Another glorious day of visiting remote Greenland fjords, viewing wildlife and stunning scenery awaits me after a peaceful sleep, rocked by the gentle seas of the North Atlantic. I awoke to extraordinary views of the rugged Greenland coastline: jagged peaks up to 6000 feet capped with glaciers, the smooth granite glistening with glacial polish. The remoteness and mystery of this arctic region is reinforced by the subtle blue-grays of sky and frosty white of ice. All the while, Northern Fulmars accompany our ship, seemingly leading us to new adventures.
Fortified by a superb breakfast prepared by our talented chefs and served with perfection by our dining room staff, I headed for Deck 6 and The Theatre for lectures on the Vikings presented by our Enrichment Naturalists.
First up was guest lecturer Geologist Jon Sigurdsson from Iceland. Jon guided us through the history of Viking discovery, exploration, settlement, and ultimately, abandonment of Greenland from 874 A.D. to 1408—the date of the last written record of the Vikings in Greenland. One of the most interesting facts was that the Vikings carried ravens aboard their sailing vessels and when lost would release them and follow them to land.
Dr. Susan Langley, Marine Archeologist from Maryland, then elaborated on the construction and evolution of Viking boats. Her talk was enhanced by beautiful slides of these monuments to Norse engineering, seamanship, and artistry. Sadly, I discovered that Vikings did not wear helmets with upturned horns and archeologists still are not sure if dragon heads adorned Viking vessels.
A quick meal in The Restaurant, then down to my suite to put on warm clothing, gather up binoculars and camera, and head down to the Changing Room for boots and life vest. All of this in preparation for our first Zodiac cruise. Assisted by the ever-capable deck crew, I boarded my Zodiac to tour Prince Christian Sund. With the most southern outlet glacier of the Greenland Icecap, Sermet Glacier, as a stunning backdrop for the anchored Prince Albert II, my Zodiac companions and I cruised in awe through bergie bits, past seemingly endless waterfalls, and the world’s oldest known rocks—3.5 BILLION years old. On the steep cliffs, our Expedition Team pointed out ice-white Iceland Gulls and a pair of Glaucous Gulls with 2 fuzzy babies still in the nest. Black Guillemots, white wing-patches flashing and glaringly orange-red feet dangling, skimmed inches above the water surface. Nature’s glory. And then, more? Two ice seals were found by the skillful eyes of our Expedition Team—a Ringed Seal and a Bearded Seal. Suddenly, with a crack and boom the glacier calved a large section of ice wall into the Sund! Upon returning to the ship we are greeted by the Hotel Staff serving fortified hot chocolate.
At recap, our Expedition Leader, Conrad Combrink, gave us detailed information about our next two expedition days at Qaqortoq, Hvalsey, Brattahlid and Igaliku on the western shore of Greenland. After the briefing, Dr. Claudia Holgate presented a discussion about global warming that supported the rate of recession of Sermet Glacier from Conrad’s last visit in 2001 and our visit today. Dramatic to say the least. Dr. Brent Stephenson pointed out the subtleties of identifying Glaucous vs. Iceland Gulls. Mr. Chris Srigley talked about the seals we observed and offered further reading on global warming, after which our intrepid geologist, Mr. Juan Carlos Restrepo, reviewed the geology of the region.
Another satisfying day of expedition cruising and dining at its finest. Excellent comfort and care by staff under the guidance of Hotel Director, Oliver Buhler. Shore and Zodiac excursions planned with care by our Expedition Staff, headed by Expedition Leader Conrad Combrink, Assistant Expedition Leader Esther Bruns and Expedition Assistant Daniil Elterman. Outstanding Zodiac drivers and crew, sensitive to the environment and well versed in natural history. Experienced, friendly, professional, and highly qualified expedition naturalists. All truly expedition experts under the leadership of Captain Paul Heslop, successfully working together to make this indeed a “trip to remember”. Tonight I will be dreaming of seals, scenery, and solitude. What will tomorrow bring?