Sunday, 31 July 2011

Ny Ålesund

Ny-Ålesund in the distance

We arrived in Ny Ålesund at 08:00. The small settlement was originally established as a coal mining operation.  After the collapse of the coal market in 1957 and a series of serious mining accidents the mines were closed in 1962. Since 1964 Ny-Ålesund has been a centre for international Arctic Research and environmental monitoring.  More than 10 countries conduct research here.  During the summer months the population swells from 30 to 150 people.
Exploring Ny-Ålesund
It was a cool morning with overcast skies, excellent weather to go for a short walk guided by the Expedition Team through town.  as we strolled through the village we learned not only about the mining history but also about the great aviators and explorers that are an important part of the history of Svalbard and Arctic Exploration.  Our tour ended at the mooring mast that Amundsen,  Nobile and Ellsworth used to tether their large airships which they would use to reach the north pole.

Old locomotive that was used to haul coal in Ny-Ålesund
Wildlife was in abundance.  Just behind town we could see reindeer grazing.  Around the outskirts of the settlement we saw lots of sea birds including nesting Arctic Terns and one exquisite Ivory Gull.  Certainly one of the most beautiful gull species in the world.

There was ample opportunity to explore the museum, the information centre, to write post cards and to splurge on souvenirs in the gift shop.

Most northerly post office in the world
At 11:00 we were all back on board.  We cast off our lines and began the journey back to Longyearbyen. 
In the afternoon the lecture series continued with talks on ice, polar explorers and whales.  The skies continued to be overcast and the seas were calm.  It was a perfect day to relax and reflect upon everything we had seen and done so far while exploring Svalbard. 

Monaco Glacier and Moffen Island

Sometimes the best thing about Expedition Cruising is simply to jump into a small boat and go exploring.  On a largish vessel like Fram one might not think that would be a possibility, but it most definitely is!  This morning at 09:00 we were anchored off of a very large and beautiful glacier called Monaco Glacier (Monacobreen).  At 09:30 we put the Polar Cirkel boats in the water and went for a cruise along the glacier face.  We cruised along the entire terminus of the glacier.  Five kilometres of brilliant blue ice!
Polar Cirkel boats pushing an ice floe away from the tenderpit 
Along the way our guides talked about icebergs and glaciers and even about the birds we could see all around us.  There were Kittiwakes and Glaucous Gulls in abundance as well as Black Guillemots, Arctic Terns, Northern Fulmars and the occasional Arctic Skua.  A lot of the birds fed along the face of the glacier where the fresh water outflow met the salty sea water.  Large and small chunks of ice would occasionally calve.  When this happened the birds would flock to where the ice disturbed the water.

Monaco Glacier and Polar Cirkel boat, Spitsbergen
Closeup of a small iceberg with Monaco Glacier in the background

Walruses at Moffen Island Spitsbergen (Photo ©Karsten Bidstrup)

In the afternoon we set our course for Moffen Island which would be the most northerly point of our journey. It would take several hours to to get there so we used the opportunity to slot in several lectures on ice and geology.
Moffen Island is a protected nature reserve situated just above 80˚ N.  That is very far north indeed.  To quote a friend of mine, “if you had a globe of the earth you would need to look under the brass cap at the top to find Moffen Island.”
Shortly after 17:00 we approached the tiny island. It was barely above sea level and seemed no more than a sand bar.  However, this low, flat piece of sand and gravel is very important as a Walrus haul-out and is also an important nesting site for Arctic Terns.  Indeed, we counted between sixty and seventy Walruses in three groups packed tightly together.
Well! This was a cause to celebrate.  Not only did we have excellent views of one of the most extraordinary of all pinnipeds but we had crossed 80˚ North at the same time!  

Friday, 29 July 2011

Attacking Arctic Terns

Arctic Tern,  Gravneset Spitsbergen

As we stepped on the beach of Gravneset, deep in Magdalene Fjord it was easy to see why this was one of the most visited sites in Svalbard. The beach was soft sand in some areas and cobblestone in others.  Beautiful jagged mountains rose steeply all around the bay.  Each mountain seemed to support one or more glaciers.  It was impressive scenery
Polar Swim in Gravneset  Spitsbergen
We set out to explore the historic whaling site in language groups.  Each group was accompanied by two members of the Expedition Team that were equipped with radios, flare guns and high-powered rifles.  The rifles were a constant reminder that this is very much the home of Polar Bears.  While we all hoped to see an Ice Bear, the biggest threat at this site today were the protective Arctic Terns nesting on the beach.  Chattering, clicking birds swooped down at our heads in an effort to drive us away from their nests and chicks.  Our leaders instructed us to simply raise a gloved hand over our head.  The birds would attack the highest point.  Their beaks weren’t much of a threat to a gloved hand.
The view from a hilltop near Virgohamna
Gravneset had been used by whalers for over 200 years.  Over that long period of time many whalers died and were buried on a small hill in the centre of the beach.  It was a somber reminder of the tough life they must have endured.
An hour was ample time to explore the area, stretch the legs and get a great breath of fresh air.  Some of the hardier (?) souls braved the frigid water and went for a Polar Dip.  Br-r-r!
Later in the day, at 16:30 we landed on a remote rocky beach opposite to the historic site of Virgohamna.  We were organized into language groups once again and then set off across the island towards Virgohamna.  We were soon at the top of a modest hill where we enjoyed a fantastic view of the old whaling station and the famous site where the Swedish Engineer, Salomon August Andrée launched his hot air balloon in 1897 in a tragic attempt to reach the north pole.  We then headed a little closer to Virgohamna where, in the distance, we could see not only historic rubble left from the whalers and the aviators, but at least nine Harbor Seals that were hauled out on the opposite shore.
All-in-all we spent about two hours exploring the area.
Today had been a fantastic introduction to Spitsbergen!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

We Flew Into A Cold Arctic Dream.

As we approached Longyearbyen in Spitsbergen the views from the aircraft were like magic.  The long, warm, never-ending rays of the midnight sun brushed deep long shadows across a stark, frigid landscape.  This was the true home of the Ice Bear and the inspiration for fantastic stories.  It is a harsh environment that creates heroes and legends. And it is beautiful. It is where we have come to live out part of our own dreams.
Our Arctic Dream started in Longyearbyen, the administrative centre for Svalbard. Before joining the Fram we set off on a tour of the mining area and then visited a museum and gallery.  At about 16:30 we went down to the small harbour and boarded the ship. Soon we were checked-in, issued our ship’s I.D. cards and shown to our rooms.  There, beside our cabin doors, was our luggage, already delivered!
At 18:20 we cast off our lines and carefully threaded our way through the ice-laden waters of Adventfjorden and then on into Isfjorden.
At 20:30 we all attended a mandatory safety drill.
In the late evening we cruised through mile after mile of ice.  At times we were enshrouded in heavy sea fog making creating a dream-like atmosphere.  But ice and fog makes for tricky navigation. It always means that our speed is reduced to whatever is appropriate to travel safely. As the Captain says, “safety is always our number one priority”. 

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Sea Ice

Longyearbyen welcome us with so much sea ice that we have to turn north. We continued to Krossfjord and had some good looks at the glaciers there. Lilliehøøkbreen among one of them. The day after, we went ashore on Ny Ålesund. There we learned a lot about the town today. All the science that they work on. The different countries that operate here in this fabulous place. But we also learned about the old days with the mining.

In the afternoon we continued to Kongsfjorden and went ashore on Gravnestet and had a small hike. Here we had a chance to we Rose gull that is a rare bird. But also when we exit the fjord we saw a female polar bear with a baby.

In the evening we went for Moffen and 80 degree north. There was a small heard of male walrus here. And we stayed in the midnight sun for an hour. Today we again go for Longyearbyen and now we need to get in. because the cruise is ending and the guests will leave tonight. If we have the chance we will land at Skansebukta. But only if we have the time. It all comes to how much sea ice there is in Is fjord. We end up with barbeque on deck tonight entering and slowly cruising in the ice fjord toward Longyearbyen.


Monday, 25 July 2011

Seadays on our way to Spitsbergen

Today we have a minute's silence in memory of those who died in the terrible attack in Oslo and utøya.

Yesterday we had a full day of lectures and learned lots around the area we are sailing to. We ended the eavning with the traditional fashion show. This morning we continued with the talks and we will go more into the flora and fauna on Spestbergen. We will arrive in Longyearbyen later this afternoon. This two seadays we just had the most amazing weather. Calm sea, just a little wind and now it also seams to be sunny.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Jan Mayen

Finally it’s the day for visiting Jan Mayen. This very unusual little Island with the volcano and its glaciers. Onboard we have lectures that been working on Jan Mayen during their time as researchers. We first had a day full of lecture before our visit Jan Mayen. That made us more curious about this place. And we also knew a lot about the basics about the Island.

Five a clock we prepared for the landing. It’s a beautiful day with almost no wind. We arrange to get every guest ashore. We first hade a visit to the main station and then further down to the weather station were we got information about the station and the things that they do research about and information about how the station is functioning and the main task with this weather station. Both building - stations had flag at half mast for the tragic attack that hit their country.

Some of us went on a longer walk together with our lectures that earlier had their own research on Jan Mayen. So we really had a god opportunity to learn about this island and about the unic place. And also about the volcano and the glaciers around it.

After a couple of hours we went back to the ship and started to go for Longyearbyen. During our way out we also had the chance to see the volcano as the clouds eases up. This really was over our expectations. On our way out with FRAM we also spotted a couple of Minky whales playing around. A lot of birds following the ship on our way north…

We leaving Jan Mayen in a beautiful weather.
The Vulcano and the top of it with the sunny sky.


Yesterday evening we got the horrible news from Norway. We followed the news and the guests send there condolences. Onboard this Norwegians ship with a majority of Norwegian guests this strike us all very hard. We arrange a table for the condolences. The thought goes to all the families and the country of Norway.

Friday, 22 July 2011

The seaday

A day at sea and the weather is still with ous. This day has been a day with alot of wildlife. Dolphines, humpback whales, fulmars, kittiwake an a lot of other kind of birds.

We learned a lot about Jan Mayen as a vulcanic island, about the golf stream and about plate tectonic. And we are ready for more. The forcast looking good. Hope for the best tomorrow.

The climate cruise 2011

The climate cruise has started. Onboard some of the expedition team from the Greenland season went home and the Svalbard team is on board. We have three guest lectures onboard to. All with different angel on the climate discussions in there lectures. 

The guests came onboard in the afternoon after some interesting excursions in Island and Rejkavik. Some went to the golden circle and had a walk around the worldfamous Gaysir area. Its a geothermal field where hot springs are in abundance, geysers explode and pools of mud bubble.
Then some had a visit to the blue lagoon and had a relax for body and soul.
We then left the harbor at 19.00 in a beautiful weather. We all are very exiting about the fact that we’re maybe able to get onshore on Jan Mayen. But we also know that it’s depending on the weather condition. The eavning we hade the saftydrill and a velcome sermoni for all guests following FRAM to Svalbard.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Centre of the Earth

Snaefellesjokull Iceland
Once again we awoke to bright blue skies and sunshine.  Stepping out on deck in the early morning the air felt warmer.  Our destination was the town of Grundarfjordur, a prosperous little fishing community on the south west coast of Iceland.  
Iceland coast near Grundarfjordur
It was still several hours of sailing time before we reached the tiny port. This presented us with an opportunity to see what "A Year on Fram" might be like.  In the Polhogda and Framheim lecture salons, the staff gave a presentation about the other exciting destinations the ship visits during the rest of the year.

By late morning we could see Iceland in the distance.    As we got closer to the coast we could see the lava fields and volcanic formations for which Iceland is famous.
Even though it is a small community, the little harbour in Grundarfjordur is well equipped and has a beautiful dock easily capable of accommodating a ship as large as Fram. High volcanic cliffs rose around the town.  It is a lovely harbour and a very well kept community.  One did not see so much as a stray gum wrapper on the ground.
At 13:00 the ship was cleared and we were free to go on shore.  There were several excursions offered including a bus tour of "the highlights of Snaefellsnes" a boat tour of Breidafjordur and a tour of the "Lava Trails and Viking Tails".
Being a huge fan of the science fiction writer Jules Verne, I was very excited to be going on "the highlights of Snaefellnes".  Snaefellsjokull was made famous by Verne when he wrote in his story, "The Journey To the Centre of the Earth" that the entrance to the centre of the earth was located at Snaefellsjokull.  (Note: jokull means glacier in Icelandic).
Throughout the 5 hour trip we had magnificent views of the famous glacier.  We had many photo stops including an Arctic Tern colony and a beautiful colony of nesting Fulmars and Kittiwakes that had some extremely cool lava formations.
At 19:30 we arrived back at Fram just in time for our last delicious buffet.

In the evening we all enjoyed a really fun quiz in the Observation Lounge about Greenland which was presented by the Expedition Team.

Today was really just a taste of Iceland. It was so beautiful and such a nice experience that I think it left many of us wanting a whole lot more. Some of us would definitely be back.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The Denmark Strait

Captain Arild Hårvik
The Denmark Strait is the body of water that lies between Greenland and Iceland.  It is approximately 480 km long (300 miles)  and 289 km wide (180 miles) wide at the narrowest point.  It can be a rough body of water. Sometimes violent storms rip through the Strait. Sometimes, like today, it can be smooth sailing.  We certainly have lucked out with the weather on this voyage.
Like yesterday today was a good time to enjoy the ride.  To enjoy Fram.  After all, the ship itself is a major part of the holiday.  An excellent way to get to know the ship is to go on a bridge tour.  This morning we were invited to the bridge in language groups where we met Captain Arild Hårvik.  The Captain was a very informative host.  He explained how the navigation process works and also talked about some of the more interesting aspects of the ship's design, such as the bulbous bow and the wing-stabilzers.  
There were also many interesting lectures throughout the day.  
In the afternoon the smell of waffles filled the air!  If you followed your nose, the scent led to deck seven.  Hot delicious waffles with maple syrup, whipped cream and fresh fruit. OMG!  S-o-o-o good!
At 17:30 we were agin invited to the Observation Lounge for the Captain's farewell speech and a farewell cocktail. After the speech, the crew, along with the Expedition Team and the officers joined together in singing some farewell songs.
At 21:45 a charity auction was held in the Observation Lounge to raise funds for the children of Greenland.
It was a very relaxing day but there had also been plenty for us to do!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

It Takes Work to Create Rest

Left to right:  Jasmin, Olive and Janet
It will take approximately two days for us to cross the Denmark Strait on our way from Greenland to Iceland.  Two days to rest from our many landings and excursions in Greenland.  Two days to start sorting through photographs and memories.  Two days to catch on reading and napping.  Two days to make use of many of the ship's facilities such as the gym with the best view in the world, the sauna, the jacuzzis or the Observation Lounge and Bar.  Or two days to broaden your mind and attend the ongoing lecture series. Behind the scenes, the ship's complement is working hard to make sure your rest and the other activities you choose to do, go as smoothly as possible. 
In the first photograph are three of our hard working dining room staff.  You will also find them sometimes in the Observation Lounge serving drinks and at other times making sure cabins are clean.  
In the second photo is Henson.  Henson is part of the large staff in the galley.  He helps to make sure the buffet is constantly supplied and does much of the cooking for the crew.
We are a merry team of 83 people with many different functions ranging from Captain, to Chef, to Engineer, to Expedition Team, to Laundry man. 
If you don't notice us, it is because we work as a team and everyone is doing their job well.

Monday, 18 July 2011


Why is it that much of the most breath taking scenery on the planet is found in some of the remotest hard-to-get-to places on earth?  Such is the case with Prins Christian Sund.  At 07:00 we entered the 55 mile meandering channel.  Tortured, jagged mountains on either side of the ship ripped blue patches into the sky. Each turn in the channel brought a new spectacle and a renewed sense of astonishment.  What is it about the combination of towering mountains, waterfalls, reflective seas, icebergs and blue skies that causes the jaw to drop?  It seems to be a universal thing.  Transfixed people stood with open mouths on the outside decks throughout the morning.  Nearly everyone wished for bigger memory cards for their camera.
Just before 13:30 we arrived at the tiny community of Aappilattoq probably the most picturesque community in all of Greenland.  Certainly it should be a contender for the most scenic village in the world.  I don't exaggerate. 
There was a confirmation in the village today so many people were wearing their best clothes and perhaps already in a celebratory mood.  The villagers welcomed us with enthusiasm.  There were tea, coffee and cakes available in the school.  Children demonstrated folk dances in the village centre. Many people were deeply moved when the choir sang on the front steps of the church.  It was a powerful experience and one that is difficult to describe.  
Just behind the village, huge chunks of ice were stranded on the beach at low tide.  It was wonderful to walk right up to the beautiful blue mini-icebergs.  These photographs would be this year's Christmas cards. 
It was an inspiring day. Everyone was savouring their brief moments here. We were all reluctant to leave.  But inevitably at 17:30, it was time for the last Polar Cirkel boat to leave. We waved good-bye and it seemed as if the whole village waved back.
It was absolutely the best possible way to end our great adventure in Greenland.  Ahead, new adventure awaits.  We still have lots to discover in Iceland!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Sometimes Change Is The Only Constant

We knew from the ice charts that getting to Narsaq and Qassiarsuk would be a challenge.  The Captain and navigation officers did their best to get us there but it just wasn’t possible.  The sea ice had moved south along the east coast of Greenland and had totally choked off our entry point for Narsaq.
In the meantime the Expedition Leader and the Captain had come up with an alternative plan.  We would head further south towards Prince Christian Sound.  Along the way, if weather and ice permitted we would visit the old Viking settlement, at Ikigait.
As we followed the edge of the pack ice we encountered hundreds of seals on ice floes. There were 10 or 15 seals hauled out on some of the floes. Most of the seals were Harp seals but scattered here and there were Hooded Seals either solo or in pairs. 
A great part of the day was spent cruising through heavy fog.  Navigation officers really don’t like fog, nor do they like heavy ice conditions.  In these kinds of conditions we are always forced to reduce speed in order to navigate safely which of course pushed our arrival time at Ikigait to 19:30.
As we aproached the coast the very dense fog dispersed. One could almost hear a chorus of angels sing as the sun burst through the clouds illuminating our landing site in sunshine!
Now that we were so much further south we actually had to consider at what time would the sun set?  22:00 was the answer.  This left time enough for everyone to explore the old Viking ruins.
Much to our surprise several small boats from a nearby settlement came over to say hello and to offer some beautiful seal skin craft work for sale.
Shortly after 21:30 everyone was safely back on board the ship.
Tomorrow’s destinations:  Prins Christian sund and the village of Aappilattoq.

Saturday, 16 July 2011


Ivittuut: view from the tea house in the abandoned mining settlement

We were not due to arrive in Ivittuut until 14:00.  That left plenty of time in the morning for lectures.  In fact there were no less than seven lectures between 09:30 and 13:00 in three different rooms, in three different languages, by four different lecturers.
As we approached the old mining site of Ivittuut we scanned the grassy slopes for Muskox.  It was well known that this is an area they frequent.  Sure enough we spotted at least ten of the wooly beasts.  Two of them were close enough to the shoreline for everyone to get a good look at them.
As we dropped anchor, our Expedition Leader Anja spotted a muskox walking towards the very museum we wanted to visit!
The Expedition Team went to shore first to establish a safety perimeter.  The team was watching not only for muskox but also for Polar Bears.
Apparently the muskox that was heading to the museum was a regular visitor and was somewhat used to people.  He continued straight to the back yard of the museum and seemed to be content to browse on the Willow shrubs. 
After about an hour the muskox had finally had enough of people and with a snort, bolted off towards the hills.
Ivittuut:  Cryolite (white) and Siderite (brown)
Ivittuut is an abandoned cryolite mine and was most active during world war II. After Denmark was occupied by Germany in the 2nd World War, Denmark was no longer able to defend or to supply Greenland.  An agreement was made with the United States that the U.S. would take over those responsibilities for the duration of the war.  As partial payment the united states were allowed to mine for cryolite.  At the time, cryolite was highly valued as an essential ingredient in the process of making aluminum.  Since then cheaper alternatives have been found.  In addition, after the war there wasn’t the heavy demand for aluminum. Eventually the mine was shut down.

Today there is an amazing rock and mineral museum with fine examples of many minerals from Greenland.  The old buildings still stand.  It was really great to wander around the abandoned houses.  We could see white chunks of cryolite and sparkling brown siderite everywhere! 

Friday, 15 July 2011

The Capital City

Greenland is on a different scale.  It is the biggest island in the world.  It has the largest national park in the world. That same park is the most northerly park in the world.  It boasts the second largest ice sheet on the planet and has the most productive glacier in the world outside of Antarctica.  It is also the least densely populated country in the world.  We cannot help but use our own experience to try to make sense of the things we see around us.  A capital city with a population of 15,862 people seems extremely small by our standards, but according to Wikipedia there are 56 capital cities in the world that are smaller than Nuuk!  (Capitals by population) . More than 25% of the total population of Greenland lives there.    Not surprisingly, Nuuk is also the cultural and economic centre of Greenland.
As we approached Nuuk the sun was once again shining.  The clear blue skies were back!  It was another perfect day to explore Greenland.  We were alongside the pier at 09:00.  Shortly thereafter a shuttle started transporting people from the ship to the National Museum.  The shuttles ran back and forth, every thirty minutes throughout the day.  In the addition to exploring the fine museum there were lots of other options available such as boat trips up the fjord, a long hike, a City tour or just explore the capital on your own.
At 15:30 we were all back on board Fram.
In the late afternoon there were lectures available in English, German and Danish as well as information sessions regarding the plans for tomorrow.


Wednesday, 13 July 2011


Greenland Kayak Sisimiut   (click image to enlarge)
During the night...  hmm...  can one say, "the night" when it never gets dark in the summer?  Anyway, during the night the weather changed.  This morning it was a little cooler at 5˚C and completely overcast.  Nevertheless it made for very good hiking conditions and I was beginning to get low on sunscreen anyway.  
We arrived in Sismiut at 10:00.  15 minutes later the first excursion for the abandoned village, Assaqutaq, departed from Fram.  The overcast conditions added to the eery atmosphere in the ghost town.  It was easy to imagine the village full of people.

Shortly after, at 10:30, the hikers going on the long hike to Palaasip Qaqqa Mountain departed.  The summit was obscured by clouds.  We wondered what it would be like going into the fog and if we would be able to make it all the way to the top.  It turned out to be magical.  The hikers ascended through the cloud layer and into the sun.  It was like sitting on top of the world looking out over a vast expanse of fluffy white clouds, 360˚ around you.
Greenland Kayak Demonstration        (click image to enlarge)
Throughout the day there were several departures by small boat for Assaqutaq.  Hiking groups went on the historical hike to Tele Island.  Most people took the opportunity to explore Sismiut on their own.  Many people, chose to visit the fine museum which is well known for its excellent exhibits on the Paleo-eskimo Saqqaq culture.
At 15:45 everyone was back on board the ship.  Just before we left we were treated to an outstanding demonstration of kayaking skills right beside the ship.  There are about 35 different ways to roll a kayak: with a paddle, without a paddle, with a short paddle, paddle behind your back, with one hand, etc., and we witnessed many of those methods.  We all wondered how comfortable it was in the ~6˚C water!   B-r-r-r!!
In the late afternoon there was time for lectures which were presented in English, German and Danish.  As usual there were also informative sessions about our plans for the morrow.
At 21:45 we attended a fashion show that was probably quite different from any other fashion show in the world.  In the MV Fram fashion show it is the Expedition Team  and some officers (including the Captain) that model the clothes.  These were definitely not professional models.

Ilulissat: Greenland's Jewel of the North

On the hike to Sermermiut             (click image to enlarge)
Ilulissat is definitely one of the highlights of this voyage.  There isn't anything else like it on earth.  Yes, you can see lots of ice in other places in the world and I have been to some of those places but 
I can't imagine anything else exists like the Icefjord.  Sermec Kujaleq glacier is an iceberg making machine.  It turns the 60 km fjord into a conveyor belt of ice.  46 cubic kilometres of ice per year flow down the fjord.  Many of the icebergs get stuck at the end of fjord.  The fjord goes from a depth of 500 metres to 250 metres. The larger icebergs can't make it over the hump of moraine at the mouth of the fjord and into open sea until they have either melted or broken up to smaller sizes.  So, they collect.  And right now the full length and breadth of the fjord is choked with icebergs.  Really large icebergs.
Wall to wall icebergs in the Ilulissat Icefjord!
Our visit to Ilulissat is about getting people to view the Ice in as many different ways as possible.  We offer our own guided hike to Sermeriut.  Sermiut is a protected archeological site that was occupied by all of the major Paleo-eskimo cultures (excluding Independence I & II) dating back over 4000 years.  Sermermiut lies near the mouth of the fjord and just beyond the ancient site are magnificent views of the ice.
Many people chose to view the fjord from a helicopter and still others went by boat.  Lots of people chose to combine excursions and see the fjord from the air, the sea and the land.
As you can see in the photographs the weather was perfect.
We had the entire day at our disposal.  We arrived in Ilulissat at 07:30 and didn't leave until 18:50 so that gave people ample time to see the ice and to explore the town on their own.
In the evening we were invited to the Observation Lounge where the crew entertained us by singing many familiar old ballads.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011


Qeqertarsuaq                    (click image to enlarge)
Our first full day on board Fram was full of interesting activities: icebergs, lectures, fantastic scenery, wild flowers and even whales!  Not bad for a start!
In the morning at 09:30 we all attended a mandatory safety drill.  It was quite an interesting process to see what we would have to do and where we would have to go in the case of an emergency.  We were all assembled in our muster stations on deck five and every single passenger was quickly and efficiently checked off a manifest.  The whole procedure happened very quickly. It was obvious that all of the crew was well rehearsed.
The rest of the morning was filled with information about our route and about the many excursions for which we could opt.
In the afternoon it was time to exercise our minds and attend some informative lectures on Greenland.  At 16:15 we were invited to the Observation Lounge for a cocktail and a welcome address by Captain Arild Hårvik.
At 18:00 we dropped anchor in the beautiful natural harbour  in Qeqertarsuaq.  In the early evening light the surrounding cliffs looked incredible.  We usually arrive in the early afternoon so it was nice to be here a little later in the day.  We set off in groups on a hike to the Valley of the Wind.  Our goal was to reach a pretty waterfall about 45 minutes away.  After ten minutes of walking we arrived to a dark sandy beach.  Not far offshore lay many beautiful icebergs.  About 500 metres off shore several Humpback Whales were spotted.  Continuing on to the waterfall it was evident that it is still prime season for the wild flowers of Greenland.
And now for those of you that follow the blog regularly, The Canada Goose Update.  When we arrived at the waterfall the nest was empty and the geese had gone. Just last week there were 2 adults and three tiny fluffy yellow goslings.  Good luck to the geese!  We hope the youngsters survive.
Meanwhile, back at the ship, the hotel staff prepared a really great barbeque.  It was ready for us when we returned from the hike.  What a superb way to wrap up the day.

Monday, 11 July 2011

The Reasons for Travel

Air Greenland Kangerlussuaq Airport      (click image to enlarge)
At 18:15 our Air Greenland charter jet touched down at the Kangerlussuaq airport.  We were finally in Greenland!  Inside the small terminal the Expedition Team from Fram was there to greet us and then immediately escort us outside to our waiting motor coaches.  It was a short twenty minute ride through the rugged and rocky hills along Kangerlussuaq Fjord to where Fram lay anchored.
We were each issued a life jacket and then in groups of eight we boarded the small Polar Cirkel boats for a brisk ride to the ship.  Once on board the ship we were very efficiently issued I.D. cards and then escorted to our cabins.
In the dining room there was an excellent buffet ready for us.  It was the first of many meals that we would enjoy prepared by chef Eirik Larsen and his team. After that, all we had to do is kick back, relax and watch the magnificent scenery of Kangerlussuaq Fjord roll by.

There are many reasons that people travel for a vacation:  to escape from the mundane or from a stress-filled work place, to experience what others have not or to go where few people have gone, to expand one's lexicon of experience or to discover the romance and adventure in life, perhaps to experience freedom and spontaneity.  People's reasons for traveling to Greenland are many and they are personal. What everyone take's with them at the end of this journey will also be personal and unique. One thing is for sure, now that you are on board Fram, we will do everything we can to make sure you have a great travel experience.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

At the Dog Equator

Greenland Dog                                        (click image to enlarge)

Itilleq                                                     (click image to enlarge)
We had a nice relaxing morning.  We continued with our bridge tours which is great opportunity to meet the Captain and one of the navigation officers.  It is also a chance to learn about some of the technical aspects of running a ship like Fram.   Claude Nicolier  gave another great lecture about the Hubble telescope in German.  Where were also very important briefings on how disembarkation day would work.
Our destination today was the village of Itilleq.  Itilleq lies about 200 metres north of the Arctic Circle which is also known as The Dog Equator.  It is called The Dog Equator because in Greenland, only Greenlandic dogs are allowed north of the Arctic Circle.
We arrived in Itilleq at 13:00.  We were all invited to a kaffeemik (tea, coffee, cakes) and were issued colour coded tickets to make sure we went to the right homes.  We were also free to explore the new school house, the church, or to wander over to the cemetery and beyond for a nice view of the entire village.
The weekly soccer match of MV Fram vs Itilleq started sharply at 15:00.  Last week we got trounced 10-3.  This week the two teams were very evenly matched.  The final score was Fram 7, Itilleq 7.  It was a perfect way to end our season for this was the last time we would visit Itilleq this year.  
By 16:45 everyone was back on the ship.  Once again we turned out bow to the south and commenced the final leg of our adventure in Greenland.
At 17:30 we all met in the Observation Lounge for the Captain's Farewell Cocktail.  It seemed like the entire ship's crew was there to sing farewell songs.
During the early evening, the ship's photographer gave an excellent presentation of the photographs of the voyage.  It is always great to see what the ship's photographers come up with!
At 22:00 the crew entertained everyone once again with some singing in the Observation Lounge.


Ilulissat Icefjord
46 cubic kilometres of ice a year.  That's how much ice calves from the glacier, Sermec Kujallek. To give you an idea of how much ice that is, were it all to melt, you would have enough drinking water for New York city for one year!  All of that ice combined with our ongoing good luck with the weather makes for one of the most beautiful spots on earth.  
Ilulissat Icefjord
We dropped anchor just outside of the Ilulissat harbour at approximately 06:30.  The sun was shining.  There was a high scattered layer of clouds.  A beautiful mist lay draped over many of the icebergs.  The wind was less than 5 knots and variable.  It was beautiful.  It was surreal. 
This was the stop that many people on board had been waiting for with great anticipation.  Lots of people had booked excursions to see the ice whether it was by helicopter, boat or a hike to the fjord.  Some people even managed to combine multiple excursions.  We weren't scheduled to leave Ilulissat until 18:45 so there was plenty of time to see the Icefjord and to explore town.  Ilulissat also happens to have a couple of the better gift shops in Greenland so there was plenty to spend your money on!
Today I had the opportunity to go on the Holms Bakke hike for the first time.  It was jaw droppingly beautiful.  It was supposed to be between a four and five hour hike but it was so inspiring today that we all stopped to take photographs about every 50 metres.  We just couldn't go any faster.  For us it was a five and a half hour hike!  
No matter what you chose to do today you couldn't go wrong.
Shortly after 18:45 we turned our bow in the direction of Itilleq, our destination for tomorrow.
In the evening we held our weekly charity auction to raise for funds for the children of Greenland.  Then at 22:00 we were all entertained in the Observation Lounge by our talented crew with singing, dancing and juggling.