Sunday, March 26, 2023

Up Close to Greenland Glaciers and Icebergs

Trip date: July 2022

During our week in Greenland we did two seperate boat tours. The first we booked thru Disko Line for a full day trip to Eqip Sermia. We were picked up at the Hotel Arctic, an easy walk from our apartment in Ilulissat, and taken to the marina. The boat was pretty large, lots of seating below, and lots of room to move around up top. 

It was an absolutely gorgeous day for this trip, good thing as it was 3 ½ hours up to the glacier! On the way we passed so many icebergs! Most were pretty small, being July and being a bit far from the glacier they had come off of. But we did pass a few massive ones! Icebergs are a bit like clouds in that you can play "what does that one look like to you?" A swan? A seal?

Heading north, farther into Disko Bay, we passed the Oqaatsut settlement. Only 29 people live here full time, and some Greenlanders have summer cabins here. Incredibly remote with no roads!

We also passed a couple of partially frozen waterfalls. Always such a beautiful site!

We were traveling about 50 miles north of Ilulissat and it got significantly cooler as we neared the glacier. Eqip Sermia is called the calving glacier and is one of the most active in all of Greenland, you are pretty much guaranteed to see ice falling off!

The glacier is about 3 miles wide and is an impressive sight on its own. But when a hunk of ice calves off it makes a loud cracking sound and a splash when it hits the water. The boat keeps a good distance so there isn't any danger. 

Our boat stayed in front of the glacier for 2 hours, which sounds like a lot of time, but it was great! They served lunch during this time, and as Forest and I happened to be sitting on the glacier side of the boat, so we had a lovely view as we ate. 

The lunch was served in super cute tin bento-style boxes and was very Danish; potato salad, meatballs, and salad of cabbage and pickled vegetables. When we booked, the site said you could bring your own beverages so we put a bottle of rosé in an insulated Corkcicle canteen. But it seemed like maybe they didn't mean wine so we were glad that you couldn't tell what was in our bottle! 

The onboard guide told us about the glacier and showed us some photos and graphs depicting how much it has receded over the years. It was shocking to me, and really sad. 

When we left the glacier the boat made a stop at Glacier Lodge Eqi to let off some passengers who were checking in there. The bungalows here look straight out onto the glacier so you can watch for calving ice all day long if you like! There are also a couple of cool hikes you can take to get closer. 

They served coffee and little cakes on the way back, and most of us spent the time outside in the sun watching for whales. I think a couple of people thought they saw some but we didn't. We did pass some buoys which the guide explained were deep fishing lines for halibut. These long line systems are set with 5,000 hooks! 

Back in Ilulissat, the transfer vans were waiting at the marina to take us to the Hotel Arctic. It had been a great day!

When we stayed at the Ilimanaq Lodge, we booked an Iceberg Sightseeing cruise through World of Greenland. You'll see in the pictures on their site that the boat looks medium sized and includes coffee. Our trip cost a little less and we were on a small outboard motor craft. We were also the only ones who had signed up for the tour, so it was just us, our tour guides from the Settlement Walk, and Captain Frank. 

As soon as we headed out into Disko Bay we spotted 2 whales! They were pretty close and the captain stopped the boat so we could watch for a while. We got to see a few whale tails but then it was time for the icebergs!

Our small boat turned directly into the iceflow that breaks off of the Ilulissat Glacier. There wasn't another boat around, the only sound was of the water, the crack of ice falling off the bergs, and the cry of flying birds. It was spectacular!

And unlike the smaller glaciers we saw on our big day trip cruise, these didn't look like animals, they were huge and architectural! 

We were able to get so close to some of the smaller ones, it was amazing to peer into the clear water and get just a small idea of how deep these bergs go! They say that 90% of an iceberg is underwater!!!

Captain Frank stopped the boat and showed us on a map the enormity of the icefjord. We felt very tiny amidst these floating giants.

Our guide fished out a tiny berg and cracked it into a few manageable pieces for Forest and I to taste. It was crystal clear and so pure. They estimate that this icefjord is 250,000 years old, so god only knows how old that ice that we ate was!!

We spent over an hour slowly motoring through this city of ice before we came upon a very impressive half dome iceberg and noticed some ice randomly falling from the ceiling of it. 

Within a few minutes the entire dome collapsed right in front of us! We were all amazed, even the captain and the guides!! It's such a rare thing to witness, we were all in shock! And crazily enough I just happened to be filming it!

Huge waves from calving glaciers or collapsing icebergs can be extremely dangerous for boats, the Greenlanders call them tsunamis, and you can hear me saying "here comes the tsunami!". You can also hear the guide saying "it's a little dangerous!". But Captain Frank had moved us backwards, away from a direct wave if it came, and after the show we motored safely out of the icefjord. 

What an ending to an awesome tour! 

Although both of these tours were incredible, if you are heading to Greenland I would say that the Iceberg Sightseeing tour is the do-not-miss experience. And not just because we witnessed the spectacular collapse, but because you get to be so close and see such a variety. It's also takes much less time. If you do the Eqi Glacier trip, I'd personally stay out at that lodge for a night or two!

Eqi Glacier photos are a part of this set.

Iceberg sightseeing photos are a part of this set.

Other posts from this trip:

First Stop Iceland

Exploring Ilulissat Greenland

Michelin Stars in Greenland

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