Greenland, Helicopter Ride to the Glaciers, 16 August 2012


Finally – it was the day for the much anticipated helicopter ride to a glacier!  Some light cloud came in early in the morning which could have dampened the enjoyment somewhat, or even caused the cancellation of the flight.  Thankfully the cloud lifted mid-morning leaving us with another crystal-clear Greenland day.  The flight to the glacier was brilliant.  Toby said that our group was his first for the season that had been able to do everything on their itinerary without substantial changes due to the weather closing in.  Lucky us!  I was rugged up and ready to fly!

Yours truly – Tasiilaq in the background     (P1010355 © DY of jtdytravels)


How could one not enjoy this!      (P1010370 © DY of jtdytravels)


A mass of Crevasses criss-crossing glaciers      ( P1010369 © DY of jtdytravels)


One of the views from our landing spot     (P1010373 © DY of jtdytravels)

We landed on a gravelly knoll in the middle of a large ice cap which gave a great panorama of a number of glaciers and we looked down on the fjord we had travelled by boat on the 15th.

Float ice making its way down ‘our’ fjord    (P1010371 © DY of jtdytravels)


Our 1980 built Bell 212 Helicopter    (P1010374 © DY of jtdytravels)


On top of the world! (P1010385 © DY of jtdytravels)

Here I was, seemingly on top of the world, literally and figuratively. I was in ‘seventh heaven’! It was warm with not a skerrick of a breeze.  Just another perfect day in the natural paradise of Greenland.  We had 40 minutes to wander around and take in the breathtaking views before the return flight.

Stunning views    (P1010403 © DY of jtdytravels)

And as usual, I looked down as well as out and found some small plants surviving even up here on the ‘top of the world’.

Such tiny beauties! [Silene acaulis] (P1010377 © DY of jtdytravels)


Even the dried flowers of Silene are attractive  [Silene acaulis]  (P1010391 © DY of jtdytravels )


Tough conditions, tough plant!  (P1010402 © DY of jtdytravels)


Lichen and Birch (P1010395 © DY of jtdytravels)

Much too soon for me, it was time to get on board for the flight back. There’s never enough time to explore.

Pilots get ready to take off again    (P1010405  © DY of jtdytravels)


After takeoff – closer view of a glacier    (P1010408 © DY of jtdytravels)


Surface of a glacier    (P1010409 © DY of jtdytravels)

Skimming over a glacier’s surface, the world was suddenly all in black and white and greys – not a colour to be seen.

Back up to the sweeping big picture    (P1010411 © DY of jtdytravels)


An impressive last view    (P1010412 © DY of jtdytravels)


Out across the Fiords again    (P1010414 © DY of jtdytravels)

It was amazing to look down from on high onto the ice flows.  I looked down from the helicopter at small chunks of ice which, I knew from experience, were really large icebergs (some six stories high) when seen up close in a small boat.

Over the hills, back towards Tasiilaq  (P1010416 © DY of jtdytravels)

And so back to Tasiilaq and the end of another magical Greenland experience… I hope I have been able to give you a glimpse of just how spectacular it was.

Preparing to leave Greenland    (P1010423  © DY of jtdytravels)

In fact this was our last Greenland experience.  We had lunch at the hotel, picked up our gear and then had to wait for the helicopter to finish an emergency evacuation job.  Then it was free to take us to the airport for a mid afternoon flight back to Reykjavik in Iceland.  And from there, our next destination was  to be The Faroes.  More of that anon   D


Greenland, Fjord Cruise continued, 15th August 2012

It was time to continue our cruise along the fjords. We climbed back on board the boat, again having to scramble over rocks to do so.  Once on board we still had to risk life and limb as we manoeuvred along the side of the boat to the greater safety of the partially open deck at the stern of the craft.  We set off now for the real concentration of ice. So sit back, relax and enjoy the ride as I just let some of the passing scenes flow by – just as I saw them.

Reflections (P1010293 © DY of jtdytravels)


Reflections (P1010297 © DY of jtdytravels)


( P1010298 © DY of jtdytravels )


( P1010304 © DY of jtdytravels )


( P1010315 © DY of jtdytravels)

After successfully navigating the close ice flows, we had our lunch – lovely fresh white bread, a dark grainy rye bread, cheese and a couple of different meats.  Tea, coffee and soft drink washed it all down.  If there was still room, there were chocolate biscuits and a delicious marzipan infused cake to tempt us.  I gave in, just this once.  And I had seconds!

( P1010319 © DY of jtdytravels )

This translucent iceberg had done a ‘tumble turn’  and now looked like a modern abstract piece of crystal.

Ice arches! ( P1010323 © DY of jtdytravels )


Back into more open waters ( P1010337 © DY of jtdytravels )

It was marvellous being on the water in such good conditions.  For a tour based on islands, this was only the second time we had been on the water (except for the canal cruise in Copenhagen).  Islanders, everywhere, are so dependent on the water that surrounds them that I think more should be made of this on an island visiting tour.  Get out on a fishing boat or travel with the locals on an inter-island ferry and see and feel how the locals exist.  Still, this day was a magic experience and there were still more stunning views to come.

( P1010346 © DY of jtdytravels)


Yes – they are big! ( P1010347 © DY of jtdytravels )

It was most pleasant weaving in and out of drifting ice and getting up fairly close and personal with much, much larger icebergs that dwarfed us and our small boat – awe-inspiring is the word.

(P1010349 © DY of jtdytravels )


Tasiilaq – view from my room ( P1010351 © DY of jtdytravels )

I had mixed feelings when we arrived back in Tasiilaq. I didn’t want the magic to end but, although it had been such a fantastic, enjoyable day, it  had been somewhat tiring.  I was rather glad to get back to my room and THAT view – a shower, a meal and bed. And there was another thrilling day to come – a helicopter ride over and onto glaciers.    D


Greenland, Fjord Cruise 15th August 2012

I woke up in the delightful small town of Tasiilaq. Where was I? Greenland. And I was looking forward very much to the planned cruise through the icebergs along a couple of the Fjords.

For some reason, unknown even to me,  I’d had the idea that this cruise would be for just a couple of hours, at the most, in a Zodiac-type boat – shades of the same activity we had done when in the Antarctic.  But no. We were to go out again in the same cruiser that brought us to the hotel – and the cruise would last for eight hours.  One of our group decided she could not manage for so long on a boat, and so there were only the three of us plus the crew of two.

Looking back at the village of Tasiilaq   (P1010120 © DY of jtdytravels)

As we left the dock and looked back I was reminded of the colourful small houses in the north of Norway. These are all ‘flat-pack’ construction kit houses which have to brought in by boat. Similar houses, different colours.

One of the icebergs   (P1010130 © DY of jtdytravels)

On the way up the Fjord,we were entranced by the size and majesty of the icebergs.  This one estimated to be the equivalent of 6 stories high. And that was only a fraction, about a ninth,  of the iceberg that we could see – the rest, and by far the largest section, is under water.

Another iceberg, another shape!   (P1010129 © DY of jtdytravels)


Up close and personal! (P1010134 © DY of jtdytravels)

And up even closer, they were totally awesome.

Some were really weird and wonderful. (P1010136 © DY of jtdytravels)


Translucent green beneath pure white (P1010138 © DY of jtdytravels)


A very stark land/ice scape.   (P1010139 © DY of jtdytravels)

We had much further to go that day so we had to leave those icebergs with the promise of more to come.  Our next destination was totally unpronounceable – the tiny settlement of Qernertivartivit!

Houses in Qernertivartivit   (P1010273 © DY of jtdytravels)

The settlement of Qernertivartivit is a permanent home to only around 100 people. It must be a hard, hard life here – extremely hard!  We spent an hour wandering around the houses and the only small store, owned by the same company which owns the two shops in Tasiilaq.

Part of the settlement   (P1010131 © DY of jtdytravels)

The small houses were strung out a long the rocky shoreline.

Maybe another visitor, exploring the Fjord   (P1010269 © DY of jtdytravels)

We wondered if this sleek yacht belonged to someone in the village but thought maybe not – perhaps another visitor.

One of the locals (P1010274 © DY of jtdytravels)


A house with a view (P1010278 © DY of jtdytravels)

The sun’s out, the washing’s on the line but there’s still a lot of ice out there in the waters around this small island.

Fish drying (P1010290 © DY of jtdytravels)

Fish hung out to dry – maybe for a winter’s meal or two when the water is frozen over.

A sad sight! (P1010277 © DY of jtdytravels)

They say a picture tells a thousand words – there’s a story to be told about this house. I wonder what happened.

I hoped that people who owned this house hadn’t been burned or injured.  If they did, they would have had to use  the helicopter to be evacuated. There is a helipad marked out on a flat piece of ground at the far end of the village where some supplies are brought in during the winter and for emergency evacuations.

The cemetery at Qernertivartivit (P1010288 © DY of jtdytravels)

And if they had perished in the blaze, or for that matter, when any of the inhabitants dies, they have to be buried in a very rocky cemetery. The ground is so hard and rocky that it is impossible to bury a body under the ground, so rocks and sods of moss are used as a covering. When we visited the cemetery we saw the odd bone exposed.

View from the settlement   (P1010280 © DY of jtdytravels)

From this vantage point we saw across the bogs filled with cotton grass, across the ice filled waters, and look up the fjord to where all the ice was coming from.  There are a couple of glaciers here that empty into the head of the fjord.  The whole area was jam packed with bits of ice, some of the bigger ones we could hear creaking and crashing as they split apart.

An interesting low angle view   (P1010281 © DY of jtdytravels)

This ‘get-down-low’ view across the arctic cotton grass gives a different perspective to the ice flow.

From another view point on the island   (P1010282 © DY of jtdytravels)

No matter where we walked on this small island, the views were spectacular. We would have to make our way through those ice chunks when we returned to the boat to continue the cruise. That, I was looking forward to.

Ice reflections   (P1010284 © Dy of jtdytravels)

Climbing down over the rocks gave me the chance to photograph some of those reflections in the mirror still water.

Thrift  [Armeria maritima] (P1010289 © DY of jtdytravels)

Apart from the great drifts of snowy white cotton grass, there was the odd late summer plant still showing its colours like this pink sea-side Thrift.

All too soon, our hour on the island and in this small settlement was up and we made our way back to the boat for the next part of our fiord cruise – and that will be the subject of the next musings. D


Greenland, Tasiilaq, 14th August 2012

After our magic cruise amongst islands and icebergs, it was a smooth journey up the fjord to  the small settlement of Tasiilaq… our home for the next two nights.

The Court Boat in Tasiilaq Harbour ( P1010033  © DY of jtdytravels )

In the small harbour there was a largish, for this part of the world, orange-red boat.   This, we were told,was the Court Boat.  It visits once a year when anybody who has committed a crime is brought before a judge to answer for his, or her, misdemeanour(s).  There is a jail on the other side of the island in Nuuk, the capita, 900km away.  It would seem that September is the appropriate month to commit a crime as it will be 11 months before the ship calls again!  However, Tasiilaq only has a population of 1930 (in 2010) so everybody knows what everybody else is doing, therefore nobody is game to put a foot out of place.

View of Tesiilaq from my room (P1010060    © DY of jtdytravels)

We stayed in the Hotel Angmagssalik, a long low, deep blue-painted, wooden building which is stretched across one of the hills that back the all important port.  A hotel vehicle met us to take us, and our bags, up the steep hill to our lodgings.  We were given our room keys, and had time to dump our bags before there was a walking tour of the town.

The museum and old house   ( P1010045    © DY of jtdytravels)

Our first stop in Tasiilaq was up to the local museum – we only just made it as it closed within the half hour.  It’s a quaint place set up in the town’s first church.  Various artefacts, photos etc. make up the displays.

Out the front of the museum is a reconstructed semi-buried house of the kind that was in use up until around 30-40 years ago.  It is constructed of timber and has a sod roof.  This ‘display’ home is about 5-6m square and would accommodate around four families, maybe 25 individuals, in very primitive conditions.  Cooking, and the melting of snow for water, was done with whale oil, which also provided the lighting.  Each family group would have their own cooking place.  The whole family slept on a raised platform, the underneath being used for storage.  Seal skins were used for blankets.  There were sheets of newspaper stuck to the walls which was said to help with insulation.  Just how much benefit a sheet of newspaper would be in a frozen climate where the sea freezes over for around 6 months of the year beggars the imagination!  I’m afraid I enjoy our under-floor heating and other mod-cons.  Of course, now the locals here do to!  They live in well heated timber house that are brought in flat-packed from Denmark.

However, there is no sewerage system except for the ‘honey’ cart that comes around up to three times a week depending on how much you are prepared to pay and that perhaps also depends on, I guess, how big your family is!

Canon outside museum   ( P1010040  © DY of jtdytravels )

Also outside the museum are three small canon.  These still work and are fired on three occasions each year.  The first firing takes place when the first supply ship arrives after the long winter when the sea is frozen over, the second firing takes place on the National Day and the last firing for the year takes place as the last ship for the season leaves.

There are two supermarkets, both owned by the same company.  These sell everything, including rifles which were on display, albeit chained up, along side other household items.  A twelve year old is entitled to own a gun as they are such a necessary part of one’s existence in this land (there is a dead polar bear on the outskirts of town). There are no banks but there are ATM’s in the supermarkets, a hospital, school, new church and a pizza shop that was opened last year when the community brought a guy out from Sardinia to run it.  He’s since gone home, couldn’t stand the conditions (don’t blame him!), but the pizzas keep rolling out, made now by a local!  There is to all intents and purposes no employment in town.  Subsistence hunting, mainly seals, keeps the community going.  Tourism numbers are steadily growing.

Huskies in the cotton grass   ( P1010054   © DY of jtdytravels)

There are huskies everywhere, with all but the youngest chained up.  Appears that once a dog reaches six months old it must be chained up, or it is shot.  Every family needs numerous dogs as dog hauled sleighs are the usual way of getting around during the winter months.

There were a couple of covered up Skidoos.  Of course, they are pretty much useless during the summer months.  These can only be afforded by the wealthiest people in town, which includes in its ranks, the ‘honey’ cart man!

I had the horrible thought that these huskies would whine all night, but thankfully, it appears we are not near a full moon.  However last night the sun set at 20h01, with a long twilight that followed.  The blessed thing got back up at the ungodly hour of 03h04, and we are nearly 2 months passed the summer solstice.

Arctic Cottongrass [Eriophorum scheuchzeri]  (P1010051 © DY of jtdytravels)


A carpet of Harebells – what a sight. ( P1010067  © DY of jtdytravels)

A couple of the group joined me after dinner for a walk up the Valley of Flowers. And, yes, there were many flowers, especially harebells. I had never seen a carpet of harebells before . Usually we get excited when we see a small group. Here there were hundreds.

Common Harebells [ Campanula rotundifolia ] (P1010096 © DY of jtdytravels)


The small lake in late light ( P1010104 © DY of jtdytravels)

We walked for a couple of kilometres up the valley to a small lake, so still and peaceful in the evening light.

The cemetery at Tasiilaq ( P1010114 © DY of jtdytravels)

On our way we passed the town cemetery complete with plain white wooden crosses and loads of plastic flowers.  The degree of fading obviously indicated how long ago the dearly departed, departed.

???? ( P1010076  © DY of jtdytravels)

There were some nice patches of wild flowers as well.  These cheered me up somewhat even when I didn’t know what they were. Any suggestions welcome!

River Beauty [Chamerion latifolium] (P1010073 © DY of jtdytravels)

I did know this one – well named River Beauty as it is indeed a beautiful flower and I saw it growing near water. It’s other common name is Broad Leaved Willow Herb.

Alpine Lady’s Mantle [Alchemilla alpina] ( P1010072  © DY of jtdytravels)

J had asked me to look for this special northern Alchemilla with its deeply divided leaves and white leaf edges. I was pleased that I found it for her. She has a great affection for Alchemilla – this one a wild flower of northern climes.

Alpine Hawkweed [ Hieracium alpinum ] (P1010115  © DY of jtdytravels)


Common Harebells in late light (P1010116 © DY of jtdytravels)

The walk back to Tasiilaq (P1010109 © DY of jtdytravels)

After our walk, it was time to fully inspect the spartan, but adequate rooms. I removed the ‘stuffing’ from the doona cover, a process I need to go through in every hotel.  I opened the window as well, to make the room bearable. And then I explored the shower.  At first glance, the plumbing could have been a trial, but the taps to the shower turned out to be quite simple to operate and very adequate.  How nice that shower was, and sleep came quickly after a perfect day.  D



Greenland, Murder Island, 14th August 2012 pm

Now for more on our boat ride to Tasiilaq.  The boat captain had a surprise in store for us. He took us to Murder Island, a place where some guy went mad and killed around 25 people including himself.  The real story will never be known as no-one lived to tell the tale.  Gruesome and horrific, yes. But, it’s a peaceful place now with only the ghosts to enjoy the island – and there were some lovely plants to be found amongst the rocks.

Our boat at Murder Island    (P1000955 © DY of jtdytravels)


Immature fruit on a Salix sp.   (P1000960 © DY of jtdytravels)


 Not sure what this little beauty is ????  (P1000961  © DY of jtdytravels)


Blue Mountain Heath [ Phyllodoce caerulea ]  (P1000964  © DY of jtdytravels)


A golden mushroom  (P1000967  © DY of jtdytravels)


Common Harebell [ Campanula rotundifolia ] (P1000980  © DY of jtdytravels)


Mainly Betula sp. growing in a sheltered spot  (P1000983/1  © DY of jtdytravels)


Alpine Hawkweed [ Hieracium alpinum ] (P1000973 © DY of jtdytravels)


Hawkweed growing on scree with lichen (P1000971/1 © DY of jtdytravels)


Just to prove I was there!  … with fellow passenger S. on Murder Island  (P1000987 © DY of jtdytravels)


Cracks showing in huge iceberg    (P1010010    © DY of jtdytravels)


Sea lane full of huge icebergs    (P1010017  © DY of jtdytravels)


Massive ice silhouettes   (P1010018    © DY of jtdytravels)


And this is just the ‘tip of the iceberg’!   (P1010019    © DY of jtdytravels)

Because the density of pure ice is lighter than that of sea water , we see only about one-ninth of the volume of an iceberg above water… we see only ‘the tip of the iceberg’.   It has come into English meaning a problem or difficulty that is only a small bit of a larger problem.  Running into one of these would be rather a larger problem on it’s own!

They come in many shapes and sizes   (P1010021    © DY of jtdytravels)


Fishermen dwarfed by a monster of ice   (P1010031    © DY of jtdytravels)

We even came across an orca which had been harpooned earlier during the night some 30 kilometres out to sea and was  just being landed in a cove near a settlement.  Everybody was turning up for their share.  Nothing much was happening as the whale was too big to haul out of the water.  The locals would have to wait until the tide dropped and left the carcass in a position that it could be butchered.  A small slither of its skin was cut off for us to try.  It was extremely tough but with perseverance some flavour could be extracted from the sinew.  We were asked not to take photos.

I don’t have a problem with this kind of hunting.  These people have been hunting whales for food since time began, and only harvest to meet their own needs, and in their own waters.  Where I do have a problem is where whales, and the like, are harvested in a commercial way, far from home, and for so called ‘scientific’ purposes.

It was an absolutely idyllic afternoon, one of my best ever, and very reminiscent of the Lemaire Channel in the Antarctic.  In some ways it was better as this time I was in a much smaller boat (capacity perhaps 8) instead of around 300, and therefore felt very much closer to the whole experience.  Photos of the village of Tasiilaq in next musings.   D

Greenland, to Tasiilaq, 14 August 2012

This was transfer day from Iceland to Greenland.  I looked up the forecast for Tasiilaq on the Weather Channel to get an idea of what to expect on arrival in Greenland.  The forecast was not good – it was supposed to be wet and cool, 9-11℃  with a wind chill factor reducing that to 6-7 degrees. Tuesday was supposed to be a couple of degrees warmer and Wednesday yet another few degrees warmer.

Packed, breakfasted and ready to move, we drove to the local airport in Reykjavik (RKV), just a few kilometres out of town. This is not to the international one (KEF) which was some 40 minutes away.  As we lined up to check in for our flight, we found that one of our small group had left his money belt, containing not only his money but his passport as well, on the dining room table at breakfast time.  He made a hurried trip back to the hotel while the rest of us continued with our check-in.  The taxi ride failed to produce the lost passport.  His baggage had to be offloaded as did his wife’s.  We had to leave them in Reykjavik to organise a replacement passport during the next few days.  Fortunately, we are returning to Reykjavik for one night before heading to the Faroe Islands so they could be picked up then. With now just three passengers and our guide, we took off for Greenland. Our plane climbed up out of the showery, dull weather of Reykjavik through cloud that seemed to last forever.

The airline serviette   (P1000864 © DY of jtdytravels)

We we were fed a snack on the 1 hour 50 minute flight.   It was accompanied with this serviette – someone in this airline company had a sense of humour!  And then I looked below!

A blue, blue sea! (P1000855 © DY of jtdytravels)

The sky had suddenly turned blue, brilliant blue and was reflected in a brilliant blue sea dotted with islands and icebergs.

Oh what a beauty!   (P1000883 © DY of jtdytravels)

The Captain came onto the intercom and told us that the weather in Kulusuk was warm and sunny!  Were we going to the place we thought we were?  He also informed us that as the visibility was excellent and, as we were a little ahead of schedule, he would take the scenic approach to the runway.  Wow! That’s service we don’t expect with flights these days. It was a great introduction to Greenland.

Iceberg on a sea of blue.   (P1000870 © DY of jtdytravels)


Mountains all around us (P1000893 © DY of jtdytravels)

Craggy brown mountains rose around us, still holding, in places, some of last winter’s snow.

A window with a view! (P10008891 © DY of jtdytravels)


Our shadow on the land (P1000899 © DY of jtdytravels)

What a wonderful arrival, and such an unexpected one.

Our Fokker 50 airplane on arrival (P1000901 © DY of jtdytravels)

Our Fokker 50 touched down at Kulusuk, Greenland, on the dirt runway and taxied to a stop in front of the wooden terminal.

We retrieved our baggage. We should have only brought enough for our three night stay, not the lot, but this information didn’t get to us and that might have caused problems for our helicopter transfer back to the airport in a few days time. As it turned out, we were OK as we were only four passengers instead of six as booked.

We were met by our local tour operator, Thorbjørn (Toby), a young Dane who works in Greenland for the five month tourist season.  It was still only around 10h00 since we had lost two hours during the flight. So a boat transfer was on the itinerary to chew up some time and to make the transfer different from the return journey which, as already mentioned, was to be by helicopter as there is no road linking the airport to Tasiilaq.  Everything, it seems, is transported by sea or by plane.

Our boat transfer sounded great until we saw the boat.  There was nothing wrong with the boat except a skyhook or crane would have been useful.  There was no jetty with a gang plank, step, or even a ladder to help us get on board.  We found ourselves watching while our bags were lowered on the end of a rope some 5m or so over the edge of a landing.  Where was the boson’s chair?  No such thing, we had to scramble down some very chunky rocks to water level and then somehow clamber up onto the launch.  This was eventually achieved but not with much decorum.

A first view from the ground! (P1000905 © DY of jtdytravels)

This view of the nearby mountains were just a foretaste of what was to come.

Icelandic Sandpiper  [Calidris canutus]   (P1000917 © DY of jtdytravels)

There were a pair of sandpipers on some nearby rocks. Although called the Icelandic Sandpiper, these birds do not breed in Iceland.

We had a most enjoyable boat trip.  It took hours but as our hotel rooms would not have been ready at such an early hour this was no problem.  We drifted past icebergs and the most wonderful, but stark scenery.

A submarine of an iceberg! (P1000928 © DY of jtdytravels)


Stark, stunning scenery (P1000921 © DY of jtdytravels)


A remote settlement (P1000925 © DY of jtdytravels)


How good can it get?  (P1000930 © DY of jtdytravels)


Fingers of glaciers (P1000936 © DY of jtdytravels)


Faces of glaciers (P1000942 © DY of jtdytravels)


A closer view  (P1000945 © DY of jtdytravels)


Greenland – land of ice! (P1000949 © DY of jtdytravels)

More of this wonderful boat ride in the next musings!  D