IN THE WAKE OF ERIC THE RED – FROM ICELAND TO GREENLAND
Join us on an expedition cruise from Reykjavík to Kangerlussuaq, which follows the same maritime course set by Norse settlers over a thousand years ago. After crossing Danmark Strait between Iceland and Greenland, we will visit the Inuit settlements of Tasiilaq and Kulusuk. Further south we will pass from East Greenland to West Greenland though the dramatic Prince Christians Sound. Heading north along the coast we will visit the capital of Greenland, one of the smallest in the world. In the Disko Bay, we will experience local folk dancing in Qeqertarsuaq and sail to the renowned Eqi Glacier. At the Sermermiut Plain we will have the chance to admire the World Heritage Site of the Ilulissat Icefjord and the dazzling icebergs in the late evening sun. Finally, we’ll enter the long fjord of Kangerlussuaq, where we can hope for a glimpse of the muskoxen and reindeers roaming the tundra along the Greenland Icecap.
Day 1 ICELAND, REYKKJAVIK EMBARKATION
In the afternoon, we board the Ocean Atlantic in Reykjavík and set our course westbound for Greenland.
Day 2 AT SEA
Our lecturers onboard will make inspiring and enriching presentations about both Iceland’s and Greenland’s past history and about nature, wildlife and climatology.
Day 3 TASIILAQ AND KUUMMIIT
This morning, we will approach the Island of Ammassalik and enter King Oskar’s harbor with the Polhem Mountain (1003 m/3300 feet) to starboard. In front of us, we will see East Greenland’s largest town, Ammassalik or Tasiilaq (2,000 inhabitants), which is the name used today. Although massive ice floes surround Tasiilaq making shipping traffic impossible most of the year, it has well-functioning educational institutions and health services.
Ammassalik was established as a colony in 1894, 10 years after the famed Gustav Holm’s umiaq expedition (open skin boat). The place where the town is located, originally had no permanent settlement, but it turned out to be a perfect place to live because of its natural harbor and easy access to open waters.
We visit the beautiful local museum with the old turf hut, which undoubtedly is the place with the very best opportunities to buy some of Greenland’s best crafts.
From Tasiilaq, we spend the rest of the day exploring the dramatic fjords and landscapes of the Ammassalik district, with the Kuummiit settlement (about 400 inhabitants) as our next destination. Kuummiit is a tiny settlement where most people thrive commercially by fishing or hunting. Choose to get ashore or stay onboard and enjoy the view of some of the most scenic and dramatic mountains in Greenland just behind Kuummiit.
Day 4 SKJOLDUNGEN / SAQQISIKUIK
The island of Skjoldungen is without doubt one of most beautiful areas in East Greenland. Situated at 63° N, the island is surrounded by narrow, steep fjords and glaciers, and with plenty of the cool, crisp and clean air of the ever present and nearby ice sheet. Still, we will find and experience a lush landscape and a milder climate than most would expect. Acclaimed Norwegian explorer Fridjof Nansen came here in late summer 1888 in search of a suitable ascension point for the first inland ice crossing.
Skjoldungen is also the name of an abandoned settlement, located on the southwest side of the island. Up to 100 people lived here until 1965, and some houses remain. We continue our journey to Dronning Marie Dal in the area’s northwestern corner to get a closer view of its interesting flora.
After Skjoldungen and Ilertakajik fjord, the Alpine peaks and mountainous landscape diminish and from here, we will find that over large stretches, the ice sheet reaches all the way to the shoreline, forming cohesive ice shelfs, a type of icy landscape that some travelers who have been to Antarctica will probably recognize.
Bernstorff Icefjord: The most productive glacier on the SE coast, but we keep a good distance to big icebergs in these ice-infested waters.
Day 5 PRINCE CHRISTIAN SOUND.
Kap Farvel, or Cape Farewell, is renowned not only as Greenland’s southernmost point, but also for its infamous, although mostly seasonal, gale-force winds.
We deliberately opt for a far more comfortable but at the same time more spectacular route, cruising via the inside passage through the Prince Christian Sound. This 60 km long waterway, from the Atlantic in the east, to the settlement Aapilattoq in the heart of the fjordlands of South West Greenland.
The sound has steep mountainsides, and many adventurous kayakers have had to turn around because of a very limited number of landing sites available. The old weather station of Prince Christian Sound, manned until a two years ago by sturdy meteorologists, is another classic point-of-interest along this itinerary.
Day 6 SOUTH GREENLAND. IVITTUUT, AND ARSUK FJORD.
It is difficult to predict the exact route in South Greenland. We reach South Greenland and expect the first port of call to be the town of Qaqortoq. Later in the day we hope to reach Arsuk Fjord with the small settlement of the same name. But the important call here is the former cryolite mine at Ivituut, the only place in the world where this very special mineral was mined until depleted 30 years ago. Used in aluminum melting, the mineral became strategically important, and forced the Americans to set up bases in South Greenland to protect the supply during WW 2.
Day 7 NUUK.
During the night, we have cruised north to reach Nuuk in the morning. As we enter the Nuuk Fjord we have fair chances of encountering the area’s seasonal visitors: the humpback whales.
The world’s smallest capital is in Greenland considered by many a mighty metropolis – a total of 17,000 people live here today, almost a third of the country’s population.
The area has been inhabited back to 2200 BC by pre-Inuit hunters. From year 1000 to 1350 AD, the Icelandic Vikings and farmers settled in South Greenland and in the Nuuk Fjord, while at the same time Inuit hunters of the Thule culture moved south from North Greenland. The Nordic settlers disappeared around 1350 AD, but the Inuit stayed, being far better equipped to hunt and survive in the tough Arctic nature.
Modern history of Greenland began in 1721, when the Norse missionary Hans Egede founded a permanent colony and trading station near Nuuk. In fact, Egede’s main purpose to return to Greenland was to convert the Catholic northerners to Lutherans, but soon after his arrival he realized the Norse had disappeared, a mystery yet unresolved.
In 1979, the Landsting (Parliament) was established in Nuuk, and the town was finally recognized as the country’s capital.
Late in the afternoon, we will leave the capital and continue our northbound journey.
Day 8 EVIGHEDSFJORDEN / FJORD OF ETERNITY.
Evighedsfjord, or the Fjord of Eternity, is one of the highlights of our voyage.
We navigate along the fjord’s steep mountainsides and experience spectacular glaciers, sliding slowly down to the sea.
Day 9 QEQERTARSUAQ ON DISKO ISLAND, ‘KAFFEMIK’ IN A COMMUNITY CENTRE AND EQIP SERMIA GLACIER.
Under Disko Island’s 1000-metre-high mountains we enter the protected natural habour that has the Danish name ‘Godhavn’ or Good Harbour and in Greenlandic ‘Qeqertarsuaq’ which means ‘The Big Island’.
Godhavn was until 1950 the most important town north of Nuuk, solely because of the large number of whales caught and landed here. This gave the town great wealth. Now it’s on the way to oblivion with declining job opportunities and connections to mainland.
The local community center hosts a traditional Greenlandic “kaffemik”, best described as a friendly gathering with coffee, cake and traditional dances and music.
Musicians from Greenland originally played on a drum (qilaat) made from an oval wooden frame covered with the bladder of a polar bear. Unlike other drums, the qilaat would be played by hitting the frame with a stick, and not the skin itself. This modest instrument was used for a variety of purposes, including entertainment, exorcism and witchcraft.
During the afternoon the ship heads east towards the giant glacier Eqip Sermia in the north-easterly corner of Disko Bay. This glacier is, without overstating, one of the most impressive in Greenland. Here you can experience a glacier calve up close, which is not possible in Ilulissat. Great crevasses, deep blue glacial streams, a landscape so unique and stunning that words are simply not sufficient. An outstanding opportunity to see, hear and smell this mighty ice world. In the evening, we will prepare for departure.
Day 10 CAPITAL OF THE ICEBERGS, ILULISSAT
Ilulissat is possibly the most well located town in Greenland. The name simply means ‘icebergs’ in Greenlandic and the town’s nickname is rightly ‘The Iceberg Capital of the World’.
The icebergs come from the Icefjord, which is located a half hour’s hike south of Ilulissat. These impressive frozen structures are born some 70km deeper into the fjord by the enormous Sermeq Kujalleq glacier. This 10km-wide glacier is the most productive glacier outside of Antarctica. Whereas most glaciers only calve at a rate of approximately a meter a day, the Ilulissat glacier calves at a rate of 25 meters per day. The icebergs produced by the glacier represent more than 10% of all icebergs in Greenland, corresponding to 20 million tons!
These facts, together with the fjord’s extreme beauty, have secured the Icefjord a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
During the more than 250 years that have passed since the establishment of Ilulissat, the town has steadily flourished. Today, Ilulissat is Greenland’s third largest town with more than 4,500 inhabitants. The town is very vibrant, welcoming and lively, with a wide range of cultural attractions, according to Greenlandic standards. The legendary polar explorer, Knud Rasmussen, and his good friend, Jørgen Brønlund, were both born in Ilulissat.
On this day, you will also have the opportunity to join a boat trip to the Icefjord. The journey takes about two and a half hours in total, and presents an opportunity to gain a closer look at the amazing ice-sculpted scenery. The trip is definitely something out of the ordinary and a great natural experience that you will remember for years to come – but be sure to remember warm clothes!
If a hike or a trip by boat does not present enough excitement, there is also an opportunity to arrange a helicopter ride over the Icefjord.
Please note the boat and helicopter excursions to the Icefjord are optional outings and therefore not included in the general tour price. Furthermore, the helicopter excursion must be booked in advance. Refer to Price Information for more details.
In the evening, we will cruise southward from “the Iceberg Capital”, leaving lovely Disko Bay in our wake.
Day 11 ITILLEQ.
In the morning, we will arise to a picturesque sight — the settlement of Itilleq, which translates to ‘the hollow’ or ‘the flatlands’. Quite an appropriate name for a settlement that lies nestled at the foothills of mountains and glaciers in the distant backcountry to the east. The town’s slightly more than 100 residents live off hunting, trapping and fishing, most often in pursuit of arctic char, reindeer and musk oxen.
Although Itilleq is quite remote, it lies within a few hours’ dinghy sail from Sisimiut, the second-largest town in Greenland. The accessibility to such a large town provides an indispensable economic benefit to a small community like Itilleq’s.
A stroll through the settlement offers insight into rural life in today’s Greenland, where modern conveniences and technological advancements, like internet and smart phones, have become commonplace – yet locals still place great value on important customs and on preserving their traditions and Inuit heritage.
Before lunch, we will return to Ocean Atlantic and continue our journey toward the fjord of Kangerlussuaq. Especially the first part of the fjord gives you great opportunities to enjoy an impressive passage with panoramic views of high mountains and deep valleys.
Day 12 KANGERLUSSUAQ. REINDEER GLACIER (OPTIONAL). AIR TO ICELAND.
During the night, we will have completed our passage through the 160-kilometer/100 mile Kangerlussuaq Fjord. After breakfast aboard the ship, we will bid farewell to the ship’s staff and the Zodiac boats will shuttle us to shore.
Due to Kangerlussuaq’s military history and present-day role as an important air travel hub, Kangerlussuaq remains fairly isolated from Greenland’s rich cultural traditions in comparison to other regions. While you still find cultural experiences when visiting Kangerlussuaq, the most impressive attraction is the surrounding nature, which is just beckoning to be explored.
It is not difficult to see that Kangerlussuaq’s landscape has largely been shaped by the last glaciation period, often known simply as the “Ice Age,” some 18,000 years ago. The mountains are rounded and soft, and many meltwater lakes remain. From the inland ice sheet, best known as the Greenland Ice Sheet, the meltwater cuts its way through the porous moraine landscape and flows into Kangerlussuaq Fjord.
Kangerlussuaq’s present-day climate is largely impacted by its well-sheltered location between Greenland’s Ice Sheet, the fjord and mountains. This contributes to its stable conditions, minimal cloud presence and roughly 300 clear nights per year.
In Kangerlussuaq we offer an optional excursion to the beautiful Reindeer Glacier. The duration of the excursion is about four hours.
Please note the excursion is not included in the general tour price. Refer to Price Information for more details. We do not recommend this excursion for people who suffer from bad necks or backs, as the gravel road to the ice sheet is occasionally bumpy and uneven.
As our time in Greenland concludes, we will fly from Kangerlussuaq to Keflavik Airport, Iceland, and your Arctic adventure will have concluded.
Ocean Atlantic is the perfect vessel for expedition cruising in Antarctic waters! Newly renovated in 2016 and with an international ice class rating of 1B, she is one of the strongest ships operating in Antarctica. Her high maneuverability, shallow draft and strong engines allow for extended voyages into isolated fjords, creating exciting adventures for any Antarctica traveler.
Ocean Atlantic is newly renovated (2016) with elegant common areas and accommodation for 198 passengers.
The ship was built in 1985 and underwent an extensive rebuild in 2010. With a length of 140m she has ample space on the multiple decks for several lecture halls, a relaxed restaurant serving 4-star international cuisine, professionally staffed bars and observation platforms – and even a pool.
All common areas on the Erickson Deck feature large panel windows, enabling passengers to quickly spot passing whales and photographic sights from the comfort of indoor lounges.
All private cabins are stylish appointed and feature individual bathroom facilities, phone for internal calls, individual temperature controls and TV. Ideal for relaxation, the vessels’ accommodation ranges in size from 11 – 35 m2 and are designed with either portholes or windows.
Daily shore landings at penguin rookeries, research stations and other Antarctic wonders are made possible by her fleet of 20 Zodiacs.
Year of construction 1985
Year of refurbishment 2016
Passenger capacity 198