Monday, 30 June 2014

HELLO UUMMANNAQ!


This morning FRAM reached Uummannaq, a remote community of 1300 people, nestled on a small island along the northwest coast of Greenland. The landmark of the island is the "heart mountain".
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
As soon as we arrived we started our tenderboat operation to bring on land those of us who wanted to talk to the locals. So we went to the museum and there was Ole the fisherman and his friend Jonas waiting for us. We learned that Ole was born and raised in Illorsuit -a small settlement north of  Uummannaq- and has been a fisherman and a hunter for his entire life. He gave us many details about his fishing and hunting skills and all the equipment he uses. We talked about the species and quotas they are allowed to fish and hunt. To summarize Oles life, one could say that he moved "from kayak to Yamaha". The church and the local museum were open for us so on the way back some made a stop there.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Many of us participated in the Polar Circle Boat cruising to Qilakitsoq, an historical settlement dating from the era of the Thule Culture. In 1978, eight mummies were found here in a cave. Scientists dated the mummies to the year 1475. We could see some ruins of the old turf houses and graves. Today the mummies are on display in the national museum in Nuuk.
In the afternoon we started our hike to "Santa's cabin", and a big group joined for a three hour walk on the foothill of the "heart mountain".



 


















In the evening we reached the little settlement of Ukkusissat. We invited on board local people for singing and dancing. Marianne and the choir where there and gave a great performance. Later we joined them in the settlement for a 'kaffemiq" and music, a wonderful way to end another day in Greenland.




Saturday June 28 2014


On our third day we reached Qeqertarsuaq – the only town on the island with the same name. Qeqertarsuaq means the big island. It’s also named as Disko – a name given by the Dutch whalers in the 1600s. The sea south of Qeqertarsuaq has always been an important place for whaling. In the 1900s foreign whalers killed too many whales – in Greenlandic waters as well in many other places in the world. The bpwhead whale and the humback whale were protected for 25 years from the beginning of the 1980s and today the number of whales have improved so much that IWC – The international Whaling Commission – has approved a small quota for sustainable hunting. Not for export but only for consumption in Greenland.

Qeqertarsuaq is a little beautiful town with less than 1,000 inhabitants. 60 km away by boat is the little settlement, Kangerluk with less than 40 inhabitants.

We did hikes to the basaltic rocks and hike to Blæsedalen – the Windy Valley - where the Red River during millions of years had formed a deep canyon in the volcanic rock.   At the waterfalls a Canadian Goose-pair with their to small goslings lived on the top of a rock column. Secure from foxes and other potential disturbances, but so near to visiting tourists, that we had a really good look at them.

The hike to the basaltic rocks followed the coast. It’s a dramatic scenery with the blue sea; majestic white icebergs, black/brown/red cliffs and green vegetation.  Not forgetting Fram’s guests turquoise jackets.

After nine hours in Qeqertarsuaq we set course for Qasigiannguit - another town in the Disko Bay.

Sunday, 29 June 2014


Sunday 29 June
Qasigiannguit is the Greenlandic name for the beautiful town we visited today. Not the easiest of Greenlandic names to pronounce, the name means “the small dotted seals”. As with many other Greenlandic names of places it refers to the kind of animals one can catch in the area. In Qasigiannguit you can catch small dotted seals J

The museum had set up a splendid program for us. They have made a unique display of how life was in the old days before the Europeans came. A reenactment of how a small family of 3 generations would look like if you met them on their summer hunting grounds. They greeted us with dried fish, seal blubber and whale meat grilled over a fire.
On the way to and from Qasigiannguit we were surrounded by icebergs in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes we call the Disco Bay the largest sculpture park in the World.

In the evening the Expedition Team and the officers had their fashion show. Everyone was having a laugh and it is a good opportunity to experience the team spirit and see some of the really nice quality clothes the shop onboard offers.
Tomorrow we are looking forward to a day by the spectacular heart shaped mountain of Uummannaq.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Friday 27 June


Last night Fram left Kangerlussuaq. Today we reached Sisimiut, some 100 km north of the polar circle. It is the second biggest town in Greenland with 5400 inhabitants. The early settlers -people from the Saqqaq culture- came to this place some 4500 years ago.

Today the main industry here is fishing. The harbor improved recently to welcome bigger ships. What is always impressive when you first come to Greenland are the dogs. Sisimiut has hundreds of them.
 
In the morning we started with our information program about the destinations and excursions along Greenland's west coast. As we will use our polar circle boats for operations, all were instructed as how to be safe during tender operations.

Later in the morning our Captain Rune Andreassen welcomed our guests and presented his crew. Our expedition leader

After lunch Fram reached Sisimiut and we started our excursions. Some of us just waited to be in Sisimiut for their lunch, and with a good reason: they booked "a taste of Greenland", which meant a Greenlandic buffet at a local hotel/restaurant. Reindeer, Muskox, sheep, halibut, shrimps and more was offered.

Many took the city tour by bus to see the highlights of Sisimiut.

Others decided to explore the town on their own which gave them the opportunity to visit the local museum, which offers a very good display of artifacts.

By 19.30 we were all back on board, when a local kayaker came along and showed us his many skills.

The day was not over and after dinner our musician Michael entertained with Greenlandic songs in the observation lounge.

Thursday 26 June


Thursday 26 June
A long day of travelling came to an end when we arrived at the lush and green airport of Kangerlussuaq. Kangerlussuaq means the big and long fiord in Greenlandic. The fiord is some 170 kilometers so the coastline is quite far away, making the area around Kangerlussuaq sheltered and warm.

Fram was picturesquely waiting for us down by the fiord 17 kilometers away from the airport. The PolarCirkle boats which we will be using for coming ashore for most of our journey took us on a 5 minute drive to Fram. The boats go pretty fast, but are really sturdy so we will be looking forward to go ashore in them to the days coming.
After having check-in at the ship reception we did the mandatory drill though it was late and most of us had been travelling nearly all day. Safety goes before anything!

So finally at 00.20 we could all bunk up go to bed and be rested for the journey ahead of us.


 

 

 


 

 

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Oqaasut

Last night we stayed at anchor just outside of the small Ilulissat harbour.  It is always a nice change to be at anchor overnight.  It is really peaceful and quiet.  Before our departure at 09:00 there was time for several people to take advantage of the last helicopter excursion to the Ice Fjord.
Once we heaved anchor, Fram cruised by all of the giant icebergs stranded at the head of the fjord. The monolithic icebergs created a massive and impenetrable ice wall.
Our destination was the nearby settlement of Oqaatsut.  En route to Oqaatsut there was time to fit in a couple of lectures in English and in German which were followed by a pre-landing briefing on how we were going to conduct our visit to this very pretty, small community.
At approximately 11:30 Fram dropped anchor just outside of Oqaatsut.  It was a short boat ride through a narrow channel to the protected harbour.  The pier was a floating pier that bucked, bounced and undulated with each passing wave.  Walking across the small dock was a fun experience in itself.
Once on shore local guides gave us presentations on Greenlandic dogs and Greenlandic dog sledding which is much different than Alaskan style dog sledding.  Greenlandic dogs are harnessed in a fan while the Alaskan dog sledding style has the dogs harnessed in a line of pairs. 

Another local guide gave us a presentation on whales and whaling. 

The settlement itself is rather small with only about fifty inhabitants.  Probably as a result of it’s close proximity to Ilulissat there is a small, excellent restaurant which features Greenlandic foods. There is also a small hotel.
A stiff breeze blew throughout the landing which was quite welcome as it kept the ravenous mosquitoes grounded. 
The last Polar Cirkel boat left shore at 17:00.
In the early evening Michael entertained everyone in the Observation Lounge which was followed by our always enjoyable Crew Show.


Sunday, 22 June 2014

Polar Bear lookout


Today we visited two places where some from the Expedition Team were placed in different places with guns – rather be safe than sorry.

In the morning we made it to Qullissat which is an old Coal mining town. Qullissat was founded to exploit the resourses of Disko Island. It operated for 48 years before closing in 1972.

 In its heyday almost 1200 people lived in Qullissat. Two famous Greenlanders, Kuupik Kleist who is the former Premier of Greenland and Aka Høegh who is a famous artist in Greenland were both born in Qullissat.

We had arranged a hike in the morning for those who were up for it. Unfortunately we had to cancel the hike because of strong winds. We were however lucky to find a more calm place to land with the Polar Cirkel boats. That meant that those who wanted could visit Qullissat.

A Fox and two Snow Hares were seen inside the town.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
In the evening we reached Eqip Sermia which is a Glacier located about 80 km north of Ilulissat which is the third largest town in Greenland.

Eqip Sermia is about 3.5 km wide and the wall is about 150 m high. It is one of the only Glaciers in Greenland where you can actually sail over to the wall and touch it.

Passengers were sailed into land where they could walk around and look at the beautiful Glacier. Sounds sounding like thunder came from the Glacier with short intervals.



















We also saw thousands of Capelin right by the landing site. Some of the crew caught some with fishing nets. A snack for later.

Leaving Eqip Sermia around midnight it was time for jacuzzi while enjoying the beautiful icebergs.

Takussaagut – See you… :o)

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Snow! On The First Day Of Summer!!

Happy Greenland National Day everyone!  I’ve always liked that Greenland’s National Day falls on the first day of summer.  And I’ve always felt that the first day of summer is a great reason to celebrate.  In Greenland it’s a double celebratory whammy.  National Day and the first day of summer weren’t the only two things to fall on June 21 in Upernavik.  Snow fell.  Great fluffy snowflakes spiraled down from a partially overcast sky.  At times the sun was shining while snow clouds dumped their contents here and there on Upernavik. I’m Canadian.  I grew up in a heavy snow belt area.  I spend much of my life in Polar areas but this was the first time that I’ve experienced a snow fall on the first day of summer.  It was special.  It was grand!
Speaking of grand, it was grand to see the red and white flag of Greenland flying so proudly in front of many homes.  And it was grand to see the local people dressed up in their traditional formal clothing. 

To celebrate national day there were several activities organized.  There was a sermon in the church which was followed by the choir singing.  In the community hall, coffee, tea and cake were served.  A service at the cemetery followed the church service.

Later in the day at 13:00, the choir sang and there was traditional Greenlandic dancing at the King’s Square.
Blue jackets were seen spread throughout Upernavik, from the pier, all the way up to the airport.  Everyone had plenty of time to attend the various functions and to take a stroll about town.
The last Polar Cirkel boat left shore at 15:30. 
You know… normally I would say that June 21st is the longest day of the year, but that simply isn’t true when you are above the Arctic Circle (N 66º33’).  At this latitude there are many days that are the longest day of the year!
We’ve been enjoying the longest day of the year for several days now as the further north you go, the earlier the perpetual sun arrives.  For example: the sun has not gone below the horizon in Upernavik for several days now as Upernavik is at 72º47’.  We will have at least three more of those endless days.    But now, it’s south bound that we go.  

Uummannaq 'The Heart-shaped'





 
Clouds and fog were low but the closer we came more of the beautiful Mountain we could
see. A mountain shaped as a heart – hence the name.

When we landed in the town with the Polar Circle Boats it was if the 1300 inhabitants were still sleeping or maybe they were just working and the kids probably in school. After all we arrived on a Thursday.
Different kinds of tours, excursions etc. were arranged with the locals. First passengers that arrived were to listen to a local speaking about life in Uummannaq. About 29 joined so that was a great success. Jean Louis, our French staff member, was to translate from English to German. We were joking about how funny it would be if the local guide could speak French – of course the local guide said a couple of words in French – good start on the day. It made us all smile and laugh.

Museum and Church were open – the only Church made out of rocks still being used in Greenland is located in Uummannaq. It is very beautiful and a must see if you ever get that far North.

A boat tour to the place where the famous Qilakitsoq mummies were found was also offered to Fram’s passengers. Everyone who joined seemed happy – so another success.
As everyone in Greenland knows Santa’s summer base is located just behind the town of Uummannaq. A big group of passengers joined the hike to Santa’s hut to see if he was home. Every passenger made it ‘home’ safely but unfortunately no one saw Santa.

If he couldn’t be found in his hut he must have been out with his reindeer. Therefore 18 passengers were sent out to look for him in a helicopter. The low clouds almost cancelled the tours. But away they went and again no luck. Passenger did however get to see Uummannaq, the glacier on Nuussuaq, Fram and the surrounding mountains. Everyone exited the helicopter with a big smile. There was unfortunately one fatality on the first tour – the helicopter hit a seagull on the way back to the helistop. The pilot will not be receiving any gifts this Christmas.
Again it was time to leave a town with lots of smiling and friendly faces.

Takussaagut – see you.

 

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Soaking Up The Sunshine In Greenland!

What a day! We woke up to blue skies and sun just beaming all over the place.  Already by 07:30 it was 12ºC.  The air was so clear that the sun seemed extra bright.  The colours more vibrant. It seemed that you could see forever.
These were absolutely ideal conditions for an excursion on the water in our Polar Cirkel boats.  Immense icebergs loomed aground just outside the tiny harbour of Qasigiannguit.  Nearly 100 people elected to go cruising amongst the ice giants.  It was a wonderful experience on a perfect day, never to be forgotten.
It was so sunny that unusual green reflections were being cast on some of the icebergs.  The water itself was a luminescent green at the base of the iceberg.  Depending on the angle of the sun and the ice in the water, green light sometimes reflected off the water and onto the face of the iceberg.
The reason for the green coloured water is because there is so much phytoplankton blooming right now.  We are nearing summer solstice and with 24 hours of sunshine the microscopic plant life in the Arctic Ocean is exploding with growth.

There was a large program of activities arranged by the people of Qasigiannguit.  This was the first visit of Fram to this small community this year.  And in fact this was our first pre-arranged visit as in the past we had used Qasigiannguit as a back up plan for when there was too much ice to make it to Ilulissat. 
These townsfolk were prepared for us!  At 09:30 the kindergarten children and escorts were on the pier to welcome us.  We then returned the favour by invited them all up to deck seven to meet everyone on the ship.
The schedule of activities prepared by the local people included: an exhibition of hunting and fishing gear, an open peat-house, clothing and tools from the late Thule culture with locals dressed in period costume reenacting by the museum, craftwork displays at The Women’s House, a dog sled demonstration/explanation by locals and the choir singing at the church.
At 15:00 Fram departed the pier in beautiful Qasigiannguit and headed once again into Disko Bay.
As we cruised into the early evening we encountered more and more ice.  Indeed we began to see remnants of open sea ice from last winter.
At 21:00 Michael entertained everyone in the Observation Lounge.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

ICE, BASALT AND DOGS!

This morning FRAM reached Qeqertarsuaq, a small community on basaltic Disko Island. As soon as the pier was ready, we started our tender operations.
The weather was different from the days before, it was quite chilly but that wouldn't stop us, we were all eager to go out.
The first group led by Henryk left for a hike to the basaltic rocks, a beautiful trail along the coast. People enjoyed the view of the icebergs stranded in the bay. And there was even more: whales were feeding among the bergs.
 


Others joined a guided tour through town. Our guide Lars, a native from Qeqertarsuaq, gave us a very good insight of both the history and modern life on the island. We learned that the town gets all its supplies by ship, and only when weather permitting. But there is a huge warehouse where they store enough food for the winter months.
Petting the dogs was a big temptation, but we were briefed in advance and knew that those dogs are working animals, so one has to be respectful and keep some distance.
The local church has an unusual design and the town will celebrate this year there 100th anniversary. We also visited the local museum which offers some artifacts and pictures from the past. And last but not least, the local restaurant offered good coffee, tea and cake.

 

From shore, we could watch some of us kayaking in the bay under the instructions of Ejgil. Kayaking in arctic waters is always a great experience, and they all had a great time.
In the afternoon a group led by Aka and Ivik left the town for a hike to Blaesedalen, the valley of the winds. The trail leads along the shore, then crosses the bridge and climbs towards a great waterfall. There was still some snow in the crevasses but the flowers were already out. Once we reached the waterfall, a couple of Canada Geese were waiting for us, the female still on the nest incubating the eggs.


Arctic research station

Then we lowered the Polar Cirkle Boats, our secret weapon when it comes to ice cruising and whale watching. Well, there was lots of ice, but the whales didn't show up this time. That was Mother Natures' decision. We cruised around huge icebergs and we were all impressed by the size and the beauty of those bergs.
 
As soon as we were back on board, Captain Andreasen heaved the anchor and it was time to leave for our tomorrows destination, Qasigiannguit.
 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Sisimiut – Pearl of the Coast


Winds were calm, waves were absent and the sun was above us already hours before we reached our destination – Sisimiut. Sisimiut is called Pearl of the Coast among locals. One can easily understand why when the strong colours of the beautiful buildings come closer and closer and the majestic landmark ”Nasaasaaq” stands proudly behind the town.

Sisimiut is the second largest town in Greenland with its almost 6000 inhabitants. Sisimiut doesn’t look that big from the seaside but when walking around  with all the locals going about their daily chores and the cars driving up and down ”Aqqusinersuaq” (the main street) it is clearly that it isn’t a small town.  
Sisimiut is a mixture of old and new – most towns in Greenland are like that. When arriving to Sisimiut you see the harbour with it’s modern boats etc. When walking not too far from the pier you see traditional Qajaqs ( kayaks) that locals have been using for thousands of years. Walking a bit further away from the harbour you pass buildings from the Colonial years – the Museum area is a part of that as well. When leaving the Museum area you’ll have to watch out for cars driving on the main street – there is even a Porche Cayenne in Sisimiut.

Walking up the steep hill towards the Center of the Town reveals modern buildings, shops etc. Mostly everything that you see when walking through Sisimiut is modern – not the graveyard where hundreds of locals are buried. But it is still a beautiful sight with the crosses and the plastic flowers – the good thing about the plastic flowers is that they remain beautiful and colourful for a long time. A beautiful sight is also in the winter time when the graveyard is full of candle lights.
At the end of Sisimiut is a living proof that the old traditions have survived. The dog yard with almost one thousand Greenlandic sledgedogs. Many cultures have used sleds and sledgedogs for transportation and hunting – they are still being used even though it has been thousands of years since the first Sledgedogs came to Greenland. How amazing is that!? Sisimiut is actually the first place North of the Polar Circle with Greenlandic Sledgedogs. From here you will not meet any other kinds of breeds. Except German Sheperds used by the Police.

MS Fram docked at the new Pier which is only one year old, the gang way opened and out came the Smurfs as the locals call the passengers onboard Fram with their blue jackets. Many locals don’t see the cruise ship but when they see the blue jacket they know there is a cruise ship in harbour – they know Fram is here.

Many ”Sisimiormiut” (People from Sisimiut) like the Fram passengers and the crew of course. Fram passengers always smile, enjoy their stay and respect the locals. Passengers have during their journey from the starting point been taught by the staff that locals are quiet, smiling and helpful. By knowing this the passengers are taught to respect the different communities that they visit during their visit to Greenland.

Fram is also good business for the local artists and tour operators. Passengers buy Greenlandic art as well as different excursions in Sisimiut. Everything from sightseeing to boat tours are being offered. Many always join. That means that many learn a bit more about Sisimiut that they didn’t already know. If they hadn’t joined any of the excursions they wouldn’t have had the face to face meeting with the local guide. The local guide who lives in Sisimiut and tells you stories that you can’t read in any books.

The Day is over – we’re leaving Sisimiut to go to a new fantastic place in Greenland….

 Takussaagut – See you. :o)

Monday, 16 June 2014

Kangerlussuaq

The charter Greenland Air jet touched down in Kangerlussuaq at approximately 08:15.  I could only imagine what an amazing flight it must have been over the Greenland Icecap, however I could imagine it very well as I have made the same flight several times.  On a day like today with clear blue skies and crystal clear air, the view over the second largest icecap in the world is jaw droppingly beautiful. Miles and miles of seemingly unending blue ice punctuated here and there with searing blue ponds and lakes on top of the ice-sheet.
Today is of course a changeover day.  The crew back on the ship was busily preparing the vessel for the new arrivals - which means changing the linen on beds, cleaning cabins, doing laundry, vacuuming, more cleaning, preparing meals, etc. etc. etc.  Fram is a bee hive of activity on changeover days and we only have about eight hours to get ready!!
But since the ship was obviously not ready for new arrivals it meant that we could go out and play in the Kangerlussuaq area.  It was a short walk across the tarmac and into the small airport. The Expedition Team from the ship was there to greet us and to show us to outside to three waiting… hm, I’m not sure what to call them, how about, “Tundra-buggy/buses” and two conventional buses.  Half of our group set off to view the icecap in the Tundra-buggies and the other half went in the buses to explore the countryside around Kangerlussuaq which was followed by a really great BBQ style lunch by a small fresh water lake. And then after lunch we swapped vehicles so that everyone got equal opportunity to see the icecap and area.


Kangerlussuaq is the warmest part of Greenland in the summer.  Because of the warm sunny weather the wild flowers are further ahead here than in most other areas of Greenland.  Lapland Rosebay was growing in profusion.  Other flowers blooming included Arctic Cinquefoil, Alpine Arnica and Entire-leaved Mountain Avens.
Our tour of the Kangerlussuaq region ended at a remote pier.  Suddenly the road just ended in the middle of nowhere and there was a sizeable pier.  A barge was busy loading and offloading both for Fram and a container ship.
At the pier we were each issued a lifejacket and shown how to put them on. We hopped in the Polar Cirkel boats and enjoyed a short ride to the ship.  Once on the ship we were issued ID cards and then shown to our cabins.
 Before we got underway we all took part in a mandatory safety drill outside, in the warm sunshine on deck 5.  It was quite interesting to observe the demonstration for donning the exposure suit and life vest.
Right after the drill it was time for a delicious buffet dinner.
 At 21:00 we were invited to the Observation Lounge for the Captain's welcome cocktail.  The Captain gave a speech and then introduced us to key members of all of the departments of the ship.
 It is June 15, six days before the longest day of the year.  We are, for all intents and purposes, at the Arctic Circle.  Indeed, we will cross the Circle as we make our way down the fjord and then later in the evening we will cross it again as we exit the fjord and make our way northwards. There will be no darkness tonight.  We are in perpetual light.