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Greenland Odyssey on Sylvia Earle (July 2024)

Updated: 1 day ago


I have visited East Greenland on my North Pole + East Greenland voyage on

Le Commandant Charcot back in Sep 2022. Last summer, I visited West Greenland as part of Ultramarine's Epic High Arctic voyage.


A complete Greenland adventure is always high on my wish list. I was so excited that this will come true soon. I am heading to Reykjavik next week and will board Sylvia Earle for a 16 Nights Greenland Odyssey from July 6-22 2024.


Please check the page often as I will update daily as long as the starlink wifi onboard works as expected :-)


Cheers,

Frank



July 7 2024 (Sunday)


It was a fabulous day to start the trip!


The three buses took us heading to visit Golden Circle at 8 am sharp. Our local guide Thorn was a great person with humor and deep knowledge of iceland. He offered a lot of insights and stories for the three places we visited today: Geysir, Gullfoss waterfalls, and Thingvellir National Park. For those who don't have time to make your own self driving arrangement, the included tours offer a great taste of what Iceland has to offer.


Finally boarded Sylvia Earle at 3 pm in the afternoon. Two USB ports and multiple outlets are available in the cabin without the need for converters. Each guest receives a complimentary water bottle and a parka to use. It is worth to mention that a hair dryer is not stored in the bathroom but one of the drawers:-) The swimming pool, hot tubs and gym are impressive. Cannot wait for the expeditions to start!




July 9 2024 (Tuesday)


After a full day of sailing across Denmark Strait yesterday, we were approaching Greenland this morning. Pieces of floating ice started to be seen around the ship. The snow covered mountains on the land can be seen on the horizon.  It was still pretty foggy in general. 


Around 3:30pm in the afternoon, it suddenly cleared up. The voice of expedition leader, Howard could be heard from the broadcasting system - "We are ready for zodiac cruising in 15 minutes!"


The pack ice along East Greenland this year is much more severe compared to previous years. The current brought down these pack ice from Svalbard (rather than pushing them up to the Russian Arctic).  Although I have seen pack ice many times in Antarctica and the Arctic, it was still very refreshing to let my imagination fly on the zodiac...


Today turned out to be a big day for whale watching. From early morning until noon, there are multiple groups of whales passing by the ship. The grand finale came towards the end of the zodiac cruising, when a big blow was seen right in front of our zodiac. It was a group of 4-5 sei whales who decided to put a show together for us. They were only less than 100 meters away at one point!


During the recap, we were told that we have seen at least four types of whales today: Long-finned Pilot Whales, Fin Whales, Sei Whales and Humpback Whales.


What a day - cannot wait for whatever tomorrow can bring :-)




July 11 2024 (Thursday)


Due to the continuous ice and fog along the coast, the original landing plan yesterday was cancelled. The entrance to Prince Christian Sound was blocked by pack ice. The weather forecast said that there would be strong winds in the area on Friday. The captain and expedition leader Howard decided that we would try to visit a small town of Nanortalik in South Greenland on Thursday instead.


After getting up in the morning, the fog began to dissipate, and large pieces of floating ice passed by both sides of the ship. Our paddling guide Pat gave us a lecture about her solo kayaking experience of in Greenland for a month last summer. During one foggy day while paddling, she suddenly found two yellow fluffy dots on the shore. Luckily it turned out to be just two sheep, not polar bears. After getting off the ship after this voyage, she will start a new journey of paddling in Greenland for a month. I asked her if her gun was ready this time :-)


Before lunch, our ship slowly approached Nanortalik. The fog completely dissipated and the sky was completely clear. Surrounded by mountains, colorful houses were scattered on the shore, like a fairy tale world. The peaks here are all made of granite, with snow on the top, which reminds me of Chile's Torres del Paine National Park.


The population of the town is about 1,200. The local tour guide offered us a tour. Hospitals, police stations, hotels, etc. are all available. There is even a formal artificial turf soccer field. The guide proudly told us that their soccer team just won the championship in the tournament last week.


The sun shone warmly, and wild flowers bloomed quietly. The sea water was as calm as a mirror. I sat on the bench on the shore , and can only hear the sound of the breeze. I was completely immersed in this paradise...


Back on the boat, it was still early. Finally I had the chance to jump into the heated pool on the top deck and then relaxed in the jacuzzi with everything around me …




During the evening meeting, expedition leader Howard told everyone that our ship was entering the Tasermiut Fjord from Nanortalik. Tasermiut is a 70-kilometer-long fjord in southwest Greenland, famous for its magnificent peaks, huge glaciers and countless waterfalls.


Soon after entering the fjord, the fog quickly dissipated. In the evening, the sky was blue and the sun was slanting. Any words seemed pale and powerless, and only by seeing it with your own eyes can you appreciate the wonders of nature.


Everyone gathered on the observation deck to enjoy and chat. Several expedition members and I all agreed that the best adventure project for the next day was to land in a valley and then march towards the mountain.


The ship finally reached the end of the fjord. The wind suddenly became stronger. What was coming towards us was a huge glacier rushing down from two different directions. The melting ice and snow gathered into waterfalls and flowed into the fjord. Birds danced in the wind in groups of three or two. It was a true paradise!




July 12 2024 (Friday)


My wish yesterday actually came true. Today's excursions are to hike in the fjord. Southwest Greenland is known as a hot spot for rock climbing. I was told that the difficulty of climbing here is even higher than that of Torres del Paine in Chile.


Hiking excursions were offered once in the morning and once in the afternoon. In the morning, I chose the long walk. Three expedition members took 8 of us and arrived at the target location in just 25 minutes. Our expedition leader Howard got ambitious and decided to challenge and see if we could reach a ridge that seemed not far away.


Ideals are beautiful, but reality is cruel. Although it seemed not far away, we had to go in and out of the bushes three or four times. We crossed a few streams and drove away countless mosquitoes that came out of nowhere. At noon, we took a selfie and decided to return to the ship.


The amount of exercise in the morning was significant, and I was tired. In the afternoon, I decided to take ii easy and join the medium walk. Howard led the team again. It seems that great minds think alike:-) A group of 20 or so people walked steadily on the trail made by previous climbers. Along the way, we could clearly see the signs made of stones, and the camps and equipment left behind.


The weather in Greenland changes quickly. It was sunny in the morning. It became cloudy when we set out in the afternoon. It started to drizzle when we arrived at the destination. When we finally came back to shore and boarded the zodiac, it was already pouring. Thanks to the waterproof parka, I didn't get soaked!




July 13 2024 (Saturday)


Today's activities are to cruise Sandhavn on a zodiac and land in Herjolsnaes. Both places have many relics from the early Viking (Norse) rule of Greenland.


In the summer of 985 AD, the Vikings came to Greenland. Herjolsnaes was founded by Herjolf Bardsson and lasted for more than 500 years as part of South Greenland settlement. A marriage certificate in Halvsey Church in 1408 is the last written record of the Vikings in Greenland. The fate of these explorers is still a mystery today.


I wandered around the Herjolsnaes Viking ruins, while listening to the wind whistling in my ears. I cannot help imagining the harsh conditions of the immigrants starting from Norway to Iceland, and then to Greenland for better lives.




July 14 2024 (Sunday)


Today our ship continues to head north along the coast of west Greenland. After lunch, we will take a zodiac cruise in Qalerallit, and then land in Imaat.


I never realized that there would be so many icebergs of all different sizes and shapes around Greenland. Many of these icebergs come from the Greenland ice sheet. After a glacier melts, these icebergs enter the fjord, then drift to the sea with the current, and finally melt into the sea. You can call this the life of a iceberg.


I was very impressed by the bird cliffs in Svalbard, but until now I didn’t know that they can also be seen in Greenland. When we were being amazed by the various degrees of blue on the icebergs on the zodiac, we heard chirping sounds from the shore in the distance. When we drove closer, the almost vertical rock wall was densely packed with various birds, such as Kittiwakes, Guillemot, etc. Many bird nests still had newly born babies huddled next to their parents.


After 1500 AD, the Vikings disappeared in Greenland. The local Inuit people started to expand from Northwest Greenland to Southwest Greenland and East Greenland. Imaat, where we landed, was a summer residence of the Inuit people back then. It faces the bay with a shallow large lake behind, it offers a great location to see any wildlife from faraway and convenience for washing & cleaning etc.


I jumped up a boulder on the hillside and sat down. The sun shone warmly on the turquoise water in the bay. There was no wind. Icebergs of all sizes reflected under the sun. It was very quiet around, and occasionally you could hear birds flying by. Time seemed to have stopped here.


At dinner, we sat with John, an old gentleman who had served on US submarines for twenty years. He shared many interesting stories about his life onboard. Suddenly there were some blows on the port side of the ship. Everyone rushed next to the windows. Three whales appeared in turn. The last one ended the performance with a perfect breach. Howard told everyone that this was another kind of whale, Sperm Whale.




July 15 2024 (Monday)


Weather always seems to be playing a joke on us. When I woke up in the morning, the outside was covered with fog again. I couldn't help but wonder if today's plan needs to be changed again.


Our ship continued to sail north along the west coast of Greenland last night. Today's plan was to visit Qeqertarsuatsiaat. This town has only 160 residents. If we make the trip today, it will be the first time that a cruise ship has visited this town since 2005.


As the town got closer and closer within our sight, the fog disappeared all of a sudden. Kaare, a local Greenlander who was a traveler, volunteered to be our tour guide. The town is small, but it has a supermarket, church, power plant and fish processing plant. With guests coming from afar, the children in the town followed us curiously. Two brave girls even chatted with us. The hospitable villagers also invited us to see the reindeer antlers piled up in front of their homes and a little seagull they raised. There are also many water stations in those blue huts built in the town. Before heading back, I visited the gem shop. Local craftsmen carefully polished the rubies they collected and made them into jewelry, which is a local specialty.


After returning to the ship for a short rest, we continued the next - zodiac cruising tour. Our zodiac slowly passed between large and small islands. The snow-capped mountains in the distance were clearly visible, and flocks of birds were circling in the sky. In shallow places, you can clearly see the dancing seaweed in the water and the rocks at the bottom of the water. Our zodiac went back and forth several times. I thought the expedition team was looking for Arctic foxes at first, but I didn't ask. Suddenly, an order came from the walkie-talkie. All the zodiac sped up. When we stopped at a bay, we didn't see anything though. The zodiacs then lined up and circled. Suddenly, I saw a polar bear jump onto the ridge and disappear on the other side. Ben, our zodiac driver, made a turn and drove the zodiac towards the channel behind. We stopped and waited. Not long after, the polar bear appeared in our sight again. He continued to climb up. He seemed to notice our presence, turned his head and stared in our direction for a moment. He then performed a beautiful jump, and then slowly climbed to the top of the ridge. When we found him again, the polar bear was already swimming in the water to the other island on the opposite.


We reluctantly said goodbye to the polar bear and drove back to Sylvia Earle. When it was only 20 meters away, Ben suddenly turned. The sun was starting to set. Water vapor from the blows vapor slowly dispersed in the air. Greenland's whales really like to show off...




July 16 2024 (Tuesday)


Today we visited Nuuk, the capital of Greenland. Greenland has a total of 58,000 residents, of which 20,000 live in Nuuk.


It was still foggy when we got off the ship at 9 o'clock, but it was basically gone after half an hour. Looking out from University of Greenland, Qingaaq, 1,610 meters above sea level, looked like a different world high above in the sky. The inner bay, museum and cultural center are all good places to visit.


Nuuk's economy has been booming in the past two years. There are cranes and high-rise buildings under construction everywhere. Nuuk International Airport will also be officially operational in November. It will be interesting to see how the development of tourism may impact the local culture and everyone’s life here.




July 17 2024 (Wednesday)


Our ship arrived at Uummannaarsuk @West Greenland in the morning. It was another sunny day with blue sky. The plan for the morning was to take a zodiac cruise.


Not long after boarding the zodiac, we found a blow in the distance. There were probably about 3-4 whales moving around. Just as our zodiac was heading towards the direction of the whales, a message came from the ship. Those whales have been booked by the AECO survey ship, so we will have to turn around.


Just when everyone was a little disappointed, a small head suddenly popped out of the water in the front. It looked at us curiously, and then disappeared. It was harper seal. We all joked that this seal was booked by us and no one else can see it.


Our zodiac traveled through the channels surrounded by a few islands. The water was crystal clear. In some spots, I could see the bottom easily. We spotted couple exquisite cottages on the shore. Navi, the local tour guide, told us that these are summer homes. Out of curiosity, I asked how much they are worth. She told me that the land in Greenland is not personal property, but the houses which are worth 100,000 Danish krone (15,000 USD).


Reindeers should be seen around here right now. But due to warmer weather in recent years, mosquitoes hatch earlier. To avoid mosquitoes, reindeers are still now on places of higher altitudes. This has a chain effects on the breeding cycle of reindeers.


After dinner, I went on the deck. There was no wind and water was calm. Snow-capped mountains could be vaguely seen on the horizon. I checked with the bridge and confirmed that was Disko Island. Ilulissat, the mother of all glaciers, are right in front of us.




July 18 2024 (Thursday)


When I opened the curtains to the balcony this morning, I thought I was in haven. Under the blue sky, icebergs of various shapes and sizes floated on the slightly rippled water. Not far away were colorful houses built on the mountain. Ilulissat has arrived!


When I visited here last year, the ship could not directly dock at the pier and we had to use a zodiac for landing. We were lucky this time to witness how our captain maneuver the ship through a very narrow channel to dock.


The boat for the glacier tour picked us up directly from the ship. The Sermeq Kujalleq glacier flows into the sea at Ilulissat, melting an average of 35 cubic kilometers of ice every year. The large and small icebergs filled the fjord, which was spectacular to enjoy.


Words can no longer express the beauty here. For a moment, I seemed to have returned to the Antarctic continent with endless ice and snow. Every shot was a perfect postcard picture.


After lunch, I headed to the power plant. The famous yellow trail starts here and winds along the Isfjord to Isfjord center. The scenery was breathtaking, and an hour and a half flew by.


From Isfjord center, I then took the green trail (board walk). Although it was a revisit, the scene at the view point was still stunning!


After taking a group photo at the bow in the evening, the BBQ dinner started. The captain parked the ship next to a giant iceberg more than 30 meters high. This was our best ever appetizer!


It was already 8:30 pm, and the sun was still high in the sky as we were well within the Arctic Circle (69 degree 25). Our ship kept sailing between icebergs steadily towards our next destination - Qaraartuaqqat.






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