Tasmania since 1980. He worked for the Australian Arctic Survey group. Scooby hopes to buy 2½ acres on the east coast area and build a whale museum in a warehouse-like building. Sounds like a great plan. We asked him about travel tips in Tasmania. It sounds like a fabulous country. I must visit. 40% of the area is set aside as national park land. They've got wallabies, kangaroos and other unusual animals. He said that nearly 90% of the west's Tasmanian devil population has died from some disease. Hopefully they'll figure out what it is and stop it from attacking those on the east side.

Now we have a few hours before we land at Hekla Havn on Denmark Island for another hike. This will be our 5th outing already. In Antarctica, we were only able to do 5 outings (zodiac cruises and landings) the whole time we were there. We've still got nearly a week, so we'll be doing lots more (hopefully).

Better rest before those warm cookies are served at teatime. Today (at Nina's request) the chef is making chocolate chip - yum!

-- later --

Yeah! We made our last landing of the day at 8:45PM. We visited Hekla Havn. They had hoped we could do it earlier in the day, but the ice dictates what and when you do things.

I made it to the lounge in time for the chocolate chip cookies. Great stuff. We hung out for awhile and learned we'd be doing the landing later, so I grabbed a nap. I was awakened by Kim's announcement that the recap and briefing would take place at 6:30. There Morten talked about the muskox (since we saw them way far away). Kim told us that our plans for the cruise have been changed. We won't have time to make it all the way to Amassalik. There is a 40 mile ice pack we'd have to work our way through. Instead we'll stay further north and eventually make our way to some uninhabited areas of Iceland on the way back (assuming we have time to do so). If we have problems getting through the ice, then we won't. Tomorrow Helena, Scoresby, Emil and Enu will give a little talk on the history of the area and in particular Ittoqqortoormiit (pronounced eat-o-kor-two-me). Depending on the ice conditions, we will arrive some time tomorrow at their settlement. They have a post office and other small businesses. Should be cool. Tonight we were also told we could swim in the Arctic if desired. No way baby! Nina plans to do it. Then we were off to dinner for yet another great meal. Clea (Jacky's daughter) and the proper English couple - Michael and Jane - also joined us. The English couple is such a kick and very nice. Michael is about 85 and has some difficulty walking, but they are also bow people and are always out there with us admiring the view.

Right after dinner, we had to change into our landing clothes and get off the ship. Nina and I were late and had to catch up to the long walkers. We asked Sabeana if that meant Nina could still go swimming, and she assured us it was okay. Roger was leading the group with Jacky bringing up the rear. The site was beautiful and full of rock mountains/hills. It was a LOT of work climbing up those dang hills. The rocks were large, so it wasn't like yesterday where we scrambled over little boulders. The elevation gain just seemed to continue and continue. Huff, puff. Nina and Jacky were kind enough to offer a helping hand so I wouldn't slip. We were heading up yet another rock mountain, and almost at the top when I began hyperventilating and couldn't catch my breath. I tried breathing through my gloves, but was wheezing away. Nina made me sit down and got me to breathe in my nose and out of my mouth until I got it under control. How embarrassing. This happened to me one other time in Machu Picchu. I guess I was trying to keep up with the group and didn't rest enough to catch my breath (plus I wasn't carrying any water).

Jacky came down to us and kicked us off to the medium walk group who were down below us. We actually should have been with them in the first place because these were the swimmers. Nina planned to swim, and I had to get photos. We caught up with the mediums and made our way down the mountain. There was a huge amount of mosquitoes swarming each of us during the entire hike. I had to keep swatting them away and try to breathe with my teeth clenched so I didn't inhale a bunch of snacks.

Yeah we made it to the shore. The swimmers all took their clothes off (except bathing suits of course). The skeeters were enjoying all that exposed flesh. About a dozen people jumped into the Arctic including Nina and Clea (the only girls) and the chef, doctor, Brad, Frank, Patrick, Steve, Ernst and more. Yeow - that looked too cold to me! I got lots of photos, but I was not tempted to get in.

Got back to the ship around 11:00 and then hung out in the lounge till 1:20. Frank was working away at his photos and slideshow. He said that GAP is going to offer a CD of the slideshow and selected photos for a small donation - maybe $20. Yeah! I hope well be able to get it before we get off the ship.

Now it's bed time. Hopefully I can sleep late-ish & maybe 7:30 or 8:00?

July 7, 2005 Thursday ; 5:30 p.m. The Explorer - Day 7; Vacation - Day 9 Attempt at Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland

"When I stand up and look out over the valley I can feel the tremendous depth of time: myself at this 100 year old campsite, before a valley scoured by glacial ice and which the modern Eskimo say is and has been a sacred precinct. The muskoxen graze out there as if I was of no more importance than a stone. The skulls of their ancestors lie in the sun at my feet and cool winds come down the slope and ride up over my bare hand." -- Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams

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