Day 8 |
Sep 15, 2013

Brattahlid & Ittileq, Greenland

By Franz Bairlein, Ornithologist

Co-ordinates: N 61º09'03", W 45º30'15"
Weather: sunny
Air Temperature: 0ºC, 32ºF
Pressure: 1017 hPa
Wind: 8.5 km/h

After some brilliant Northern Lights last night, Silver Explorer anchored offshore Brattahlid in the inner Eiriks Fjord. A clear sky, the rising sun, fresh ice on the fjord and snow-topped mountains made the scenery spectacular. At 7:30 am, we went ashore with a zodiac to set-up the shore party. There, we also met the local tour guides for tours to the Norse ruins, the replica of a Norse longhouse, and the church built by Eric-the-Red for his wife. As I was assigned to the fourth group, I assisted in disembarkation of the zodiacs at the shore-site. Then, I took over my group and we walked together with our local guide, Paul. During our walk to the Norse ruins, we stopped at various places where Paul informed us about the daily life of the people living in Brattahlid, mostly sheep-farmers, as this is one of the few places in southern Greenland where farming is possible. Sheep are farmed mainly for meat for the domestic market. While walking towards the new church, a White-tailed Eagle flew overhead. Among other birds the Northern Wheatears and a flock of Common Redpols were the most conspicuous.

Near the church, we got introduced to the foundations of probably the first ever church of Greenland, and thus of North America. We then proceeded to the replica of a Norse long house and the church of the wife of Erik-the-Red, named because of his red hair and red beard. At the church, one of the local guides, dressed like a Norse woman, told us about Erik-the-Red and life in those days in and around the present-day Brattahlid.
At 11:30 am, we cleared the shore-site and returned to the ship for lunch, also taking aboard our local guides for the afternoon’s activities.

During lunchtime Silver Explorer repositioned to Ittileq (61°59’59’’ N, 45°28’48’’ W) where we arrived at 1 pm to blue skies, calm seas and a temperature of 5.5°C (considered “warm”).
At 1:45 pm, we set-up the shore-party at Ittileq and the first guest came ashore soon after. Together with Stefan, our geologist, and a local guide, I walked over the isthmus to Igaliku. Currently, Igaliku is a farmer settlement at the inner Einars Fjord but it was once the religious centre of the 12th century Norse Greenland. The distance of 4.5 km took us approximately an hour but was a very beautiful walk. We passed several farms and the “Children Forest” where the Greenlandic government planted as many pine trees in 2004 as children were born on Greenland since the Home Rule was invented in 1979.

In Igaliku, we separated into groups to explore the site. A local guide was positioned at the ruins of the cathedral while our historian Colleen did the interpretation at the storage house, the largest recorded in Greenland to date. When the last guest had left the ruin site I returned to the café for some tea and cookies with a brief stop at a tiny garden where I was excited by the nice potatoes the owner had just harvested. Thereafter, I walked back to the landing site in Ittileq. In the meantime, weather changed to overcast but still calm. With all aboard at 7:45 pm, Silver Explorer lifted anchor and set sail westbound toward Canada.

During lunch time, our Expedition Leader Kara informed us about the Captain’s decision to cancel our last destination in Nanortalik, Greenland. A huge storm is forecasted in the western Labrador Sea on the 18th and, for safety reasons, she wanted to sail across before the storm hits the Canadian coast. This decision was further explained and illustrated using various charts during a recap & briefing at 7 pm. Thus, our Greenland voyage is coming to an end with a wonderful day at Brattahlid and Ittileq/Igaliku.