Day 3 |
Sep 10, 2013

Saqqaq, Greenland

By Chris Cutler, Naturalist

Co-ordinates: N 70º00'35", W 51º56'45"
Weather: Sunny, few scattered high clouds
Air Temperature: 7ºC, 44ºF
Wind: 3 km/h

I awoke early and looked out my window to see floating pieces of ice on a flat sea. I kitted-up and grabbed the binoculars to head for the Bridge where I spent the next few hours scanning for life. We had entered fabled Disko Bay, an area in West Greenland with special topographic features and a rich human legacy. Fulmars glided past the scattered iceberg bits and growlers of ice as the kittiwakes and glaucous gulls sought breakfast tidbits on the sea surface. Now and then some harp seal heads would break the surface and small groups of these distinctively marked seals swam in tight groups. There were a few distant fin and minke whales seen, and then two humpback whales ‘sounding and blowing’.

Captain Maggie slowed Silver Explorer, guests headed out onto the foc’sle, and we enjoyed excellent views of the two leviathans. The whales swam and dove like a pair of synchronous swimmers with one animal gracefully arching its tail, then slowly raising its flukes before diving, followed right after by the other. The photos we took of the beautiful undersides of the flukes, each one like a human fingerprint, will be shared with researchers with the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources who study this growing population.

Stefan Kredel presented a lecture called, “From the Snowflake to the Ice Age,” in which he discussed many interesting facets of ice, both on land and at sea, and how Ice Ages have occurred in the past.

By the early afternoon, just past some magnificent ice bergs, we arrived at the village of Saqqaq, population 108. Sharing the same name as the very first inhabitants of Greenland, believed to have arrived here some 4,000-plus years ago (via Siberia), the term means ‘the sunny side’ and refers to the southern slope of the Nuussuaq Peninsula. Once ashore, we strolled around the colourful town, situated in an absolutely spectacular natural setting backed by mountains leading to the Greenland Ice Cap. The sun was out and there was no wind.

Teacher Jonas Jensen kindly told us about the history of his village as we gathered in the community centre, where homemade bread and coffee were proffered. The residents of Saqqaq, though with cell phones in hand and outboard motors attached to their boats, still live very much a subsistence existence of hunting and fishing. Freshly caught ringed seals were seen here, as were caribou hides and fish and seal meat hanging to dry.

On the way back to the ship we had a chance to take a zodiac cruise amidst some gorgeous icebergs of various shapes and sizes. In one area close-by dozens of bergs and bergy bits, some towering, had been pushed by winds and currents and lodged on the seafloor. The sunlight striking the face of the ice made for fantastic photographs.

Back onboard, Silver Explorer headed back through Disko Bay, having left our northernmost port on this voyage, and we relished the ever-flat calm seas and perfect evening sunlight.