Day 5 |
Aug 03, 2008

Qaqortoq & Harvey, Greenland

By Brent Stephenson, Ornithologist

Noon position: 60° 04.1’ N, 046° 02.2’ W

Weather: Fine and sunny clear blue skies all day with a light breeze rising in the late afternoon

Awaking to another beautiful sunny day, we were informed by the Expedition Leader, Conrad Combrink, and Ship’s Captain, Paul Heslop, that the berth we had expected to have was currently occupied by three fishing vessels! It seemed that Qaqortoq had forgotten us! Some frantic organization and negotiations ensued onshore and the situation was finally resolved, allowing us to come alongside as planned. As we docked, two Inuit kayakers showed off their prowess at righting themselves in the narrow traditional kayaks. Although not made from seal skins as they were in the past, these modern-day kayakers still showed what they could do by rolling repeatedly underwater and popping back up. They even paddled along whilst upside down!

The ship’s deck crew soon had the gangway down and our guides for the morning walking tour of the town were there to welcome us. We had been broken into two groups, with the first group joining the guides and the second heading into town on their own to peruse the quaint streets as well as the local museum. The brightly coloured houses stood contrastingly against the landscape. Our local guides were able to tell us all about life in this small south-western town, home to around 3100 inhabitants. Qaqortoq is the largest town in South Greenland and the fourth largest in the country, and an important centre for fishing and tourism within the southern part of Greenland.

Back onboard for lunch and sailing shortly thereafter, we headed towards our destination for the afternoon: Hvalsey. During the Middle Ages, Hvalsey Church was the largest and most influential church in Greenland, aside from the diocese in Gardar (which we plan to visit tomorrow in Igaliku). The stunning scenery and stone ruins were really quite impressive, especially when walking through what is left of the Viking farm houses and realising that they are 1000 years old, having been built in 985 AD. They are in fact the largest and best-preserved Norse ruins and include possibly one of the oldest churches in North America, built in the 14th century. Our Guest Lecturer, Jon Sigurdsson, was on hand to explain the history and happenings at this very interesting site. Although the scenery and weather were stunning, there was little in the way of wildlife, except for the snow bunting and Lapland longspur’s presence, and the odd raven flying past.

After enjoying the sunshine and historical significance of the place, we headed back to the Prince Albert II and relaxed onboard before dinner