JULY 31 UPDATES...
The Clipper Adventurer moves into the pack ice
** Click on this link to see the MV Clipper Adventurer's location at 6 AM **
JOHN CRUMP: SOI Educator & Senior Advisor, Polar Centre, UNEP/GRID-Arendal
A hillside in Prins Christians Sund echoes with the sound of Inuit drumming. It punctuates the constant roar of a stream hurtling down a blank granite face from a retreating glacier hanging above us. We tried and failed to get into the eastern entrance of this sound last night so spent the night rounding Cape Farewell to reach the southern opening.
I’m sitting on a large rock covered in black lichen. We have chosen this site for workshops -- painting, writing, music and drum dancing, to name a few. Dinner hour has passed but we ate lunch in the late afternoon after spending hours out in the zodiacs.
After three days of enough seas and thick fog, it is marvelous to be on land once more. The air is sweet with the scent of willow and birch which cling fast to the ground. These are ancient trees, even though they stand only a few metres high. The hills all around are a verdant green and one can see where Erik the Red, who led a group of settlers from Iceland in 986, got the name “Greenland”. It was also a good marketing ploy since these aren’t exactly sheep pastures. The Vikings did have farms but they were further back up the eastern coast. They settled and lived in Greenland for over 400 years until they suddenly vanished at the onset of the Little Ice Age. It’s more than likely that the changing climate contributed to their demise.
We have sailed in new waters and walked on new land today. The fjords are deep and narrow here. Sheer rock faces climb 1000 metres and glaciers slide down to the water’s edge where the bottom is still several hundred metres below in many places.
Where we anchored this morning should not have been water, at least not according to the 1966 charts we carry (they are the most recent). In that year the terminus of the glacier we stopped to visit extended more than five kilometres further down the fjord. The land we made at the base of a retreating side glacier would not have been possible either. The chart shows it connected to the main glacier. The rubble strewn beach we were using for our outdoor glaciology class would have been buried deep in grinding ice.
So there are footprints here. You can see them easily all along the fjord where torrents of glacial water rush down to mix with the salt water. In one place a glacier, now just a remnant, had cut a steep U-shaped valley. The water churned through a narrow cut in the granite, falling at a precipitous angel. Once this channel flowed hidden beneath the glacier. That the ice has not been gone for long is attested to by the bare granitic pink U surrounded by darker, lichen covered rock which has been exposed since the end of the Ice Age.
We have learned much about glaciers from the scientific crew on board. The equation of a balanced glacier is easy to understand: if more water melts than snow falls, the glacier loses what is called “mass balance”. Increasing global temperatures are affecting the mass balance of glaciers in all but a few places in the world. Recent studies indicate Greenland’s massive ice cap, of which these glaciers form a small part, may be more threatened than was suspected even a couple of years ago.
There is another kind of imbalance we are reminded of in this spectacular place. That’s the one between knowledge and action. We know what we need to do to slow the process of climate change. So far we have chosen not to act. And the retreating glaciers in Prins Christians Sund are telling us we are running out of time to restore the balance.
Katharine Nuotio-Trimm leans on a beached bergy bit
(All photos by Lee Narraway)
Victoria Wee, Coquitlam, B.C.
Kismet? Fate? Cosmic Destiny? Perhaps those are the words closest to summing the day so far. I attended a workshop on wildlife research techniques led by one of the expedition staff, Richard Sears. The work Richard does involves identifying individual whales and entering information into a database that he shares with other researchers. It's fascinating work. It can also be excruciating work. I found my mind flying in all directions during the workshop while we talked about double-identification fallacies.
Kiran Dhatt-Gauthier, Sudbury, ON
A barrage of fogbows, sea ice, and fog itself was really the only things that we saw in the last two days. Again, just as time previously had to adjust itself to a natural rhythm after my speedy flight here, the Universe had to get back at us after having too good of a trip in Iceland. Even with all of the good karma being passed around, I truly felt disappointed when we resorted to plan E for our introduction to Greenland. However, plan E showed the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen, leading me to drool over the beauty of plan A, B, C, or even D. Nevertheless, as we rode up along the coast, I almost had to force myself to look through the viewfinder on my camera for more than half a second. Sometimes, I would simply point the camera in the direction I thought I might be looking at and hope for a good photo. Mountain ranges that would look down on Olympus itself towered above the clouds, icebergs of the bluest blue floated slowly behind our ship, turquoise sea water was overrun by small floats of white sea ice, and a billion tiny grass hairs dominated the lower altitudes on the hilly landscape. There are places where a camera just cannot capture the beauty and magnificence of the land, no matter how specialized and perfectly designed for that one photo, so we rely on the two cameras, and massive memory bank we were born with to forever remember these moments. As we sailed into the Prince Christianson fjord, I saw glaciers the sizes of houses, rock faces, thousands of meters high, polished like marble, and as we weaved through the maze, the "oohs" and "aahs" became louder with every meter gained. Perhaps this is just nonsense but I still feel as if the Universe hasn't paid us back fully for those two days lost, and they've still got some more excitement in store for SOI. And, in a surprise visit, our good friend "Ari" came back in the form of the very talented comedian Jason Hammond, bringing along with him, "Oli" as Jonathan Chatman, the President of Iceland whom we now know on a first name basis. This duo gave the most memorable performance of the trip, ending with an Icelandic take on the popular Journey song "Don't Stop Believing", remixing it under the new name "Don't Stop 'Til Greenland". These experiences will be fondly remembered by the entire SOI group, thanks to the undying energy of the crew.
Regan Burden and Amanda Dyson painting plein air
Saladie Snowball, Kangiqsualujjuaq, Quebec
On July 30th we finally went on the LAND after two days being in the ship! Once I stepped on the shore I took a few steps and kissed the land with Gloria! It was pretty funny but it felt so so good not being on a ship that is moving all day! The scenery was just great! It felt like I was in heaven. We were learning about glaciers and rocks. I can now say I left footprints in Greenland! We were also hiking the glacier and getting waters in our water bottles. After that we went touring around the ice and big chunks of ice were falling down. Three big chunks of ice fell almost at the same time and made huge waves that made our zodiac drive say “we have to go!" It is just spectacular how the Arctic is created! After our tour we went back to the ship and went to another land. We did our workshops there and I chose drum dancing. We had to drum dance three at a time. Anyway I have to go and I am not finished but this is the end. I'll keep you posted :)
Kristin Kolka Bjarnadottir, Holar, Iceland
The last few days have been full of workshops and presentations, including a very good lecture by David Fletcher about Greenland, and wildlife sightings. Yesterday we saw nine finback whales right beside our ship and that was probably one of the most exciting experiences ever. They were so close, so big and so magnificent. They kind of made up for the fact that we didn't get to land yesterday which I was pretty bummed about since I, like everyone I think, was pretty ready to get off this ship for a while. And then today we finally got rid of the fog that has been annoying us and man, what a spectacular view emerged from the fog! We sailed into Prince Christiansen fjord and the view was amazing. Bergy bits, icebergs, waterfalls and steep mountains captured your eye everywhere and it was hard sometimes to stop taking pictures. We sailed into a side fjord where we went zodiac cruising and finally made a landing! We went to land next to a small glacier and then went with the zodiacs to another, bigger, glacier. The view was of course spectacular but I think the highlight for me was getting glacial water from a waterfall that flowed into the fjord. I filled up my water bottle and it was so nice to finally get fresh water because I absolutely hate the water on the ship.
We made a second landing later in the day in another small fjord and the view there was spectacular. Mountains surrounded us and you couldn't really see a way out. There were a number of small glaciers and we went to land near one of them and did workshops and let me tell you, doing workshops in that environment was a whole lot of more fun than being holed up on the ship. The first real day in Greenland is now over and I can't wait to see what Greenland has to offer tomorrow.
Mikaela Cockney-MacNeil, Derrick Gill, James Raffan and Joey Loi
on a zodiac ice cruise
Joey Loi, Markham, ON
After two full days at sea sailing through fog and ice, the Clipper Adventurer has found a safe place inside a southern Greenlandic fjord to anchor down in. From the deck could be seen an expanse of towering mountains, lively glaciers, and floating icebergs. Sunshine broke through the fog and sparkled on the water; blue skies meeting the jagged landscape. Everyone was anxious to explore, and our discoveries were nothing short of breathtaking.
Our zodiac landing brought us right up to the front of a glacier which rested gently on the slope of a mountain. Zodiacs are small motor boats that bring about ten people to shore where the ship can not reach because of unsuitable terrain. Upon landing, our staff expert Eric presented to us the way glaciers move and how they interact with the rocks around them. Glaciers make up 80% of Greenland, and they are actively shaping mountainsides by carrying and shifting large rocks that rub against the mountain under high pressures. We all climbed up the glacier to taste the fresh water that ran down in little streams along the surface. This water is some of the purest and freshest in the world, and many of us filled up bottles to bring home.
Before returning to the Clipper Adventurer, we jumped back in a zodiac to cruise along another nearby glacier which came right up into the ocean. Weaving through icebergs and bergie bits to approach it, we were soon overwhelmed by its magnificent size. From the deck of the ship it did not appear nearly as large but up close it was simply grand; featuring a jagged and uneven front that's white with hints of blue. Always active this time of year because of the warming temperatures, we were in the right place at the right time to see the glacier calving. This is when chunks of ice fall off its face, plummeting to the sea below. It begins with a loud crack, and is followed by a thunderous rumbling of ice as pieces break free from the glacier and drop into the ocean. After a spectacular splash, it becomes an iceberg. When these boulders of ice fall, they drop below the water and emerge with great upwards force due to their buoyancy. We were careful not to be caught in the way of one!
Greenland's southern coast boasts spectacular natural wonders. From the captivating colours of the ocean to the bold presence of the glaciers, we were reminded of the beauty of our planet. Glaciers are lively and continue to play an increasingly active role in the global environment. Climate change is evident in this part of the world, as glaciers are shrinking in size and are melting earlier in the year. It is a growing issue, and one that demands immediate action from the global community. The science tells us why we need to protect it; the beauty convinces us.
Together let's protect our poles and protect our planet.
Niki Trudeau at the helm of a zodiac
Kendall White and Bo Yeon Jang practice a First Nations'
Students on deck!
Sherilyn Sewoee, Arviat, Nunavut
This morning we went to a Southern Greenland Island; it was super cool. Some people went swimming in a hot spring, and I was on a Zodiac watching the big icebergs. I also bought Johnny Issaluk a present. Today's his birthday. Eight or nine more days until I see my friends back in Arviat! Yay!
Kendall White and Darcy Kuppaq drum dance on a hillside in Greenland
Trevor de Zeeuw licks some fresh water from a bergy bit
Michael Gardiner, Torbay, Newfoundland
We went today on our third zodiac tour. A common running joke on the expedition is asking if it will keep getting better or should we just prepare for it to level off. Fortunately we have not had to deal with any lulls in excitement. One of the things I'm really enjoying is the freedom. Today I looked across the barrens when we landed. What I saw was a mountain about a kilometer away. I said to myself "I want to climb that" and so when we got close I did. It was not vertical but I was on all fours at some points going up. As I climbed up I got an incredible view of the ocean as the icebergs were floating across it. One of Geoff's favorite quotes is "flexibility is key". It reminds me that sometimes it's more important not to worry about the exact times and schedules because often we don't imagine, when we are making the schedule, where the real experiences are.
Two zodiacs cruise below a glacier
Eric Mattson conducts a glaciology workshop
at the foot of a glacier
Geoff Green and son Fletcher
Mike Jensen, Expedition Staff Member
How many people can actually say they’ve been to Greenland? Most people know where it is on a map (it’s the big white splotch with a green border between Canada and Europe) but I can’t think of too many who can say they been able to visit the world’s largest island.
Well, neither have I! Yet. Today was our scheduled day to arrive at Greenland after having crossed the somewhat turbulent Denmark Strait. Except for one slight problem.
Fog. Thick peasoup-y fog. So bad, at times you could barely see the bow of the ship. Now, have no fear blog readers, our fine vessel, the Clipper Adventurer, is equipped with state of the art navigation system, radar, etc. But according to the latest ice charts, the area where we were scheduled to first visit Greenland was surrounded by thick ice. So the pragmatic thing to do is slow down, even in clear weather.
After a full day at sea, and a lot of seasickness, I think it’s safe to say that were all eager to get out and touch terra firma. So there was a sense of anticipation on board as we all clamored out onto the deck to see what we could see.
And we waited. Aaaand waited. More fog. A few birds that seemed to taunt us. The main thing of interest was a nice intense fog halo, courtesy of the low lying morning sun.
Then, in the distance, appeared something in the water. It was definitely something floating, and it was white in color. As it grew closer, it became apparent that this was… an iceberg!
Well, OK, it was not REALLY an iceberg, but what’s referred to as a bergy bit – essentially a small chunk of ice that either was a bigger iceberg, or was a chunk from a large iceberg that broke off. And in reality – it was barely the size of a kitchen stove. But that didn't’t stop 100 cameras from swinging starboard and click-clicking away to capture this momentous occasion from every possible angle.
Laughter ensued as we realized how excited we got over one little ice cube. But then cheers erupted as a second BIGGER ice cube came by. And another. And another. Finally the water was pockmarked with bergy bits, growlers and good-sized bergs themselves.
At that point, Geoff came over the loudspeaker to announce that were finally nearing the coast of Greenland! But at that exact moment, the fog cleared enough for us to see what lay ahead. One giant field of ice. Now, the Adventurer is capable of plowing through some good-sized ice. But she’s not an icebreaker. Her reinforced hull DOES have limits.
So it became very obvious that we weren't’t going ahead with Plan A. So in typical Students On Ice fashion, we went for Plan B. The ship turned south to hug the coastline of Greenland, looking for a break in the ice field and an attempt at another fjord.
But as minutes turned to hours, it became obvious that Plan B was not’t going to pan out. Or Plan C. In fact, by the time the day turned to evening, Plan F was in full force. Rather than waste more time attempting to push through the ice, we would continue full steam ahead to the southern tip of Greenland in an attempt to get well clear of the ice and enter Prins Christian Sund, a nice little series of fjords with long, tendril-like mini-fjords snaking off of them. It essentially carves a path across this tip and would hopefully provide us with an opportunity to move in and actually see Greenland.
But that wouldn't’t happen until morning. A wave of disappointment ran through the students at the thought of a second day at sea without touching land. But as disappointed as I was, too, I reminded myself (and anyone who cared), that in 2010, we didn't’t see ANY ice. So to have sailed past a few larger icebergs and come across a field of ice – well, that was a plus.
Luckily, SOI’s backup plans kick into full gear, and students and staff were kept busy with workshops, activities and presentations to pass the time. Journals were rapidly being written and sent home to go up on the SOI website. There were even some cutthroat games of Euchre to be had.
Tomorrow morning, we expect to be at the entrance to Prins Christian Sund. This is mostly virgin territory for SOI – only a handful of staff (and a couple of students actually from Greenland) are familiar with it. So fingers crossed for some good karma and clear skies!
On deck and enjoying the weather
Imagine waking up to this view!
Sherilyn Sewoee, Arviat, Nu
It's been 2 weeks and six days I went away from home and I have one week and one day before going home. I'm having a great time with new friends; I'm seeing a lot of new things.
When I was lying down on the ground in Greenland I closed my eyes and saw how lucky I am to be in this beautiful land. I even thought I was dreaming but I wasn't. Memory will always come in either way. I hope I will see another land like this.
The MV Clipper Adventurer at anchor
All is well on board the MV Clipper Adventurer! It is a beautiful sunny day in Greenland. And they are presently preparing to jump in the zodiacs for an "iceberg cruise", a landing, and a hike up a glacier tongue.
The team had an exciting day yesterday, and we have received many new photos and journals - and we are in the process of updating the site. Check back later this morning for updates.
Eastern Greenland has a long band of sea ice running along its coastline. The expedition team spent yesterday and last night, cruising along and through its outer perimeter, searching for a way to get closer to land. They spotted and 9 Fin Whales, got quite close to them, and watched them for almost an hour.
The team had a fabulous evening on board. After spending the day on deck, taking in breath taking sites, watching icebergs float by, participating in workshops and activities, and experiencing the sensation of the ice-classed ship bumping into and pushing through pack-ice - the team settled into the lecture hall for an evening Talent Show...
The evening included a "Broadcast of the Student Media Team" led by veteran CBC journalist Lucy van Oldenbarnevelde, performances by Ian Tamblyn, throat singing and drum dancing by Sylvia, David and some students, Story-time with Karsten, hip-hop with Joy and Derrick - and a presentation of Pascale's videos. It was a great night with lots of joy and laughter.
After the evening performances, the team went out on deck.
The evening was beautiful - calm seas, warm air, and the northern lights were out in full - and everyone witnessed the beautiful green hue above the Greenland coast. Above the silhouette of the Greenland coast, you could see a bit of sunlight, making the most beautiful and striking connection of lights, land and sky. Add to that, the sound of our ice-classed ship slowing ploughing through pack ice - and you had an indescribable Arctic experience for our young expeditioners.
Today is another Expedition Day. The team is currently in Prins Christian Sund - one of Greenland's most famous wonders - and preparing for a cruise and landing.
Prins Christian Sund
Located near the southernmost tip of Greenland, Prins Christian Sund is a 55-mile long channel that spans a mile across, with mountains rising up a staggering 6,000 feet above sea level. Passage through this channel is truly awe-inspiring.
This is the world's best locations for whale watching - and it will be all-hands on deck for dolphins, orcas, Humpback, Blue, Northern Right and Minke Whales. Polar Bears abound.
Depending on ice conditions - we expect the team will be going ashore this morning and this afternoon to hike, explore and participate in educational activities.
Stay tuned for more...