Day 7 - August 1, 2013 - Approaching Scoresby Sund, East Coast , Greenland
By Peter W. Damisch, Historian, General Naturalist, Cartographer, Master Mariner
Co-ordinates: 71º 01' N, 020º 09' W
Weather: Clear skies, brilliant sunshine and tremendous visibility
Air Temperature: 5ºC
Pressure: 1011 hPa
Wind: 15 knots
All onboard awoke to a spectacular day just as forecasted yesterday by our Expedition Leader. The low pressure system has passed through, leaving behind some of the very best weather that we have seen during this voyage.
Even the moderate wind and waves over the past 36 hours have been very helpful as they have been on our stern which has increased our speed to the Southwest. During the night we also picked up even more speed as the Greenland current carried us speedily through the Greenland Sea between the coast and Jan Mayen Island.
Of course all this speed has the positive effect of accelerating our arrival from tomorrow morning to later this afternoon. In addition, the heavy ice fields which can often slow our approach to Scoresby Sund are nowhere to be seen and will allow us to begin operations tomorrow in a much better location than usual.
Preparations for our ship cruising, landings and Zodiac operations continue amongst both the Bridge Officers as well as the Expedition Team. Everyone has been poring over the latest ice charts, weather reports and updated information to continually tweak our itinerary in order to achieve the greatest amount of coverage in the time available.
During the late morning I was up on the bridge with Richard, our photographer and videographer. We saw two large and one small whale blows in the distance. Unfortunately they did not repeat, were off to one side and were quite far away so we could not follow up. The blows were so large that I would have bet they were the very rare blue whale, the largest animal ever to live on Planet Earth and one that has a uniquely huge blow.
Juan, our onboard Geologist, was getting ready for his lecture titled ‘Geology Rocks’. I try to attend each presentation, as I always learn something new every time. However, on my way up to the theater I received a somewhat mysterious radio call from our Expedition Leader, Robin, asking me to get dressed and open up the forward portion of Deck 4, a location that is usually closed off except for special occasions.
I changed as quickly as possible and just as I was getting on Deck, Robin announced that the Bridge Team had spotted several whale blows in the distance right ahead of the ship. Soon enough we could spot at least one Humpback Whale but even better . . . two enormous Blue Whales. Yes, we have been privileged enough to sight one of the rarest, endangered species on Earth with an estimated worldwide population of only 3,000 – 5,000. These magnificent creatures are larger than any dinosaur and to see two of them feeding side by side in the sunshine was just absolutely fantastic!
It was a tough act to follow but one hour later Juan did get a chance to provide a great overview of the geological foundation of this largest Island in the world. In fact, the tall mountains of Greenland’s very remote East Coast are already in view ahead of us in this stunningly clear air without a hint of mist or overcast.
Of course schedule changes and flexibility of wildlife observations are one of the hallmarks of Silversea Expeditions. Thus Christian, one of our onboard historians also had his presentation on ‘Inuit Life and Art’ delayed until after lunch. However, it was well worth the wait as he is a world expert on native populations, including the development of Inuit culture, clothing, lifestyle, art and burial customs.
Recap and Briefing was shifted to mid afternoon as we wanted to take advantage of the weather and have everyone out on deck for our entrance into the largest fjord system in the world. Even the entrance is more than 40 km across! Expedition Leader Robin covered our plans for the next 36 hours. Kara spoke about Blue Whale behavior and physical characteristics. I followed up the Inuit discussion with an overview of Norse ‘discovery’ and colonization. Claudia continued with a description of dynamic soaring and we finished up with Uli discussing features of barnacles found on the flukes of whales.
By now the Silver Explorer was just entering the mouth of Scoresby Sund, the largest fjord on the East coast of the largest island of the world. The sun was beaming and, strangely enough, the wind was slightly warm as we began to sail along 1,600 meter tall mountains on one side of the ship and 100 meter tall icebergs on the other. The scene was quite spectacular.
Then the Captain selected a particularly large and beautiful berg and carefully backed up such that our aft deck had stunning views of this immense piece of ice. Of course this was just perfect as we were celebrating our Venetian Society members with a reception from that same aft deck! It was a perfect way to the end our first day in Greenland.
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