Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Equip Sermia

What are some of your favourite things to do? Cruising by miles of icebergs on perfectly calm seas certainly ranks high on my list. That was much of our day today as we sailed towards Eqip Sermia.

When we weren't outside "oo-ing" and "ah-h-ing" over the ice, we were inside attending lectures and presentations running throughout the day in French, English, German and Danish.

At last we arrived at Eqip Sermia. Whoa. It is a beautiful, heavily serraced, blue glacier that calves on a regular basis. We quickly deployed the polar Cirkle boats and soon everyone was on shore. Some people chose to hike up the mountain. Others chose to just sit and comtemplate the ice. Rumbling white thunder - the sounds of a moving, cracking, calving glaciar are a constant background to our shoreside activities. Brash ice is abundant where Eqip Sermia meets the sea and yet we see no falling ice. The sound waves wander over to us too slowly. If you search for the calving ice after you hear it - you're bound to have already missed the action.

Back on the ship there was a truly delicious barbeque waiting for us. An excellent way to finish a wonderful day.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Uummannaq and Ukkusissat

We're glad to be in Uummannaq right now. In June. It's daylight. At home we take daytime and nighttime for granted. Not so here. From May until July there is 24 hours of daylight. The sun doesn't dip below the horizon for 2 months of every year. Come back in December and you won't see the sun until February. Well, not only is it daylight but it is another warm sunny day.
A perfect day to go to The Desert. The boat ride to the desert was magical. We slalomed around hundreds of icebergs on glass calm water. The sea cast near perfect reflections of the ice and landscape creating photo opportunities not to be missed.
The desert is an incredible region. Minerals high in sulphur and iron create a rocky landscape rich in red and yellow tones providing more stellar photo ops.

In Uummannaq there were plenty of things for us to do; a trip to the small but excellent museum, earthen huts, a unique church, lunch at hotel Uummannaq, a short walk up to a scenic lookout in mid-town and a challenging hike to Santa's house with great views of Hjertefjeldet mountain and surrounding landscape.
Phew! And that was only half of our day! At 16:30 we weighed anchor and turned the bow towards Ukkusissat. The village is small but the people are big in heart. Once again we welcomed the people from Ukkusissat on board the Fram. In the Observation lounge we were entertained with songs and dances. Afterwards we all went on shore and explored Ukkusissat on a near perfect summer evening. It wasn't until 23:30 that we were all back on board the Fram and heading towards our next adventure:
Eqip Sermia.


It is always really wonderful to see our first icebergs as we approach Qeqertarsuaq. Shortly before 9am we were anchored and ready to begin Polar Cirkle boat operations. Once whaling was the number one source of income. Indeed - one must walk under two giant jaw bones from a bowhead whale as you leave the dock to go on shore.

As we set out on our hike through town to the Valley of the Winds, the skies were dull and overcast, threatening rain. On the outskirts of town lies a beautiful beach with a magnificent view of hundreds of icebergs. The dark sandy beach was covered in lots of brash ice and bergy bits providing really amazing photo opportunities.

The rolling landscape of the Valley of the winds was covered in wild flowers. Some of the flowers from last week were starting to fade and new varieties were appearing. Upon arrival at the beautiful waterfall there was a light mist falling but we could see in the distance that blue skies were on the way.
As you can see in the photos, the hike ended in glorious sunshine!

Back on the ship we attended informative lectures from Axel, Andy, Jean Louis and Anne.

Friday, 26 June 2009


Our day started at 3:30... sort of. Winds had been forecast for a Force 10 storm. At 3:30 in the morning we left the shelter of Kangerlussuaq Fjord and entered open water. Suddenly things began to go bump in the night and what was on the desk top was now under the desk, under the bed and generally well distributed about the floor of the cabin. After about an hour of rocking about, the Fram's course changed enabling us to take the seas in a much more favourable fashion and to be rocked gently back to sleep.
Later on, our morning was filled with AECO (The Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators) presentations regarding the guidelines for visitors to the Arctic.

We arrived at Sisimiut at 11am. The winds had abated inside the sheltered harbour but were still blowing strong just off shore. Unfortunately this meant that the seas were too rough for our optional boat excursions to the abandoned town of Assaqutaq. Still, there were lots of things to do in town such as visiting the excellent museum, and spending our money in the various shops including the excellent craft workshop by the harbour.

Many of us joined the historical walking tour to Tele Island. The weather was excellent for hiking – cool and overcast. One of the very interesting highlights of the tour was two very old graves. The dead were often positioned sitting overlooking the sea and then covered over with stones. It was an eerie feeling to peer between the stones and see human remains.

Walking around the harbour and in town it was plain to see that whale hunting is still very much an important part of the Greenlandic culture and lifestyle. Many of the larger boats have high-powered harpoons mounted on the bow. In the photo you can see the harpoon loosely wrapped in canvas of the boat G.7-190. In the shops there are many crafts made of baleen and narwhal tusks. In the grocery stores and meat/fish markets you can purchase fresh whale meat.
Just before departing the key we were treated to an extraordianry display of kayaking prowess. Kungunnguaq, a former kayaking champion of Greenland, could even paddle with his kayak upside down!


Greenland! We finally made it. Our plane touched down at the Kangerlussuaq airport at 15:30. We were warmly greeted by the Expedition Team and shown to the buses. A short but very scenic fifteen minute ride through the rocky landscape of the fjord brought us to the dock. And there before us floated our new home for the next week, the MV Fram.
On the bus ride we learned that Kangerlussuaq started out as an American military base in 1941. It was later sold to Denmark, as is, for the sum total of one dollar. Today Kangerlussuaq’s raison d’ĂȘtre is the airport and a growing tourism industry. The Greenlandic translation of Kangerlussuaq is "Long Fjord". At 170km it is the longest fjord in Greenland.
Our first challenge of the trip was trying to figure out the straps on the life jackets whilst dodging hungry mosquitoes. Before long we boarded the Polar Cirkle boats and had a short exhilarating ride to the ship. Upon arrival to the Fram we were checked in and escorted to our cabins.

At 20:30 we were directed to our muster stations for a compulsory safety drill. At 21:00 in the Observation Lounge on deck seven we were welcomed to the Fram by the Captain and introduced to the other officers and the Expedition Team.

Our first challenge of the trip was trying to figure out the life jackets whilst dodging hungry mosquitoes. Soon enough though, we were safely on the ship and escorted to the comfort of our cabins.

At 20:30 we were directed to our muster stations for a compulsory safety drill and then at 21:00 we were welcomed to the Fram by the Captain and introduced to the other officers and the Expedition Team.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009


We've become a bit spoiled. We have had near perfect weather all week. Perhaps unusual for this time of year in West Greenland. This morning it was a change to wake up to grey skies and rolling seas as we headed to our final destination - the small community of Itilleq.

While Itilleq is small in size with only 123 inhabitants, they are big in hospitality. We were all invited right into their homes for coffee and cake. The coffee was the ubiquitous "Greenlandic Arabic" and the cake was delicious with about the same specific gravity as lead. It was a nice intimate experience with very gracious and hospitable people.

After coffee we headed to the soccer pitch for our weekly match of Team Fram VS Itilleq. To start the game the Fram team was comprised of the Expedition Staff and a few passengers. Twenty minutes into the very spirited game Team Fram had many "substitutes" on the field - with no one going off! It seemed like each team had about twenty players a side. What fun!

No one was keeping close watch on the score but we decided the final outcome was probably Itilleq 6. Team Fram 5.

At 4:30 the last boat left shore in order to get us beack to the ship on time for the Charity Auction and Captain's dinner.


Ilulissat means icebergs in Greenlandic. Today Ilulissat lived up to its name. It became clear very early that our Polar Cirkle boats were not going to be able to reliably operate in the very dense icepack that stretched all the way from the ship to the town of Ilulissat. At first we couldn't get enough ice and now we have too much ice!

The excursions to Holmsbakke and the boat trips to Ice Fjord were able to depart fairly close to schedule as we relied on our much larger tour operator's boats. We also hired a sturdy local boat and skipper to act as a tender from the Fram to shore. The tender trip took about 40 minutes one way.
The tender ride from the ship to the harbour of Ilulissat was fantastic as we weaved through thousands of icebergs and ice floes. Once again we were lucky with the weather - blue sunny skies all day long!Eventually everyone got into Ilulissat and the hike to Sermermiut set off shortly after 3pm.
The hike to Sermermiut terminated with an incredible view of densely packed icebergs as far as the eye could see.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Eqip Sermia

How could we possibly have a better day for scenic cruising on our way to the glaciar Eqip Sermia? Impossible! For much of the day the skies were blue and the sea was like a mirror with near perfect reflections of icebergs and the surrounding majestic mountains.
Throughout the day we enjoyed more informative lectures from Andy Axel and ilja.
At 14:30 we had a surprise visitor. King Neptune showed up to baptise those of us that had crossed the Arctic Circle for the first time. Catrine ended up with the entire bucket of ice water dumped on her head!

Just before 6pm we arrived at the glaciar. The Polar Cirkle boats took many loads of food, dishes, large barbeques - in short everything you need for a barbeque pinic on the beach. Well not quite on the beach as once again we kept to slightly higher ground. There is the everpresent danger of calving glaciars inducing large waves capable of washing high up the beach. Soon everyone was happily munching on steaks, burgers and salads while the mosquitoes were enjoying their own feast.
The scenery was jaw dropping beautiful with ice bergs and bergy bits everywhere. We capped off the day with a fruit and ice carving demonstation in the Observation Lounge.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Uummannaq and Ukkusissat

The first groups off the Fram this morning were those people that chose to go to The Desert, just a short boat ride outside of Uummannaq. The austere beauty of this rocky landscape certainly felt otherworldly.

June 21st is National Day in Greenlandand. It is a holiday in all towns and settlements and cause for a national festival. In the morning it was a treat for us to wander about town and see local people in traditional dress, to listen to morning songs and
watch displays of kayaking skills.

After lunch many of us went on a hike to Santa’s Hut. This hike was a little more strenuous than our previous forays into the Greenlandic wilderness. Our efforts were rewarded when we arrived at Santa’s Hut. Waiting for us was our Expedition Leader Anja Erdmann with hot coffee and hot chocolate for everyone! The hot drinks had been delivered by our Polar Cirkle boats.

At 4:30 we weighed anchor and headed to Ukkusissat where we had been invited to the town hall to join in the celebrations for National Day. However it was cold and overcast - threatening rain, so we invited the local people to the Fram where we were treated to a delightful show of singing and dancing in the Observation Lounge.

After the event in
the Observation Lounge we went ashore and explored Ukkusissat. There was more music in the town hall and lots of local food for us to sample including halibut soup and seal meat. There was an explosion of colourful fireworks shortly before the last Polar Cirkle boat left shore at 11pm. What a full day. What a great day!!

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Qeqertarsuaq "The Big Island"

Ice, ice, ice! Our first day with icebergs. What a beautiful sight in the morning. Icebergs of all shapes and sizes greeted us as we approached Qeqertarsuaq. The harbour entrance is very narrow, quite dramatic and like everywhere else on our trip, very beautiful.
We dropped anchor and at 9am our Polar Cirkle boats whisked us to shore. Before long our hike to The Valley of the Winds was under way. A short walk through town lead us to a beautiful beach with hundreds of icebergs spread out as far as the eye could see. We were prudently cautioned to avoid going right down to the water's edge as tsunamis from collapsing icebergs were an ever present hazard.
While we were hiking in the Valley Of The Winds we were blessed with a light breeze, blue skies and just enough cloud cover to keep from getting sunburned. Our hike through the rolling rugged rocky wilderness lead us past many beautiful spring wild flowers including: Woolly Lousewort, Arctic Poppy, Moss Campion, Lapland Rose-bay and Broad-leaved Fireweed to name but a few.
The last Polar Cirkle boat to the ship left shore at 2pm which meant we had most of the afternoon to enjoy cruising past majestic icebergs and attending informative lectures by Ilja, Axel and Andy.
Tomorrow: Uummannaq and Ukkusissat.

Friday, 19 June 2009


Kutaa from Sisimiut!!
Sunny blue skies greeted us as we approached Sisimiut. With 5350 inhabitants this is the second largest "city" in Greenland. The surrounding scenery is impressive with steep rocky cliffs rising straight up from the sea and while the landscape is somewhat monotone there is a riot of colour both from the many bright houses and the hundreds of fishing boats both big and small, surrounding the harbour.
The Arctic Circle, the Polar Circle and the Dog Equator are all different names for the same place. The Dog Equator got its name because in Greenland true Greenlandic sled dogs are only found north of the the Dog Equator! Today we learned that Sisimiut is the southernmost town in Greenland with true sled dogs.
Just before we set sail for Qeqertasuaq we watched Jacob demonstrate his considerable kayaking prowess. We all shivered as we watched Jacob roll his kayak again and again in the frigid polar waters of Sisimiut harbour.


5.30am is really "not" the most pleasant time for a wake-up call, we do admit! But it is worth it as there are so many things happening: Air Greenland is doing the check-in on board MV Fram. Within record time (45min) 166 passengers are checked in! Time for breakfast, a quick goodbye- and off we go to explore the former US army base. One highlight follows the next: a drive on the bumpy road leading to the icecap and finally standing on the icecap itself, enjoying a guided walk in town and the BBQ at Lake Ferguson- who cares for the little blood suckers that surround us... Praise the inventor of mosquito repellent!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009


If it weren't for the pictures nobody at home would believe it anyway: It is actually too warm...
The morning light is crisp, the skies dark blue, the icebergs spotless white. No wonder hike and boat tours bring back happy people, their camera chips nearly bursting with photographs. And even our brave Polar Cirkel Boat drivers can relax this time: No more ice in the bay and in the harbour, easy shuttling both ways. The air is so clear that the helicopter to the icecap looks like a brand-new shiny toy. These gorgeous conditions stays with us for the whole day, it's really The Lucky Bunch travelling.
Towards the night fog rolls in and enshrouds us with white cotton. But it doesn't matter now since we have the Crew Show going on, keeping us busy till near midnight.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Eqip Sermia

Some things change, some things don't: The Fjord of Equip Sermia is still guarded by a thick ring of drift ice, keeping FRAM at distance. But the weather! Throw away the gloves, get out the sunscreen - winter is over...
In immaculate conditions we bring the Polar Cirkel Boats to the water, to take a real joyride among the icebergs. The light makes all the difference; on a grey day the disappearing roots of the bergs may seem eerie, bu ow it is just veeery pretty.
Who's hungry? Everybody. So the BBQ on the observation deck is an extremely popular event. Sitting in the sun, chewing on chicken, fish or burger, having a drink. Just another day in Paradise...
Those who like sunsets shouldn't be disappointed about the midnight sun - it's quite as nice, as to be witnessed later on.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Uumannaq - Ukussisat

One day, two destinations. Too much? Far from it: The day is bright and sunny all the clock round, so time does not seem to matter at all. So in the morning we explore the "Heart-Shaped Mountain", name for village, island and mountain alike. Apart from the ruggedly picturesque mountains the hike leads us into, it houses the official address of Sta. Claus in Greenland. The old man appears to be surprisingly modest, living in a small sod house by the beach. It's probably the location... Those who went to the boat trip to the desert enthuse about colors and minerals and clearest waters.
In the evening we reach Ukussisat, a remote fishermen's village, our northernmost destination. All the inhabitants wait for us at the landing site, like family. And then there's the dancing, and the kaffemik and the laughing, all from the heart. Not easy to leave, but a lot of memories to take with us.

Saturday, 13 June 2009


Greenlandic names normally are very descriptive. Keeping this in mind, we start for the gentle hike into the "Valley of the Winds", after having marveled at the vast group of really big icebergs that seem to have a family reunion in the Qeqertarsuaq bay. But nature is on our side today - no wind, no mosquitoes, just a few fluffy clouds giving the clear sky a nice perspective. So everybody has a good time at the gurgling streamlets and waterfalls. And now we really can see nature at work: A lot of flowers that still had been hidden last week are shyly showing their first blossoms. Let's hum with good ol' Satchmo: What a wonderful world...

Friday, 12 June 2009


The second largest Greenlandic city spreads out on the slopes of a beutiful fjord that hosted settlements long before our modern times. This is what we learn not only on the Historical Hike on the Tele Island, but also in the abandoned village of Assakutaq, a speedy 25-minute boat ride away. Fishing and whale hunting was and still is the fundament of life in these parts. So it is not surprising to find whale meat on the menu of a Thai restaurant at the harbour front. The younger history is scenically set out in the Old Town where the 18th and 19th century buildings gather round the tiny wooden church. Old Greenlandic traditions live up again, so the Qajaq sport is getting more and more popular every year as is shown by Jacob, who is showing all his skills at starboard just before we leave. Now we go North, and late at night the first icebergs are to be seen.

Thursday, 11 June 2009


Among the reasons for building the airbase in Kangerlussuaq was the remarkable stability of the weather, nearly 300 clear days per year. This is one of them. Everybody takes off fleeces and jackets, the sun is really hot. The mosquitoes like it, too. A lot. So everybody puts the jacket back on again, preferring to sweat than to be eaten. A full day is laying before us, quite a bit of activity. The road to the icecap gets more adventurous every year, so the bumpy ride takes a little longer. In the meantime, those who stay in "The Big Fjord" go on a very instructive guided tour through the village or take their time at the Science Center until the busses arrive in the afternoon. Next stop: Lake Ferguson where a hearty BBQ is waiting. When it is time to fly back home, at least nobody is hungry! And then: Airport, gate, plane - like a blur, as Farewells often are. Auf Wiedersehen and Good-Bye.
And far out in the Fjord, MS Fram is heading out for the open sea, and many new guests are marvelling at the beauty of this place....

Wednesday, 10 June 2009


The clouds hang deep as we approach the scenic Itilleq Fjord, but every minute reaveals more of the beautiful mountainside in the background, and in the end we land under a chilly but blue sky. The Kaffemik is ready and the guests filter one by one or in small groups into the colorful houses on the slope to accept the invitation to coffee and cake with a Greenlandic family. Certainly, the language barrier is no longer existant when a simple smile suffices. One of the most international languages is spoken a little later when everybody joins on the soccer pitch to have the traditional game Itilleq vs. Fram. Cheers are all over, the teams grow as we play, finishing at not less than 39 players! This time our hosts outnumber us in the end and win by - estimated - 8 to 5. Congratulations! In a very cheerful mood everybody returns back to Fram where it is almost time for Captains Dinner.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009


It is supposed to be the day of action, with hikes, boat tours and helicopter flights. And now this, the whole port area clogged with icebergs, brash ice, a nearly seamless plug of white. Cancel all? A tough call for Expedition Leader Anja and Captain Arnvid. They go for brave, let's give it a try! So our Polar Cirkel Boat drivers are really put to the test, one way between ship amd shore is a 25 minute bumpy hellride, certainly a lifetime experience! So we could hike, we could fly, we could do it all. Plus, we had that superb crossing. So, thanks to all you drivers, you did a banging job, in the true sense of the word!

Eqip Sermia

Instead of welcoming us, the glacier is looming in the distance, like commanding his frozen army to encounter us in the fjord. There is no way to beat Nature, but of course we can trick it a little. So we set out our Polar Cirkel Boats and cruise as deep into the cold labyrinth as we dare. The sight of the icebergs' roots disappearing in the dark depths can really make you shiver. Getting back to FRAM feels a lot like coming home safely after a while. Especially when you see what's oing on on deck 7: The Barbeques are smoking, huge amounts of beef, chicken and fish are being prepared. The sun decides to take a look, the dinner gets a very friendly illumination, and suddenly the icy fjord looks only half as grim. Later on the sunlight bathes the world in color, cameras are flourished and many of us let out a deep sigh. What a pretty place...

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Ummannaq / Ukussisset

What a sudden contrast: The heart-shaped mountain of Uumannaq is shrouded with clouds, snowflakes are dancing. Finally a real Arctic Impression... So the brave hikers that leave for Santa's Cabin put on gloves and shawl before we make for the interior. Glaciers have worked on the mountains as if they were caressing them just long enough to look smooth and gentle. After a while we descend towards Santa Clauses' Hut, a surprisingly simple green sod house down in the bay. Knock, knock - nobody home. Maybe Santa is on vacation (Expedition cruise..?), still we can see his cosy home before we hike back. Those who stayed in Uumannaq have had their sightseeing tour and their traditional Greenlandic food already, so everybody aboard and heave the anchor. In the evening nature shows us who rules in these parts: The bay of Ukussisset is filled with freezing pancake ice, so the tender boats nearly get stuck. Change of plan: We take the few villagers over to Fram where they sing for us, dance for and with us, and teach us about their life. A night to remember!

Saturday, 6 June 2009


When Anja announces "another beautiful day" in Greenland, you are never 100% sure if the weather is really nice or just not too awful. But no kidding today, no clouds in the sky, mild temperatures and the sun sparkling in the crystal clear Fjord of Qeqertarsuaq. As soon as groups are on shore we start our first hike of the trip: Through the little village, down on the beach where giant icebergs are dancing in the wide bay, across an old lava stream and into the "Valley of the Winds", a steep canyon carved into the loose basaltic rock quite recently. A lot of snow is still sitting on the valley's shoulders, more than in the previous years. That means a lot of melt water coming down, and indeed, the waterfall at the end of the canyon is boasting a thick, milky brown cascade. On the way back a cannon-like sound: One of the bigger icebergs in the bay cracked with the low tide and the remaining piece now starts to capsize. This is minutes of a spectacular phenomenon, those who were on the beach tell the tale on board. The anchor is lifted and off we go, trying the inside passage between Disko Island and the mainland. Let's see how much ice is in there!