Northwest Passage voyage enters the Greenland ice

DAY FOURTEEN

Friday, Sept. 18

 Sunrise in Karrat Fjord provided the most memorable
morning of the voyage, featuring dead calm waters, icebergs large and small,
wisps of fog swirling past distant mountain peaks, white-capped and soaring to 6,000
feet. Voyagers could hardly believe the vistas. Those who had visited this
sixty-kilometre-long fjord three or four times were left dazzled, declaring to
a person that they had never seen this stunning landscape look more
spectacular.

Many of us hiked the nearby peaks, around which gun-bearers
had established a perimeter that provided vistas of icebergs and floes. In the
distance across the water and ice, we could discern the settlement of
Nugatsiaq. More than one visitor remarked on the peacefulness and spirituality
of the island on which we had landed: Karrat Island. Call it gorgeous, though
even that word fails to capture the experience.

Latonia Hartery greeted voyagers at a small
graveyard, and Mark St. Onge explained that the sedimentary rocks, 1.95 billion
years old, showed that we were at the edge of the Rae Craton or tectonic plate.
He pointed out the highly visible Franklin Dyke, which had erupted into the
plate a mere 723 million years ago.

Back on the ship, the bravest among us went for a polar
dip. Forty-eight people (28 of them male) took the plunge, some of them retiring
later to the hot pool on Deck Six. Nobody showed any signs of wanting to
challenge the record, held by AC staffer John Houston, of 28 minutes in the
water.

Lunch became a back-deck barbecue in the sunshine,
with people sitting around at outdoor tables while enjoying a fabulous repast,
not incidentally surrounded by shutterbugs obsessively snapping as we sailed
through the most impressive iceberg

s we had yet seen. During the afternoon, as
we beat south, Hartery told the compelling story of Knud Rasmussen, Greenland’s
greatest explorer and anthropologist. She traced his career from his birth in Ilulllisat
through his seven Thule expeditions and beyond, including his six years on the
world lecture circuit. Among other achievements, Rasmussen demonstrated that
the so-called Peary Channel in northern Greenland did not exist, and that a
single Inuit culture extends from Greenland into Russia. He did this last while
spending 16 months traversing the Arctic from east to west.

Evening found the ship entering Disko Bay, and that
provided sufficient reason to launch a Disko Party. It be
gan with the staff,
duly kitted out, performing a beautifully choreographed line dance directed by
Jocelyn Langford, who had brought aboard a large contingent of Roads Scholars. With
David Newland urging people to outdo themselves, several dancers showed moves
so distinctive that expedition leader Stefan Kindberg hurried to the bridge to
call the producer of Dancing With the
Stars
.

 

DAY FIFTEEN

Saturday, Sept. 19

Late afternoon in Ilulissat, voyagers returned from
a 90-minute cruise  among the icebergs
looking cold but exhilarated. The word on everybody’s lips: FANTASTIC! Oh, and
again: “This has been the best day of the trip!” Ilulissat is the third-largest
town in Greenland, with populations of 4,000 people and 6,000 dogs. Explorer-anthropologist
Knud Rasmussen was born here, and his home has become a notable museum. But the
main attraction is the Jakobshavn Icefjord, which has been a Unesco World
Heritage Site since 2004.

Flowing past the town at between 19 and 35 metres
per day, it produces 20 billion tons of ice each year, and spawns vastly more
icebergs than any glacier in the Arctic. Ice was much in evidence early this
morning as the Ocean Endeavour sailed carefully through Disko Bay to anchor
outside the town. The usual landing site was inaccessible to the ship, but
expedition leaders identified a second option and voyagers went ashore by
zodiac.

 About twenty passengers set out on a helicopter
tour of the glacier, and came back raving about that. They had walked on the ice
cap itself, and flew so low during their return – roughly 2000 feet up — that
they could see into the  crevasses. Most
voyagers undertook the traditional three-kilometre walk through the colorful town
to the boardwalk and beyond,

where we scrambled to a hilltop vantage point and
looked out over the flowing icebergs. Today was all about the fantastical ice,
and this would be one of those few instances in which the old adage holds true:
in Ilulissat, a picture is worth 1,000 words.

Evening brought the Adventure Canada Variety Show .
. . and several passengers impressed their fellows as remarkably talented. Assistant
expedition leader David Reid, well known for his evocative poems, and having
declined an invitation to sing Flower of
Scotland
, kicked off the evening with a superb song. And who could forget
the the visitation of Dr. John Rae, the skit skewering Stephen Harper, or the
Inuit dance that ended the show? That said, nobody implored performers to quit their
day jobs. [All photos by Sheena Fraser McGoogan]

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