Day 8 |
Aug 02, 2013

Danmarksi, Scoresby Sund, Greenland

By Robin Aiello, Marine Biologist

Co-ordinates: N 70º26', W 26º14'
Weather: Bright sunshine
Air Temperature: 10ºC
Pressure: 1007 hPa
Wind: 3 knots

WOW – Scoresby Sund! What an amazing place. It is one of those locations that I had always heard about…and here I am.

The Expedition Team woke up very early at 4:00am. We wanted to get an early start for our first landing here and to make sure that we could find the old Inuit ruins that are reportedly here at Dansmark Island.

I could not believe the stunning scenery as I walked onto deck. The sun was just rising above the rugged mountain tops, turning the icebergs a golden yellow. The skies were perfectly clear, the seas flat calm, there was no wind and the skies were a robin’s-egg blue with puffy white clouds. Incredible.

We found an easy landing site and broke into three groups for scouting. It did not take us long to locate the ancient ruins. The first ones we found were the tent rings – rings of stone that were used to hold down the edges of their tents. These were located up on the rocky outcrops. Nearby we also found several rock piles that had once been the food caches where they stored their food.

About 100m away in a more vegetated area we found more remains – these were the outlines of larger ‘houses’.

By 6:30am the first guests had joined us at the site and our historians Christian Walter (Rapa) and Peter Damisch were guiding them around these historic sites explaining all about life in Greenland about 300 years ago.

The sun continued bright and by about 8am the temperature had risen to over 10ºC and the skies were still clear. The views from the headlands overlooking the massive icebergs in the fjord were spectacular.

The other noticeable difference from Svalbard was the vegetation – there were other plants that were new to us, like Fireweed, Arctic Willow, Roseroot and Fleabane. Some of the plants we were familiar with, like polar willow and saxifrage were so much larger than anything we had seen in Svalbard only a few days ago. Amazing how much different the ecology of the land can be only a relatively few degrees farther south.

After the landing, the ship continued to sail up the fjord. The mountains rose far above us – some being as tall as 2,000m. Below us, the depth was about 1,000m below the keel. We were in one of the narrowest sections of the fjord, with the width being about 2.5miles.

There was one particularly huge iceberg (maybe more like an ice-mountain) that towered high into the sky. Captain Alex steered towards this monstrosity and we had some amazing views of it as the ship circled.

After lunch the ship approached our next landing for the day – a headland sticking out into the fjord called Renodde. This location is one of the ones that is reported to have regular muskox sightings, so once again the Expedition Staff headed out to scout the area and see what we could find. We were not disappointed – there were a couple muskox in the distance grazing on the tundra. We landed the guests and headed up to a lookout point on the ridge, trying to stay as invisible as possible. The muskox, however, are very skittish and afraid of humans – probably because they are still hunted by the locals.

But we did get to see them – albeit from a distance – but we could clearly make out their large curved horns, their shaggy long fur, and their white legs (it looks like they are wearing stockings!). The afternoon was so warm and sunny that we decided to extend our stay and go for a leisurely stroll along the ridges and take in the incredible views over fjord, which was packed with huge icebergs. A real ‘iceberg graveyard’.

These icebergs were so numerous and so majestic, that we decided to do an evening zodiac cruise amongst them. This was one of the most beautiful zodiac cruises I have ever done. There were literally hundreds of massive, 50+meter high icebergs grounded in a relatively narrow channel between an island called Red Island and the large island called Milne Island.

Red Island lives up to its name, being formed by the New Red Sandstone rock formation, and as the name implies, in the sun it takes on a striking rust-red colour. The red, contrasting against the white of the icebergs, was a sight to behold!

The sun was still shining brightly, but getting lower and lower on the horizon, so as the evening progressed, the shadows lengthened – adding to the overwhelming beauty of the whole landscape. From what I heard amongst the guests, this one cruise is probably the highlight of their entire trip so far!

Even as I approached the ship to lift my zodiac at the end of the day, the outer decks were still full of guests gathered outside to watch the changing light as the started to set (at 11pm).

What a magnificent day within the natural wonder of Scoresby Sund, Greenland!

What will tomorrow bring?