Sunday, October 13, 2019

GREENLAND: KANGERLUSSUAQ

 June 19, 2019

We stayed less than 24 hours in Kangerlussuaq, arriving in late afternoon on a Monday and flying out mid-morning on a Tuesday. There isn't a ton of tourist activity drawing people to Kangerlussuaq, but there are only two ways to get out of Ilulissat: fly back to Iceland or fly to Kangerlussuaq, and then fly from there to Copenhagen. Since we had flown in from Iceland, we chose to fly out via Kangerlussuaq.

This may be the only airport in the world with a taxidermied musk ox in the lobby:

I had to look up "Tikilluarit." It's Greenlandic for "Welcome."  Duh.

Friday, October 11, 2019

GREENLAND: ILULISSAT TO KANGERLUSSUAQ

June 19, 2019

The last part of our Greenland adventure was in the tiny, tiny, tiny town of Kangerlussuaq, population 540.

As you can kind of see on the map below, Kangerlussauq is at the end of a very deep fjord. The fjord is named . . . you guessed it, Kangerlussauq Fjord. In fact, the word "Kangerlussuaq" means "big fjord" in Icelandic.

Ilulissat and Kangerlussuaq are only about 150 miles apart, but unless you have a dog sled, pretty much the only way to get to Kangerlussauq is by plane. There is no road that connects it to any other town. (There are no roads connecting ANY towns in Greenland. All roads are internal to the towns themselves.)
Which may account for the fact that Kangerlussuaq, with its 500+ inhabitants, is the site of Greenland's largest commercial airport. Yeah, that doesn't make any sense to me either.  

More about Kangerlussuaq later. First I have to tell the story of how we got there. 

We were transported from our hotel to the airport, which was just a few minutes away. Although we didn't realize it at the time, both Bob and Laura, another member of our group, had left things behind. Laura realized her purse was missing as soon as we got to the airport. She figured out that she had left it in the luggage storage room. She sent our taxi driver back to retrieve it, but he never re-materialized and we think he never actually went back to the hotel. (I can't remember how Laura got on the plane. She must have had some type of ID, or maybe they just trusted her.)

Later, while sitting in a restaurant in Kangerlussuaq, Bob realized that his camera was missing. He called Mamartuk Restaurant first, then the hotel. It turned out that he had set it down on the front desk counter while he paid for something. The hotel promised to send Bob's camera with Laura's the purse.

The plane looks fairly big, but it was a propeller plane with just 36 seats.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

GREENLAND, ILULISSAT: OUR FINAL FAREWELL TO ILULISSAT

June 19, 2019

On our last morning in Ilulissat, the ten of us took three cabs to the head of a trail, where we met up with Lisa, our Danish guide from the first day, who took us on an eco-tour of the area:

She explained to us that under the thin green layer we could see, most of ground was perpetually frozen, or permafrost.

In the scanty topsoil layer, mosses, flowers, and other plants flourished:




Monday, September 30, 2019

GREENLAND: DISKO BAY, DISKO ISLAND, AND ONE MORE FLIGHT OVER THE ILULISSAT GLACIER

June 18, 2019

Have you ever heard of Disko Island? No? Maybe you recognize its Greenlandic name, Qeqertarsuaq ("the big island")?  NO?? At 3,312 square miles, it is barely smaller than Corsica and a little larger than Crete and is the 84th largest island in the world. Eric the Red spent time here in the late 10th century. So why haven't you heard of it?

Well, unlike Corsica and Crete, it's not exactly a tourist destination. Located above the Arctic Circle, the entire island has a population of 1,100, most living in the only town, Qeqertarsuaq. (Yes, the same Icelandic name as the island.) Fewer than 50 people live in the only other settlement, Kangerluk, which can be reached by boat or air but not by road. There is one hotel in Qeqertarsuaq, and supposedly there is also one taxi driver. Since 1906 the University of Copenhagen has had a year-round research facility on the island known as Arctic Station.

Legend says that Disko Island was pulled north by a couple of strong kayakers who used a single strand of a newborn baby's hair for a tow rope. They got stuck in Disko Bay when a witch living in Ilulissat spotted them and put a curse on their efforts.

There may be change ahead for Disko Island. Air Zafari is beginning air tours of Disko Bay and Disko Island (we were one of their first customers on that tour), and locals are exploring the possibilities of amenities such as a ski slope, expanded hiking trips, and a hotel. Ten years from now, Disko Island may be a very different place.

During the evening of the same day that we cruised to Eqi Glacier, Bob and I and our friends Lori and Mark boarded a small plane, flew across Disko Bay, circled around Disko Island, and ended by flying over parts of the polar ice sheet on the mainland that we hadn't seen on our first flight.

Here's our plane. Though I've flown on quite a few now, these little planes still make me nervous:

Up, up, and away--straight over the bay!

Friday, September 27, 2019

GREENLAND: EQI GLACIER

June 18, 2019

At 11:00 AM--an unusually but very welcome late start for our group--we left for one more boat trip, a six- or seven-hour cruise to the Eqi Glacier, known for its vast breadth and frequent calving.

Along the way several members of our group sang versions of the "Theme from Gilligan's Island," and I was introduced to this marvelously campy mash-up version entitled "Stairway to Gilligan's Island." Just think "Arctic isle" instead of "desert isle":

Our boat was a bit smaller than Gilligan's, but it definitely had the Gilligan vibe:

This map shows our course, starting in Ilulissat at the bottom of the map and motoring north through the Ataa Strait to the Eqi Glacier, a distance of about 50 miles:

It took about 1 1/2 hours to get to the glacier, but we did stop along the way at a beautiful waterfall. Note the glassy surface of the sea. The stillness was interrupted only by our own movements and voices and the musical acoustics of the waterfall:

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

GREENLAND, ILULLISAT: RESTAURANT MAMARTUT

My husband likes to eat, and he especially likes local cuisine with a touch of weird. When he researched dining options in Greenland, Restaurant Mamartut showed up as #1 on a TripAdvisor list. The website notes that "The fishes are from the local fish factory and the sea mammals come almost daily from the ice fjord located closeby. Apart from this, they also have a small vegetables and herbs garden."

He was so excited about going there that he planned for TWO visits.

Our first was dinner on June 17, just before our flight over the Ilulissat ice fjord and Greenland ice sheet.

We opted for something frequently recommended by the reviewers on TripAdvisor, the tapas plate:

Here we are waiting for our food:

It was worth the wait. What an incredible assortment! I liked just about everything on the plate with the exception of the mattaq.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

GREENLAND, ILULISSAT: FLYING OVER THE GREENLAND ICE SHEET

June 17, 2019

After dinner, so around 9:00 PM, John, Susan, Bob, and I were picked up by two guys from AirZafari for a "flightseeing" tour of the Ilulissat glacier and the Greenland ice sheet. (I'm telling you, no one sleeps in Greenland during the summer!)

I just learned the difference between an ice cap and an ice sheet from greenfacts.org:
"An ice cap is a dome-shaped mass of glacier ice that spreads out in all directions; usually larger than an ice field but less than 50,000 km². An ice sheet is a dome-shaped mass of glacier ice that covers surrounding terrain and is greater than 50,000 km², such as the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets."

The Greenland ice sheet is 1,710,000 km² (or 660,200 m² - three times the size of Texas) and is the second largest ice body in the world, right behind the Antarctic ice sheet.

Nice to know.

We boarded a six-seater plane, the two pilots in front, Bob and John in the middle . . .

and Susan and I in back:

About 80% of Greenland is covered by ice and snow, and the remaining 20% seems to be mostly rocks:

It's beautiful, but it doesn't look particularly habitable:

. . . unless you are a bird: