Iceberg Right Ahead!
The following post contains excerpts from my travel journal, replete with stories and photographs, from my time spent throughout the settlements of East Greenland in June of 2016.
Day 4. June 6th, 2016.
Because the store was not open yesterday, my dinner last night ended up consisting of a few Cliff Bars I brought from home, along with some spaghetti and canned tomato sauce I found in a long abandoned cupboard in the house.
Much like Kuummiut, there are no hotels in the settlements. However, the number of semi-abandoned homes makes for easy accommodations. Many of the owners have moved on to the largest town in the region- Tasiilaq- and come back only occasionally. Finding a house to rent for a few nights is easy and cheap, costing me only 200 Krone a night.
I woke up this morning to a knock on the door at about half past nine. It was the old man I had met yesterday who agreed to take me out onto the ice fjord in his boat.
He spoke basic English, so I asked him for fifteen minutes and he motioned for me to meet him at the harbour. I got dressed, packed up my camera gear for the day and walked down to the harbour, stopping at the Pilersuisoq on the way to pick up some bread and dried dates.
Being amongst the icebergs was an incredible feeling that I cannot use words to describe. Their immense size is incredible, and knowing that much of their mass lies below the surface of the water is mind blowing.
Every few minutes one could hear cracks and breaks followed by a loud splash across the fjord as chunks of ice calve off from larger icebergs. The old man was very patient with me as I pointed out large icebergs I wanted to take a closer look at.
One of the larger icebergs had formed an ice cave through the middle, as the sun hit the top a deep, aqua blue colour permeated throughout the inside of the cave. While it was far too dangerous to actually take the boat inside the cave, as car-sized blocks of ice were falling from it every ten minutes or so, we did pull up pretty close and were able to take the drone inside as well as photograph it.
We continued on to more icebergs, one was so smooth and rounded, and reflected so perfectly onto the calm sea below, that it looked like we were floating past a modern art exhibit. It was so remarkable that we needed to take three spins around it on the boat just to be able to appreciate its architecture fully.
As we were floating around, the old man found a large, flat iceberg to stop at. It’s only when you approach an iceberg and can see how deep they go under the sea that they become truly impressive. This particular flat iceberg, while only a couple of feet above sea level, was massive, stretching far below where the eye can sea under water.
He pulled out an anchor from the front of the boat and cast it onto the iceberg. With a cup raised he motioned for us to get off the boat and step onto the iceberg to collect fresh drinking water from the aqua pools that had formed in the middle.
We ended up spending the better part of an hour on that iceberg, dipping our hands into its fresh pools stocked with water that had been trapped in ancient glaciers from Greenland’s icecap.
I wandered around every bit of its surface as long as the ice below was solid enough to stand on, photographing its fresh water pools as they slowly drained out into the sea. The water around the mouth of the stream formed on top of the iceberg became cloudy as the fresh and salt waters mixed together at its edge.
It was a strange feeling, standing isolated on an iceberg for the first time. It was only when some larger waves would hit the side of the iceberg and we would begin to gently rock back and forth that I was reminded that we were in fact standing on an unattached, floating piece of nature.
We returned to Tinit in the afternoon and prepared a simple lunch back at home (read: frozen pizza). As I was finishing up, the clouds began to clear and the sun started to beam down onto the ice fjord.
I spent the rest of the day, all the way until 2am, save for a small dinner break, outside chasing the sun with my camera. Due to our high geographical position, the sun took a very long time to set down behind the mountains that form the edge of the fjord (which happened just past 11pm).
Without a cloud in the sky, coupled with low tide, I was able to walk around the ice fjord’s rocky shoreline, photographing the icebergs and the settlement as it bathed in warm sunset lighting. Some of the icebergs were washed ashore due to the tide and I was able to see all the intricacies of what was lying beneath the surface of the water while they were beached.
In the late evening, as the sun passed below the mountain peaks, the other side of the settlement was showered in a soft, pinkish light.
I hiked back up the hill overlooking the village and photographed everything I could see, trying my best to avoid including the heaps of garbage scattered about the town and the unattractive water tower protruding from the middle of the settlement.
I continued hiking around looking for the best angles until some of the untied sled dogs took too strong an interest in me and I headed back into the settlement for safety.
By this point it was already past 2am and I decided to call it a night as the light began to once again intensify, as the sun re-emerged from behind the mountain tops.