Sunday, 31 May 2009
It is children's day in Sisimiut, so you see many Greenlanders in the streets wearing their traditional clothes, lending a lot of color to this rather grey day. On a very instructive excursion to an abandoned fishermans village named Assaqutaq we learn that at least part of todays happiness is due to the fact that the children are simply still alive. Not long ago the harsh living conditions up here in the north took its toll among children and adults alike. Straight from the people who do know: this is how we learn more about Greenland, the Danish colonization, dogs, religious conflicts and cultural clashes than from any book. The afternoon brings us to the ruins of Ancient Sisimiut, where people from the Thule-Culture lived and hunted since the 16th century. Before we leave for Disko Bay qajaq-champion Jacob shows us how a master can handle his needle-thin boat, an impressive demonstration in ice-cold water.
Photograph(s) by: Polly; D. Sigurdson
The Danish name for Nuuk is Gondthåb - good hope. Whoever had hoped for sunny weather did so in vain, but at least the rain stopped before we went to pier. We can really feel now that we are going North, the snow reaching down straight to the sea level.
After all these remote places, the capital of Greenland is certainly different: There are busses and roundabouts and traffic lights, people with shopping bags and cigarette butts in the streets. Well - a city is a city. But then again, there are book stores and classical music presentations and good shops and nice Bistros and Brasseries and, and, and... Again - a city is a city. So everybody had the chance to go out on a stroll, get souvenirs or take a boat ride to Nuuk Fjord.
Now we are heading on for Sisimiut over night. And if nature wants to welcome us back we see a number of humpback whales pretty close to the ship.
Those who follow our trip on the map will notice a dashed line in our way - the Polar Circle. We will cross it around six in the morning. So from tomorrow on we are really Polar Travellers...
Photograph(s) by: Oma Heide; Harald Thee
Saturday, 30 May 2009
There are three places in Greenland that are good for spotting Musk Oxen, one of them being Ivituut, the "Grassy Land". There is certainly one spot that is perfect for being chased by Musk Oxen, and this is behind the Ivittuut Mineral Museum... No kidding, we had the Oxen right in the backyard of the building, forcing us to a couple of interesting evasive maneuvers. Finally, the hairy creatures felt somewhat outnumbered and took off. So we could focus on the morbid beauty of the ghost town that once hosted the world's largest mine for Cryolithe. This snow-white mineral was once essential for the effective production of Aluminum. Needless to say that the importance culminated towards the end of WW II. Well, the rush is over, and all that remains is a 250 feet deep hole, a scenic conglomerate of abandoned houses and an excellent museum with an outstanding collection. So we spent the best part of our day in Ivittuut - in sunlight, of course. Now it's time to go fast and far over night to Nuuk!
Photograph(s) by: Jochen and Judy Schorler; Lisa Chen Mandell
Friday, 29 May 2009
We must have done something right - the sun literally wakes us up in the Narsaq Sound, where - for a change - we can go to pier. Now we split into groups again: Those who like a good hike are brought into the wide valley, at the end of which sits a very famous mountain, the Kvanefell. It is the world's only source of the beautiful gemstone Tugtupite. Of course everybody wants to find a piece of it, but this remains only a hope, since the outcrops are well hidden to the untrained eye. A lovely morning nonetheless.
Other activities take us to Narsaq Point, permitting splendid views into the bay, or to the long-ago crumbled ruins of an old Norsen settlement. Greenlandic handicraft and knitwear can be found at the school, where we are invited to a bazaar-like event with music and barbecued ox. Without having seen clouds for a whole day we sail out towards the open sea to make our way towards Ivittuut.
Wednesday, 27 May 2009
Morning mist covers the Fjord as we drop anchor at Qassiarsuk, the famous Viking settlement where Erik the Red resided in the year 1000. As soon as the tender deck is open the two excursion boats go alongside to pick the passengers up for the ride to the Qooroq icefjord, which sheds huge amounts of ice into the area. After only a couple of minutes we have to nudge our way through the drift ice, constantly seeking out a path through the frozen maze.
Finally, we have to stop and turn around: The Glacier has pushed all the floes together, building a nicely consolidated carpet of ice. But it was a faszinating boat ride nonetheless.
Back in Qassiarsuk, Polar Cirkel Boats are waiting to bring us ahore (after lunch, of course), where everybody can choose between a historical settlement walk with lots of information on the Viking Era, or a scenic hike into the unbelievably pittoresque neighbouring Fjord under immaculate blue skies. Whatever the choice may be - at dinner time everybody comes to the conclusion: What-a-day!
Tuesday, 26 May 2009
On a chilly morning everybody goes ashore with a full set of options: The Museum does not only show a nice selection of Inuit handicraft (real qajaqs, real anoraqs) but also the "red room" and the "blue room", where famous people like Charles E. Lindbergh and Knud Rasmussen stayed. The "Stone and Man" project was founded in 1993, when Greenlands most famous artist, Aka Høegh, assembled 18 sculpturers from many countries to carve their impressions into the surrounding rocks. The guided walk takes you nearly through the whole village, which is literally full of artwork. Those with a rather culinary approach to the Greenlandic culture could try their courage on whale steak and seal blubber, but also various typical fish dishes. Speaking of seal: The afternoon offered a tour through Great Greenlands tannery, where around 120.000 sealskins are treated annually. After an eventful day we leave the pier for Quassiarsuk.
This morning reminds us why we call it Expedition: The pack ice belt is wider than expected, so we have to go around it, shifting the days schedule, fitting in a few more lectures and enjoy the cruise alongside the ice until we reach the entrance of the Igaliko Fjord. Under a clear blue sky we pass beautiful icebergs, accompanied by proud seal hunters in their small boats, displaying the dead seals like a trophy.
Igaliku itself has only 30 permanent inhabitants. Still, it is a place worth a walking tour, last not least for the sake of the Norsen ruins and the memorial of Erik the Red and Einar who came here more than 1000 years ago to found ancient Gar∂ar. The day ends with a hike to a nearby ridge which offers spectacular views in two Fjords during sunset.
Monday, 25 May 2009
There is a linear correlation between sea conditions and the number of free seats in a lecture hall. Since the weather has improved today, the audience has increased considerably, listening to talks on Modern Greenland, Fridjof Nansen, Seals, Ice and Polar Bears. However, there are also many interesting ways of doing nothing on a ship: You can while away in the observation lounge, scanning the endless horizon, play a game of cards with a view in the Bistro, stand on deck and watch the Fulmars soar around the vessel, or take your time chatting at the dinner table. Quite many were to be seen in the Gym, compensating the excellent Buffet. In the evening we pass Cape Farvell in a distance. Tomorrow morning we will be in Greenland!
Photograph(s) by: Christine Michaelis
Sunday, 24 May 2009
The weather picks up a little on the Denmark Strait, and we all start to develop our sea legs. Although there is no land in sight, we have a full day of lectures from morning to dinner time, covering a huge variety of topics from seals, Greenlands politics, birds, History, the Inuit, Geology and - very useful - Digital Photography. Those who prefer to have their nose in the wind enjoy the fresh gale on deck and the beautiful clouds. In the evening everybody catches a glimpse behind the scene, as our Chef and the Hotel Manager volunteer to be guests in a little "talk show" in the Observation Lounge. Now everybody gets to sleep in anticipation of the first sighting of ice tomorrow!
Photograph(s) by: Hans Jürgen Dogs
Saturday, 23 May 2009
"Snæfellsnäs" stands for "Peninsula of the Snow Mountain". It is nearly the westernmost promontory of Iceland, featuring a very, very famous volcano: The Snæfellsjökull, which served as the gateway to Earth's centre in Jules Verne's novel "Journey to the Interior of the Earth". Although this never proved to be true the ragged, vast and stunningly beautiful coastline does reveal a relationship of the mystical and the real world in the Icelander's mind. There are Half Giants at the beach, Elve real estates and Haunted mountain passes. But you don't need fairy tales here to be enchanted - nature alone does all the trick!
Photograph(s) by: Engelsland Thingvold and Harald Thee
Thursday, 21 May 2009
Under a sunny sky MV Fram goes to Pier at "Midbakki", right in the heart of Reykjavik. While we're awake and busy with the preparations for the new passengers, the city seems to sleep. No wonder, it's a public holiday and that means party the night before.
Who ever has time to spend around Reykjavik shouldn't miss a leisure afternoon at the Blue Lagoon, half an hour outside the city. Hot thermal water fill turqoise-colored natural basins, and the silica-rich, snow-white mud is a real treat for your skin. Impossible not to relax there!
As soon as the passengers are all set up and happy, we will leave port and head for beautiful Grundafjördur.
Wednesday, 20 May 2009
The last day of our cruise was spent on the little archipelago "Vestmanneyar" in the south of Iceland. Those islands are very important for the icelandic fishing-industry with about a third of their fleet stationed here, thanks to a very sheltered harbour. The area became world wide known in 1963, when a volcano eruption in the sea created a new island which was soon called Surtsey. Ten years later a volcano erupted on the main island and buried about 400 houses. Today Heimaey attract visitors intrested in bird-watching, as they state to be inhabited by about 5.000 people but 4.000.000 puffins.
About 100 of our guests followed our expedition through the lava-wastes, and 60 managed to climb to the 220 meters high peak of one of the worlds youngest volcanos, the Eldfell. In the afternoon we offered a polar-circle-boat ride along the birdcliffs.
Leaving for Reykjavik in the evening, we closly passed Surtsey. The island is now 45 years old, and we could see green plants covering some parts of it. It is an restricted area, as scientist try to observe, how life settles down on such a new, but waste ground.
Monday, 18 May 2009
On our northern course we now reached this danish outpost in the atlantic. everything was very different from what we saw on the scottish isles during the last days. Those towns looked british in every way, but now we had small, nice wooden houses, with grassroofs and a very scandinavian or icelandic athmosphere. As the Faroe Islands were called for "sheep islands" we really saw a lot of them. Some excursions took us to remote little settlements on smaller islands, and we experienced the unique landscape with steep cliffs and spectacular waterfalls. In the evening the Fram went island-cruising and we had wonderful views to the mountains, islands and villages. Great weather.
Sunday, 17 May 2009
Our second day on the Shetlands was reserved for some excursions. But the weather had changed during the night, it was still windy but also cloudy with some rain once in a while. Some of us went to interesting bird-colonies to watch the puffins building their nesting-places, whilst the most had a sightseeing-tour through southern Mainland, where we visited the famous archeological site Jarlshof. We could walk through ruins from stone-age houses, piktish brochs and viking settlements. And of course everybody loved those ponies ...
Saturday, 16 May 2009
On our wat from Orkney to Shetland it was our plan to make a polar-circle-boat landing on Fair Isle for to look at some puffin-colonies and the islanders knitwear. Unfortunatly we had strong easterly winds up to Beaufort 9, so that it was impossible to use our tenders. So we just surrounded the island and continued towards our next destination.
Now we had the possibility to explore the Shetlands capital city during the afternoon, for our arrival was original planned for the evening. Visitors were not always welcome!
The visit to this remote island is for sure one of the highlights of this trip. The clouds from early morning passed over the hours, so we got an nice view of the islands. There were several excursions to join, whisky-friends visited the Highland-Park destillery while most people went to the world-famous stone-age village of Skara Brae which was really a sight to see. It is absolute unique to have this authentic view into kitchen, living- and bedroom of the orkney-people 5000 years ago.
In the afternoon we tried a landing on the opposite side of the fjord, but the wind was to strong to use the polar-circle-boats, and so we returned to Kirkwall and everybody had a good chance to walk through the town and visit the St.-Magnus-Cathedral or some other nice buildings, as the Earls palace from 1600.
Friday, 15 May 2009
Once again a sunny day in Scotland, and that is something nobody really had expected so early in the year. The most went on a whole-day-excursion along the valley of the river Dee, which led us away from the shore deep into the legendary Highlands. On our way we visited Balmoral, the summer-residence of the royal family and also had a very interesting stop at one of the many scotish whisky-destilleries. Of course we could try one and also buy shiploads of bottles of this very tasty souvenir! Better keep it ...
Wednesday, 13 May 2009
A whole day for the capital of Scotland. We are greeted by a lovely bagpiper in front of the vessel, bright sunshine and some strong wind. All set out to explore the very interesting town, and in fact, one day or a half is just not long enough. A guided bustrip shows you some of the highlights by driving through the town, but there is no time on the schedule to walk through the streets, enter a cafe or visit some of the museums or art-gallerys. But anyway, a stop was made for a visit of the world-famous castle on top of a hill in the very heart of town.
In the evening we had a special champagne-evening onboard the now permanently moored former royal yacht "Britannia". Even the captain and some officers joined us and were curious to look at this ship, wich was longer than our FRAM, but just built to serve one family ...
Tuesday, 12 May 2009
We are directly heading for Edinburgh, and that means one full seaday between Germany and Scotland. Of course we use our time to inform the guests with our lectures about our destination. And besides Klaus Kiesewetter as naturalist we have some experts with us: Jürgen Worlitz for the royals and Bernie McGee for special whisky-tastings.
And the Expeditionleader is busy as usual and always in his office!
Monday, 11 May 2009
Saturday, 9 May 2009
We have guests for one of the shortest FRAM-cruises ever: We depart in Hamburg at 23:30 during the harbour-birthday-celebrations and enter once again the channel to the Baltic sea in the morning to disembark our passengers at 15.00 the next day in Kiel. It is a quiet voyage through the Schleswig-Holstein countryside, with bright yellow fields of rape and fresh green trees on the hillsides along our route.
Friday, 8 May 2009
Thursday, 7 May 2009
The last port on our great baltic cruise. And a town, very much known for its great history in hanseatic times, known for its countless church-ruins, known for its well preserved city-wall, and known for its many roses in summer - but we are to early for that. But anyway, it was a very nice town, small enough to explore it by foot. It was still good weather, but a cold wind was blowing. The streets offered hundreds of great motives, as we explored on our photo-expedition with the ships photographer and some guests. Also this - as yesterday - a place to return to.
Streets of Visby
Wednesday, 6 May 2009
This town was an stunning experience! Really beautyful! And it reminded us much more to scandinavian towns than to russian ones, as we had expected. It is all well preserved in the old town, they have nice shops and restaurants, it is all referring very much to the middle ages and the hanseatic history. We got an good overview of the town, but most guests had the feeling, that they could easily spend some more days here.
Tuesday, 5 May 2009
As this town is for sure one of the highlights of this cruise, we stayed two full days here. Today most people went on excursions through the city, looking at the battleship aurora, famous cathedrals or visiting the large gallery of the ermitage with great collections of european art. It was very warm today, just sunshine and T-shirt-weather. This days gave us some good insight in russian live of today. It is surprising to see, how fast things can change. After they had been forgotten for 70 years, the czars are now back in the minds and you can buy colourful books about them at every corner. And I still wonder what deeds they have done ...
Monday, 4 May 2009
In the early morning we passed the old fortress of Kronstadt, once protecting the naval base of St. Petersburg. At 8:30 we reached the mouth of the Newa-river and went to our mouring in the heart of town. Great to have such a small ship! So it were just 100 meters to the famous winterpalace. But anyway, no one could leave without a very expensive visa, just for excursions it was allowed. So everybody went with the busses, most to Catherines palace, which showed the wealth of one of the richest families in the world. Compared to the average living conditions it seems no wonder that the octoberrevolution put an end to that!
Saturday, 2 May 2009
One capital follows the other: today its Helsinki. A lot of people went on excursion, but it was also great just to stroll through town, visit the Uspenski cathedral, look at the great old buildings, or visit the Ateneum art museum with a very interesting exhibition about the Kalevala, the finish national poem.
Empty streets on sunday ...