Day 6 |
Sep 12, 2010

Prins Christian Sund and Augpilagtoq, Greenland 

By Christian Walter, Historian

Co-ordinates: 60° 08’ N, 44° 17’ W (Augpilagtoq)

Weather: sunny and windy, eventually turning to extremely windy
Air Temperature: 54,5 F according to screen, but certainly colder in the wind
Pressure: 997 hPa
Wind: up to 80 kmh

Some of us managed to see the Northern Lights for the second time shortly after midnight, for the others the day began with blue skies, a slight swell and snow-capped mountains on our starboard side. We were still heading south towards the eastern entrance to Prins Christian Sund, when at 09:20 a.m. Expedition Leader Robin West announced that whales had been spotted. A sharp turn to maneuver the Prince Albert II into a better viewing position caused some acrobatic acts in The Restaurant and kitchen area. At first two, then three fin whales were not too far off of our bow, and cameras were clicking away. Shortly before 10:00 a.m. it was time to continue on our way to Prins Christian Sund.

As we were entering the Sund, the Ikearasassuaq weather station came into view. The name actually translates into “the long channel”, the local name for Prins Christian Sund. Five people man the station all year round. Their nearest neighbors are living some 40 kilometers away at Augpilagtoq, close to the western entrance/exit of the Sund.

The wind was picking up quite a bit and a few hardy souls ventured out onto the decks to get a clear view of the mountains on both side of the channel. A sharp right-hand turn brought us into the small fjord of Kutladtjeq glacier, and Captain Alexander Golubev maneuvered the Prince Albert II as close to the glacier as the soundings permitted.

A few bearded seals were seen on ice floes and the Prince Albert II was positioned in such a way that we could see one of the floes with a seal drifting past at close distance. Heading back into the Sund, spectacular views of mountains, glaciers, and waterfalls were had during most of the passage. One of the mountains to our starboard had a height of 1757 meters!

Around 14:30 I went ashore with Robin to check out a possible landing this afternoon. The locals at Augpilagtoq were quite surprised to see a large Zodiac with a driver and one “passenger”. As soon as we could talk to them, we were given permission to land. The wind was picking up and Robin returned with Timo, our contact. On board, the decision was taken to refrain from a landing, as the wind was too strong. When Robin returned, he gave Timo and the villagers 4 large bags of surplus gum boots as a gift.

Returning to the Prince Albert II, the wind seemed to die down. Eventually an hour later, after positioning the ship into a protected part of the Sund, the decision to go ashore was taken. The Zodiacs were lowered and some 87 guests went ashore to explore this very isolated part of Greenland.
While the village was visited, the church choir offered to sing in their little church. Almost 7% of the population gathered inside the church –apart from 40 guests- and two hymns were sung in Greenlandic. It was a beautiful experience, and an appropriate one for a Sunday.

Much to our surprise the ship’s horn sounded around 17:30, indicating that we had to return immediately to the landing site. As it turned out, the wind had gained in strength and it was going to be more and more difficult to get back onboard. In the meantime, Captain Golubev had brought the Prince Albert II closer to the village and the Zodiac-ride home was smoother than expected, although the Prince Albert II was listing to starboard and the whirlpools were being emptied by the wind.

The final leg of our passage through Prins Christian Sund was the most spectacular with high mountains on both sides, showing sharp peaks and glaciers.

Recap was postponed to allow for undisturbed viewing, and Robin announced over the PA system what we were planning for tomorrow. Colleen was asked to add a few words to the new program, explaining the importance of the three Viking sites we intended to visit on Monday and Tuesday.

A warning was then issued, hinting at rough seas between 22:00 and 03 a.m., and portholes were closed by crewmembers to be on the safe side. As we were asked to put all valuables safely away, my computer had to be closed and put away, too, shortly before 21:00.