Wow…we finally made it to Greenland…and what a task to get here…it’s funny how things work out for the best…here we all were sitting for hours in the little Reykjavik airport, a bit despondent, about our continuous delays…and then the final blow of the cancellation, after finally making it through security & to the gate…But our group of intrepid travelers was not to be deterred, even those who had only a few days in Greenland…We all understood the risk…Greenland is not the typical tourist destination so flights are few and far between…As a matter of fact, that worked in our favor since there was not a flight scheduled for Wednesday, they were able to put one on just for us…Remember only 1 crew flies there..so only one flight a day can do it.
But on Wednesday morning, we all saw each other at the rather bizarre breakfast the hotel put out…although not to be outdone by the equally strange dinner, the night before…but free is free (-:
There were 3 very doubtful men in our airport group…and I worked hard to lift their spirits…since at breakfast the Satellite feed from Illulissat looked grim with thick fog…we feared yet again we would be canceled… One man from Germany was so distraught because he had actually learned to speak Greenlandic and felt his whole purpose for this trip was worthless if he couldn’t actually speak to someone…his wife, kindly, reminded him that when he called the tour company in Greenland the night before to tell them of the delay, he got to speak to them in Greenlandic…This man was so sweet in his love of language…he said he loved the most difficult ones the most…I admired that about him since I still struggle with my native English!….All during breakfast he had me learn a bit of German AND then taught me some Greenlandic phrases…which have come in handy…The Greenlanders love it when you try to speak their very difficult language…most also speak Danish…since this a part of Denmark…but very little, if any English….Let’s just say, I was the breakfast entertainment watching me try to speak German & Greenlandic! A lovely Swiss man was just set on that we would not make it..Even after we got to the airport and were getting ready to board the Swiss man kept saying we had to wait until we were halfway there so that we couldn’t turn back…but funny thing was, I think he knew we would make it since he always had a grin when he speculated…I am guessing he liked to play with the optimist in me (-: …on the other hand his wife never stopped smiling and laughing…Basically, we had a fabulous group…if I had to be stuck at an airport and relegated to a hotel because of cancellation, then this was the best group to be with.
The flight was actually great…and far smoother than any of us would have imagined, considering what we thought we were heading to…after about an 1 ½ hours, I looked up from my book and out the window to have my eyes feel a little fooled…at first I thought I was just looking at clouds…We were flying so low that I could see the ocean when we left and it felt as if the window could open, I could put my hand up and scoop up some water….so when I saw all white, I just assumed it was clouds…and then there seemed to be a bright blue hue in the white…as I struggled to focus, I realized that my eyes were being treated to a magnificent view of the Ice Cap…and from that point on, we all were snapping pictures…moving to each others windows to get different angles and even the flight Attendant let us shoot from the cockpit!…the pilots kept the door open the whole time…but by the time, my camera got up there(thanks to Werner), a bit of fog set in so I just was happy to get some pictures of the pilots doing their thing…when you look at the pictures, check out the flight attendant’s uniform….very reminiscent of the old 1960’s flying days.
The scenery got more and more spectacular and I just kept thinking, thank goodness I didn’t spend the 300.00 on the helicopter tour since this was giving me the same views….
Once we landed, we all were hustling out to take more pictures…this runway is one of the shortest…and when we landed, the pilot jammed on the breaks at record speed…now I see why we couldn’t land in fog…if he even slightly missed the beginning of the runway, there would be no recovery…But the other great thing about our delay is that we would not have been treated to such wonderful views the day before…ones I will never see again…even on take off…so things definitely worked out.
The ride to the hotel was brief…5 minutes at most….Illulissat is quite small…although it is the 3rd largest city in Greenland with approx. 5000 residents. Once I got to my room and saw the view, I just stood there in awe…never have I seen such grandeur…well the Himalayas are similar…They are also magnificent and once we reached a certain altitude, the views were as spectacular but since the fog would set in so early in the day, the views didn’t last as they do here…the Glacial Monuments are just sitting across from my room in the frigid bay…so quiet…and magnificent
I set out to explore the town and soon discovered, this is a very very busy place…mainly with lots and lots of construction(in expectation of more tourists) and fisheries…locals everywhere doing their business…peppered only with a smattering of tourists…this is quite a change to Reykjavik, where it seemed the tourist outnumbered the locals. And this town, here, is definitely more geared to everyday life than complete catering to tourists…don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of touring companies here and a few little shops…all shops do seem to be tourist based…but the people are busy with their lives and only those geared to the tourist pay much attention to us. I will say the constant construction is a little distracting from the views…one thing I was told about Greenland is how quiet it is…something tells me, I will not have that experience here in Illulissat…BUT I am heading to Eqi Glacier on Friday and will be there until Sunday night…and I believe THAT will be a quiet place….how much more quiet can you get but on an actual Glacier.
I wandered around and found a little cafe to have lunch…I had a wonderful Fresh Halibut in Ginger & Oyster Sauce…and it was yummy…the women who ran the cafe were Filipino and the menu was quite eclectic, from Thai to Burgers…although the burgers were Musk Ox…and they were out of them…Yes, of course I wanted to try it. (-: My dinner was at a place called the Inuit Cafe…run by a family from Sri Lanka….There are lots of foreigners here…and it surprises me…Whereas Iceland was ALL Icelanders…here, it seems, there are lots of foreigners making their way. I keep asking…why Greenland? They all say the work and cost of living…Food is extremely expensive…but if you are coming from Europe, there is no VAT tax…so you save 25% on all goods, other than food.
I decided since I had set up a Midnight Boat Trip among the Glaciers(that left at 10PM), I wanted to take a nap, especially since we gained 2 hours by traveling in this direction(Greenland is only 2 hours later than New York). The walk from my hotel takes about 15 minutes and is up and down hill…on my way back, I ran into another German man from the plane and he asked if I wanted to go with him to the Cemetery since it had a great view of the bay…so off we went to explore…a nap could wait a bit…The Cemetery was quite interesting here…the graves seemed to be teeming with flowers…every last one of them…I was amazed that flowers like that grew here…and then my German friend had me look a little closer…they all were fake flowers…and on some graves, those fakes were put in thick peat and dirt, as if they were real…also, almost every grave had a lantern on it…I don’t know why but I will find out. Here’s a little Greenland graveyard trivia…to add to your Iceland trivia…In summer, they try to speculate how many people will die that winter…they, then, dig that many new graves…so that they are prepared…because the ground is too frozen to bury people for much of the year…if more die than guessed, then they are left in freezers until the melt. I guess that is the ultimate deep freeze!
At 10PM, I boarded the boat for the “sunset” glacier tour…and was happy to meet up with some of my airport friends…and I met a few new ones from Canada and Australia. I think freezing to death is as much a unifier of people as flight cancellations! They told us to dress warmly and I did heed the warning 5 layers…and I stayed on deck for the first 2 hours…but after…I don’t know…a thousand photos…that most won’t ever see…The experience of being next to those Huge Glaciers was amazing…it was worth every penny I spent to get here….This was an exceptionally unique experience…and worth my hands feeling like sandpaper from the dryness! Everywhere you looked was another unique form…it was mesmerizing….at one point, I just stood there and marveled out the unending vastness of all the floating Ice…and was quite thankful I was on the boat…at that point, when I was pondering the thought of what it must have been like for those who fell into the waters after the Titanic, I decided a hot cup of tea under deck was perfect…so the Swiss couple and I headed to below deck to enjoy some heat….the tour captain joined us and then another American man from Minnesota…we enjoyed a wonderful Q&A with him…learned tons about Glaciers and the ecology here…Whales are very slowly(too slowly) coming back…their pods have dwindled(mainly from Europeans hunting them for over 500 years!) so it is very hard for them to reproduce…seal population too…the birds are the worse since the Inuits keep hunting them…The fisheries are coming back because they are now regulated and the fisherman have to weigh their catch and are only allowed a certain proportion per season…remember that old saying “There are more fish in the sea”…well that is not the case anymore.
The Tour Captain gave a fabulous lecture to the boat on Glacial Ice…here is a little highlight of what I learned:
1. Right now the water is considered low..it’s at 400-500 meters…
most of these Glaciers are 100,000- 250,000 years old…now that doesn’t mean the parts we see are that old…but the core is…there are many scientist drilling to the core of various glaciers to determine information and age is one.
2. This Bay has the biggest Glaciers in the Northern Hemisphere…and they move 1 meter per hour
- An iceberg may turn around many times…this is why some have the dirt marks…they have flipped over and scrapped the bottom.
- Rivers actually run inside Glaciers
- Iebergs stand on the bottom until they melt…and once pieces break off, they go North(Not South)…and around the Baffin Islands and eventually South….but North first..
- There is a belief here that the Iceberg that the Titanic hit was from here.
- The water is warmer than the ice so the Glacier melts from the bottom….once melted, the water is sweet and filled with an abundance of nutrients…
- Glaciers are made up mainly of compacted snow filled with little bubbles that if measured would be considered 20 atmospheres of pressure!
- If you pop a piece of glacier ice in your mouth, you can feel it pop a bit…those are the pressure bubbles…
- Glacial ice is very different from Black ice…which is the part of the glacier that does all the damage to boats…Glacier Ice is easy to break because the the Pressure bubble…Black Ice is like the ice in our refrigerator…hard and clear…
I have a couple of videos I took of him explaining all this…and I will post them when I get home…
Once last comment about water…Iceland had the best water I have ever drank…you could get it from any tap and the taste was unbelievably good…or just from the falls…but the tap water here has a grassy smell and taste…since I thought it was just as clean, I filled my bottle and drank it…before I realized…uh oh, I thought…this may not have been a good move on my part…well to my relief, I discovered the water is perfectly safe to drink…but for the next 2-3 weeks, it will have this smell and taste because it is the initial melt and tundra comes with it…can you say Yuck!
The Captain told me to go down to the bay and pick up a piece of the ice and let it melt in my room and he promised THAT would be the best water I have ever tasted….I think I will take him up on it BUT I will do that when I get out to the Glacier tomorrow…
On the way FINALLY to the Airport
Check out the cool Flight Attendant Uniform
My very happy Swiss Friends
Yep..We are ON! First Glimpse of the Ice Cap
The Pilots let us in…
Pilot giving me a peace sign on arrival…We Thanked them so much!
Freezing at Midnight on the bay…well worth it
SOme freezing german Friends!
Yes, we are cold
The real Midnight Sun