Steve’s Sojourns. Sniffed by the Inuits.
Fancy being sniffed by the Inuits? Well if not and you land on the small community of Oqaatusat in western Greenland be ready! I heard the sound of the drum long before I saw the two girls with their painted faces swaying and dancing towards me both welcoming and threatening at the same time.
It was the sniffing of my clothing and the protruding tongues that made me feel like some 18th century sea captain stepping ashore on a South Pacific island for the first time. This illusion was instantly shattered when the girls produced a plastic dish full of coins asking payment for their photograph.
This to me sums up Greenland quite nicely, a place that hits you with mixed emotions and some of the most magnificent scenery anywhere on Earth. Our trip started with a four hour flight from Copenhagen but Hurtigruten Cruises had chartered the whole plane so 170 of us nestled comfortably in a space normally full with 350.
This cruise takes in the Disco Bay area on the west coast. Not only are the icebergs here incredibly beautiful and awe inspiring but the rich waters attract a wealth of wild life. Above the Arctic Circle 24 hour daylight means when I couldn’t sleep I could whale watch and on the first morning I saw a pod of Minkes, others saw a Bowhead whale and distant fins of Orcas plus herds of Greenland and Bearded seals.
Hurtigruten don’t use zodiacs for their landings but Polar Cirkle boats. As the name implies they are designed specifically for ice work. With high benches for you to sit on they are single hulled ice strengthened boats that can get where zodiacs can’t. A set of detached steps grant you access on to the beach. Their stability is also very important when using it for passenger transport to and from the shore in rough waters.
The Disko bay area is the magnet for visitors as it houses the Kangerlua Glacier, the largest glacier outside Antarctica, producing icebergs that can weigh up to 7 million tonnes each.
These icebergs can shatter into smaller iceflows due to the force from the glacier behind them and cover the sea. Inded I was very apprenhensive as we approached the town with the ship crawling along very slowly pushing and crushing the ice out of the way. She may have an ice strengthend hull for her trips to Antarctica and Svalbard and the Captain and crew are experienced ice sailors but it was still a bit unnerving.
Remember though that this is adventure cruising, we had to have one trip to a small community cancelled as the sea was so rough we couldn’t land the boats safely. Do not attempt to make a fuss of the sled dogs. They are pack animals and some of them can be very vicious if you get too close. Sea sickness patches are a very good idea, Arctic storms can come out of nowhere.
Don’t let that put you off though Greenland is a fascinating place. I’d go back tomorrow.
Steve was a guest of Hurtigruten