At sea off Greenland ~ 28 July 2023
” People, perhaps, still exist who believe that it is of no importance to explore the unknown Polar regions. This, of course, shows ignorance. It is hardly necessary to mention here of what scientific importance it is that these regions should be thoroughly explored. The history of the human race is a continental straggle from darkness towards light. It is therefore, to no purpose to discuss the use of knowledge; every man wants to know, and when he ceases to do so, he is no longer man” – Fridtjof Nansen
Last night around midnight, Canadian Chris Srigley announced a Polar Bear on an ice floe with her cub. The dancing stopped, and guests flew outside to bear witness to a quite indescribable scene. Under a Dante’ Inferno-like sky only East Greenland can produce, we were entranced by the pair at ease on the ice. As we are leaving Greenland and the ice pack, a more fitting and special farewell could not be imagined. This brings our ice bear total to 8 animals seen.
Today is a day at sea, with some guests caught out by their watches not having been changed by 2 hours, so they missed breakfast. They were relieved however not to have to spell Nalunaarasuartaatilioqatigiiffissualersaaleraluallaraminngooq!
This Greenlandic word of 64 letters means ‘ it seems that they were well into the process of talking about founding an association for the establishment of a Telegraph Station’. However, the longest words accepted into the Greenlandic Dictionary are 41 letters or less. Early risers were given the option of a Yoga class on the stage with one of the ship’s dance group. Geologist Jason Hicks gave a lecture on Climate Change, a very topical subject hereabouts on account of receding ice levels and glaciers.
Naturalists spend much time on deck, assisting with bird identification, use of binoculars and cameras, or general conversation with our delightful guests. All A&K guests have been given Morten Joergensen’s book ” Polar Bears, Beloved and Betrayed” after which Morten gave a hard-hitting talk on threats to Polar Bears, and signed guests’ books. Two more lectures filled the afternoon, before guests were invited for Caviar, and Recaps.
I hosted dinner with the Captain, for a charming guest from Florida celebrating her birthday. Her travel companion, dressed in a fine pale green dress, was not feeling great. It was not long before her face matched the colour of her dress, and we encouraged her to go to bed. We had a very enjoyable, laughter-filled evening. When we were done, the Captain chose to pop the balloons with his fork, causing guests nearby to almost jump out of their skins. We proceed southwards towards Iceland on a gentle sea, beneath an overcast sky.
Iceland ~ 29 July 2023
Early today we berthed in Husavik, on the north-eastern coast of Iceland. A town of roughly 2300 inhabitants, reliant upon tourism, fishing, retail and small industry. Husavik has become a centre for whale-watching as various species of Cetaceans enter the bay, and the Whale Museum is justifiably world famous. Legend has it that the very first houses in Iceland were built by Norsemen here at Husavik around 870AD.
Guests were given the options between an all-day bus tour, or 3-hour whale-watching tour, lunch onboard, then free time in Husavik.
The bus tour provided plenty opportunity to view the beautiful, rolling hills of Iceland. Farm houses and tiny settlements abound, everything is spotlessly clean and interesting to note that a place the same size as Ohio state has 390 000 people, living largely around the capital Reykjavik. Almost all hot water and electricity created from the vast reserves of geo-thermal water and steam. Telephone wires and other infrastructure is buried, so the views are unobscured by telephone lines and such.
The small pseudo craters which line the shores of Lake Myvatn at Skutustadir were fascinating, looking as much like bomb craters from WW1. At Dimmuborgir the volcanic activity is clearly visible, lava floes and deep fissures running down into the Earth. One of the only places on our globe where you can see tectonic plates moving apart above the ground. After a lovely lunch in a local hotel overlooking the Lake Myvatn, we visited Godafoss waterfall. A truly magnificent sight. Powerful currents of pale-blue water pouring over a crescent-shaped fall. These Icelandic rivers and falls are kayakers’ dreamworld.
The whale-watchers saw whales up close, on calm seas, and had a wonderful outing. Breaching Humpbacks, a Minke and Orcas! Little wonder they returned to the ship elated. Whale-watching hub indeed.
The Captain’s Farewell Dinner included all crew being introduced to the guests, a charming itinerary resume’ by the Captain, followed by a sumptuous meal. I hosted a table of American guests, amongst them a heart surgeon who last month won Best Physician Award. Her husband is a Pulmonologist. The intellectual horsepower onboard these journeys is staggering. WE learn more from our guests than they ever learn from us.
Iceland north coast ~ 30 July 2023
“The problem with driving around Iceland is that you’re basically confronted by a new soul-enriching, breath-taking, life-affirming natural sight every five minutes. It’s totally exhausting” – Stephen Markley, US author
It would be very difficult indeed to disagree with Markley. This morning we cruised along the northern coast of Iceland, which is utterly breathtaking. A disembarkation briefing was given regarding the morning’s protocols in Reykjavik, and Jason Hicks gave a wonderful lecture on future tectonic plate movements. Jason speaks about geological matters and millions of years in time as if they are old, familiar friends. Not quite so for the audience, however. Salmon farms were seen at various points along the shore.
Interesting how Greenland is white/ice/snow, and Iceland is verdant and green. Birch forests covered 70% of Iceland lowlands pre-900AD, when the Vikings began to settle Iceland. The Birch is impossible to walk through, and it was cleared for agricultural reasons. Worthless as lumber, or even as firewood. Today less than 5% of the lowlands are covered in Birch. Rich farmland pastures have replaced it.
After lunch we arrived at Arnafjordur in the Westfjords region of Iceland. Dynjandi waterfall, also known as Fjallfoss is the largest waterfall in the area, dropping into the fjord. Water plunges off an escarpment 100meters/330feet, forming a wide cascade of water, and other falls/rapids beneath it. Flanked by abundant vegetation and mosses, the scene is quite indescribable. Guests rode the Zodiacs to shore in wide-eyed wonder, before tackling the footpath leading up the side of the river. Quite a climb to the uppermost reaches of the falls, but clear views from all elevations. In stunning weather (17C/57F) guests enjoyed the rich natural beauty of Iceland. I spent time with other staff near the top of the waterfall, before the guests began to arrive. It was an ideal time to reflect upon just how privileged I am to call this sort of work part of my lifestyle. Abundant birdlife lives along the fjord’s edge, Including Redshanks and Oystercatchers. Dynjandi really has proven an utterly appropriate end to what has been an extraordinary A&K voyage, In search of Polar Bears.
At sea off Greenland ~ 28 July 2023