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HDS15-19, trip log, Scoresby Sund, Aurora Borealis

by Oceanwide Expeditions

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Day 1: Akureyri

Akureyri
Datum: 17.09.2019
Positie: 65° 50.00 N 018° 09.00 W
Wind: Calm
Weer: Cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +5

After a long drive north on the bus through North Iceland, we arrived in a bright and sunny Akureyri. The M/V Hondius was awaiting us at the port. After boarding and being shown to our cabins we met in the lounge for our mandatory safety briefing and abandon ship drill. We were briefed on ship safety and what to do in an emergency situation; including running through an abandon ship scenario, where we all donned our lifejackets and were shown out to the lifeboats.

Afterwards we set sail, heading north into the Danmark Strait. We were given an overview of the ship from hotel manager DJ, and a welcome by expedition leader Adam. Before dinner the Captain welcomed us onboard with a toast to the voyage.

After we headed to dinner for our first delicious meal onboard, prepared by the fantastic galley team. A relaxed drink in the bar topped off a fantastic start to our adventure to Greenland.

Soon, the gentle rock of the open ocean could be felt and most of us headed to bed to dream of our Greenland adventure.

Day 2: At Sea to Greenland

At Sea to Greenland
Datum: 18.09.2019
Positie: 68° 19.10 N 020° 13.30 W
Wind: NE – 4
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +2

After our departure from the port, we had a quiet and smooth night onboard.

The sea state was calm with a very gentle swell. The skies were cloudy and we could not see anything interesting besides banks of fog and thick clouds during our passage.

Despite this, during our first afternoon onboard we had the chance to spot a fin whale, swimming close to the ship. Hence, our officers maneuvered our vessel in such a way to reduce its speed and in order to increase our chances of having a better sight. Luck was on our side, and thanks to these actions, we managed to spot the whale a few times on the surface, facilitating the recognition of the characteristic fin, blow and jaw coloration. These kinds of whales have a whiter lower jaw, which in the correct circumstances identifies the animal unmistakable.

After this sight, we came back to our course, which aimed to the mouth of the Scoresby Sound in East Greenland. The crossing took us away from the Icelandic continental shelf which has depths up to 300 m, to the abyss of the Denmark Strait where the ocean's depth reaches up to 2300 m. During the crossing we could feel also how the weather changed, from the temperate temperatures off the coast of Iceland to the cooler temperatures around Greenland.

In the evening, we had the first sight of Greenland. It was magnificent. The sky was covered with different layers of high clouds and the greyish-blue sea was covered with patches of white, thick fog. However, in the distance, above the fog, it was possible to see a jagged mountain chain with innumerable peaks rising above 1000 m.

For our Passengers, the day onboard was busy. After a good night of sleep breakfast was served at 08:00 and later, at 09:30 the expedition staff was introduced and presented to our guests followed by a few mandatory briefings aiming to prepare our guests with the rules and procedures for their behaviour ashore, polar bear safety and zodiac operations.

After lunch, we started our program of lectures, starting with a comprehensive lecture about photography given by Sandra. This lecture was followed by another one made by Laurence, our geologist/glaciologist onboard, with the title "An Introduction to Greenland".

Also, during the afternoon, our teams of kayakers and divers were briefed individually so all of them were ready to commence activities the next day.
Our day ended our activities having our first recap in the lounge followed by a succulent dinner served at our restaurant.

Day 3: Vikingebugt & Danmark Ø

Vikingebugt & Danmark Ø
Datum: 19.09.2019
Positie: 70° 81.90 N 025°13.30 W
Wind: Calm
Weer: Snowing
Luchttemperatuur: +1

We finally start our first real day in East Greenland. After a quiet night in the sheltered fjords, we arrive early at Vikingebugt. The visibility is limited due to plenty of fog but we have almost no wind. We get prepared for our first Zodiac cruise, our first outdoor adventure to enjoy the coastline along the bay. We are fascinated by the formation of basalt rocks that are telling us the history of this beautiful area. We enjoy our 2 hour ride passing our first icebergs. We enjoy blue, white and clear colors. Additionally, we explore a beautiful waterfall that is fed by the fresh snow of the last days.

We return happy and hungry to the ship and take new energy with a tasty lunch in the restaurant.
The Hondius, our new temporary home, is heading towards our afternoon landing on Danmark Island. The fog is clearing more and more, and we start to see the mountains around us. On the final approach we are passing a massive iceberg with a beautiful arch.

Everybody is excited about this fantastic formation of ice and we find plenty of people on the outside deck.
On Danmark island our group spreads out to do different activities. The divers, the photo workshop and the kayakers head out to their places of interest and the others get the chance to wander around on the beautiful island and explore the different autumn coloured plants. One group splits up and heads off for a “fast and furious” hike with Laurence and Steffi, entering the valley after the first ridgeline and enjoy fantastic views, colours and perspectives.
During our well deserved aperitif, Adam, our expedition leader, outlines the plans for the next day and Laurence tells us more about the origin of the basalt rocks, we saw earlier the day.

We enjoy dinner with our new friends in the restaurant, while we see a beautiful sunset and dream already of watching Aurora at night. Lothar and Eduardo feeding us with more information in a “dessert-lecture” to be prepared when the “miracle” is happening.

What a day, we cannot wait for the adventures in the next days.

Kayaking
10 of the kayakers met at the shell doors, eagerly awaiting their very first venture out in kayaks. Alexis met us at the doors with all kayaks in tow and we headed off to a quite location to get ourselves into the kayaks. After a quick chat and demonstration, one by one the kayakers entered their kayaks and headed off to get to grips with moving the kayak around. Their first challenge was to raft up, which after a little while, they all came together where we had a very short briefing before heading off in the direction of the snout of the glacier, hugging the shoreline. All managed to get to grips with keeping the kayaks heading in the right direction, although the snout of the glacier was just too far for us to reach on this occasion – time to call Alexis in, to get back on board our zodiac and head for the ship. A great first session.

Afternoon;
With only 4 kayakers, we departed the ship and headed for a safe entry point to the kayaks from the zodiac. Once in the kayaks we hugged the shoreline and utilized the gentle current to gain us some significant distance around the island. Not only did we have a helping current but we also had a metre swell at times, although it was difficult to see where that was generating from – it certainly added to the excitement of the afternoon. We finished the trip with a circumnavigation of two rather large icebergs, then jumped back in the zodiac and headed back to the ship. A very enjoyable afternoon was had by all!

Day 4: Røde Ø & Harefjord

Røde Ø & Harefjord
Datum: 20.09.2019
Positie: 70° 28.40 N 028° 04.80 W
Wind: NE - 2
Weer: Partly Cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: -2

Røde Ø is a small island with rich tundra and beautiful landscape surroundings, more importantly it is a graveyard of huge icebergs. One side of the island is very steep cliff, the other sides are smoothly raised. With this terrain and icebergs, a split activity between a perimeter landing and a zodiac cruise is perfect for this morning.

This morning the ship went into position and dropped anchor around 7:15, next to this small but amazing little island called Røde island. The expedition staff were ready to go out and scout at 8:00.

When the staff first came out, the sun is still low, but luckily there was no wind. As the time goes, when the passengers start disembarking Hondius, the sun rises, the light is shining on the huge icebergs, together with the glassy calm water, made this place even more beautiful and special.

At the landing site, zodiac drivers pushed through the brash ice to get to a stable spot for the passengers, so they could enjoy their time on the tundra freely within the perimeter. There were 8 zodiacs in total cruising among the icebergs, seeing these monster sized naturally formed ice. Hotel and restaurant managers DJ and Raffa arranged hot chocolate in the zodiac for the cruising passengers which was a big surprise, even when some of the passengers over heard from the radio communications, they still could not believe it until they had cups of hot chocolate in their hands.

It is a very successful morning, with great weather, amazing scenery, and of course wonderful staff and passengers.

PM Harefjord
The plan was to make a landing in Harefjord, but we couldn’t make it due to the heavy ice conditions, the ship cannot make the speed to get there in time, luckily the weather was in our favor. The ship moved slowly among the huge icebergs and brash ice, with red colored mountains as background, made a perfect afternoon ship cruise. During this time, some muskox was found on shore, a scope was set on deck six for the passengers to see these amazing creatures, even though they were far away from the ship. Glaciologist Laurence presented a lecture on Glaciers, so passengers had more information on the icebergs that we have seen.

One of our lovely guests together with astronomer Eduardo brought us a very interesting lecture on the Northern lights. As the lecture goes, we have received massage from the expedition leader Adam to do a zodiac cruise, because the weather and the scenery is just too good to not get off the ship. The reflections of the icebergs and mountains made this place wonderland, and the seal playing in the water and the muskox on the hill gave life to this wonderland. Around 10:00 o’clock in the evening, aurora showed in the sky, which made today a perfect day.

Kayaking
The iceberg graveyard and the promise of sun was the draw for the kayakers this morning. We were not disappointed. Once on the water, we ventured between the icebergs, which certainly tested our manoeuvrability. As we made our way around the island, we were met by DJ and Raffa with some hot chocolate – a great boost for us. We continued, taking in the warmth of the sun and the spectacular scenery. Coming around the far end of the island, we came across some bird life hanging out on a number of ledges, a great arch that we all paddled through and a wonderful basalt extrusion. Time was now against us so we jumped into the zodiac and headed back to the ship – it doesn’t get much better than that!

Day 5: Hall Bredning & Sydkap

Hall Bredning & Sydkap
Datum: 21.09.2019
Positie: 71° 07.10 N 025° 40.30 W
Wind: SE – 3
Weer: Clear
Luchttemperatuur: +2

‘Aim for the moon and if you fall, you land among the northern lights!’

Some of us woke up to a beautifully colored morning sky, hovering over the rugged Arctic landscape, tanning the surrounding icebergs and mountain peaks in magical shades of pink and orange.
Others stayed a little bit longer in green dreamland, were equally stunning conditions were experienced.

After a fantastic sunrise, our beloved captain sailed the Hondius from Jyttehavn towards the landing spot Sydkap, while we enjoyed our breakfast and gazed out the windows, wondering what today would bring.
After a lovely breakfast the expedition team and leader invited us into the lounge for an introduction to the plans of the day and a serious of mini lectures.

Sara introduced us to the world of musk oxen. We met these rather random but incredible creatures the previous evening and were thereby highly excited to learn more about them.

Following Sara, Steffi gave a talk on the diverse adaptations by various Arctic animals to the harsh surrounding environmental conditions. It was interesting to gain an insight into the large variety of natural gortex and down clothing, however, it made us feel slightly unprotected and small. A few of us started to feel like the great nothingness, which Bill saw in us human beings from the very beginning.

The lecture serious was finished with Clouds, talking about the weather and climate of the North Atlantic. The diverse coffee and tea selections offered onboard in the lounge brought us through the morning and a few biscuits were consumed throughout the lecture serious, despite a delicious breakfast. The food offerings onboard our beloved Hondius exceeded our expectations once again.

We enjoyed our time on the outer decks in warm, sparkling sunshine until lunch time. While several thoughts and laughter’s were shared among new and old friends, other guests enjoyed some quiet time to themselves, reading a book or staring at the breathtaking Greenlandic scenery around us. The soft, reddish tundra covered the up 60 million years old, rugged rocks.

After an early lunch, we were driven to shore with our beloved fast, black rubber boats. At the landing sight, some of us were more furious than others and went on a guided, energetic hike with Laurence and Sara. During this 10km long scenic hike, some lucky ones even encountered the well desired snow bunny. Others joined Eduardo, Bill, Simon, Jerry, Rose and Pippa for a scenic walk over rich Greenlandic tundra dominated by permafrost. This was another case of ‘don’t believe everything you see’. It was much harder to walk over the fairly even ground than expected and our rubber boots were taken to the test.

We encountered Arctic foxes and raven, while strolling around hundreds of years old lichen and over the Arctic forest, made up of polar willow’s and dwarf birches. This made even the oldest ones among us feel young.
From the hillside we gained a wonderful view on the icebergs stranded in the bay, derived from the Daugard Jenseen glacier.

Sandra, Clouds and Steffi took some of us on a ‘guided photo workshop’ out and about in the wild nature of pristine Greenland.
Those, who were rather lacking an interest in photography, enjoyed the sunshine while lying and walking around the Arctic tundra.
Some of our scenic walkers became aware of the amount of plastic brought to this beautiful, pristine area and decided to start an effective ‘Cleanup Greenland’ project.

The evening ended with a special Arctic dinner on the outer decks, followed by a party with lots of mulled wine. Even though it felt bizarre to some of us, to listen to the Spanish sounds in this panoramic environment, most of us moved to the grooves, sooner or later. The red faces were not all related to the lovely selection of beverages, but more likely to a lack of applied sun protection earlier on. The Arctic weather surprised us once again. As if this day was not beautiful enough, the northern lights joined our party and were dancing above us in the sky. They performed exceptionally rhythmic moves in different shades of green and purple up in the sky.
What an incredibly beautiful day in the Arctic!

Kayaking
With the sun low in the sky, the challenge was on to keep ourselves in its warm as we circumnavigated the island of Ingmikertilkajik. Initially we had a bit of current to fight against until we turned west and headed directly into the sun. The waters were fairly calm and the light was just great. A collapse of an iceberg heightened our senses as we watch the small resulting wave coming towards us – time to continue on. We kept close to the shoreline on the backside of the island, benefiting from the currents as they pushed us on. The shoreline provided us with an interesting paddle, in and out of small and large coves. Once back into the main channel, we headed towards the ship, only to be confronted by a current wanting to push us all over the place. The workout was over and it was time to get back in the zodiac and head for the ship. Another great day in the office!

Day 6: Hurry Fjord & Ittoqqortoormiit

Hurry Fjord & Ittoqqortoormiit
Datum: 22.09.2019
Positie: 70° 37.40 N 002° 27.90 W
Wind: N-5
Weer: Overcast
Luchttemperatuur: +1

First thing in the morning the wind was gusting 20 knots which is the Oceanwide operational margin. This resulted in the landing being delayed 1 hour to see if conditions moderated.

The day was dull and overcast in comparison to the magnificent sunny weather experienced the previous week. Hurry Fjord has an interesting historical connection in that William Scoresby Junior one of the foremost of all polar explorers, had investigated the ford in 1823 in his ship ‘Baffin’. The day he entered the fjord he found that his whale ship captain father in the vessel ‘Fame’ had entered the fjord the day before. William named the huge 160 km fjord system Scoresby Sund in honour of his father.

Wind swiftly increased to over 30 knots and plan B was put into effect…

At 10 am, assistant expedition leader Claudia Holgate delivered a thought provoking [ rather depressing] lecture on Climate Change. Scientific papers and statistical analysis of data from research organisations all over the world illustrated clearly the crisis facing the planet in the next few years.

At 11.00 Bill Smith continued his ‘engage brain’ educational series on the Oceanwide Expeditions experience… Looking, Seeing, Thinking, this time with a lecture ‘Paintings of the Sea’. The presentation provided a detailed explanation of the ‘meaning of the sea in specific paintings’ looking at a range of artworks from 1100’s to the present day.
Outside the wind continued to gust over 30 knots.

After lunch Hondius anchored off the isolated community of Ittoqqortoormiit. 350 people living in blasted by the weather coloured wooden cabins scattered over a rocky hillside. Staff Zodiacs were launched into the heaving sea to assess the landing possibilities. Landing at this village was normally alongside the floating jetty but in the rather heavy swell this was deemed to be unsafe. Staff considered the possibility of a beach landing but again consideration of this possibility was abandoned due to the surging surf.

Staff return to Hondius and to entertain passengers, Sandra offered a second photography skills session in the lecture theatre. Eventually the seas moderated and all passengers were transported safely to shore. The main store was closed however so the tourist shop did a roaring trade in souvenirs. The major entertainment on shore was provided by the much photographed friendly young sledge dogs.

Everyone was back on board by 7.15…another excellent Oceanwide Expeditions day due to the flexibility and good humour of our excellent staff.

Day 7: Turner Sund and at sea towards Iceland

Turner Sund and at sea towards Iceland
Datum: 23.09.2019
Positie: 63° 41.10N 023° 35.20W
Wind: SE – 4
Weer: Partly Cloudy
Luchttemperatuur: +4

Overnight the bridge team had navigated Hondius out past Kap Brewster, marking the southern limit of Scoresby Sund, and into the open sea bound southwards along the Blosseville Kyst to Rømer Fjord. As we left the fjord we got a blast of Autumnal weather, with wind speeds in excess of 40 knots, a reminder that we have been exceptionally lucky with the weather thus far. We woke early in the morning as we made our way into Rømer Fjord, bound for Turner Sund. The high mountains were cloaked in mist and a heavy rain pounded on the decks – perhaps not the most inspiring start to a day.

As we breakfasted the clouds began to lift, and as we readied ourselves to board the zodiacs, the first rays of morning sun appeared in a small window of clear sky out to the east. By 09:30 we had boarded zodiacs and headed off to explore the atmospheric fjord system. As we ventured deeper the wind died completely, the only movement in the dark waters of the fjord was the gentle undulation of the remnants of open ocean swell. Most of us headed into Rømer Fjord, the fjord is named after the prominent Danish physicist and astronomer Ole Rømer who made the first measurements of the speed of light. A couple of zodiacs headed into Turner Sund. Both fjords are bound by steep mountain walls of Basalt. The basalt is part of the same sequence we had seen on our first day, along Volquart Boons Kyst – it is around 60 million years old and was formed during the rifting of the Atlantic as Greenland was torn away from Norway and Scotland. The layered dark rocks are almost exclusively flood basalts, formed by mafic lava which spewed from large volcanic fissures. We could also see some large volcanic dykes cross-cutting the walls of the fjord; these secondary volcanic structures were formed after the initial eruption, probably by torsional forces as the tectonic plate were compressed and bent.

As we penetrated deeper into the fjord we encountered some wildlife; we spotted a raven on a large relict delta and in the water close the shore we saw several Eider ducks and a few Black Guillemots, looking a little drab in their winter plumage already. We also briefly encountered a herd of Harp seals who eyed us suspiciously from a distance before disappearing beneath the waves. The landscape became even more impressive; huge waterfalls, fed by large cirque glaciers, cascaded down the cliffs and poured into the sea in gushing torrents of brown water. The brown colour originates from suspended particles of basalt that have been eroded by the glacier as it grinds its way inexorably forwards over the landscape. In Turner Sund, the other branch of the fjord, the other zodiacs from our party got incredibly lucky with a fleeting sight of a Polar Bear mother with her cub. Unfortunately, Polar Bears are still hunted in Greenland and even the distant noise of two zodiacs was enough to cause the bears to retreat into a valley and out of sight.

After several glorious hours of exploring a few small gusts of wind ruffled the calm waters of the fjord. Over the space of ten minutes the wind increased dramatically, drawing whitecaps and a small steep chop; we retreated back to Hondius in case conditions deteriorated any further and after a bumpy, exhilarating ride back the ship we were safely back on board and sipping a restorative cup of coffee.

As lunch was served Hondius headed slowly out of Rømer Fjord and into the open sea, bound for Iceland. During the afternoon we had a series of lectures. First up was Steffi with a lecture about sea birds, she focused especially on the adaptations they have developed to be able to live most of their lives on the open ocean without the need to touch land. Sara followed with a lecture on the plants of Greenland, she introduced many of the species we had encountered over the previous days, explaining how they cope with the extreme conditions of East Greenland, and also introducing how the local people use the plants. A little while later, just as afternoon tea was being served we spotted the tell-tale blows of whales, over the course of twenty minutes we saw around 40 Humpback Whales some quite acrobatic with excellent views of their tails, fins and pectoral fins.

Shortly after we had left the whales Eduardo gave a lecture on the Battle of Denmark Strait; the Second World War sea battle which took place in the very waters we were crossing. The battle was one of the largest mobilisations of naval ships in history and cost the lives of thousands of seamen from the German Kriegsmarine and the British Royal Navy.

The day drew to a close with recap and another sumptuous dinner in the dining room. A few made it to the bar after dinner, but most of us chose to relax in our cabins unwinding after a busy week of exploration in the most beautiful corners of Greenland.

Kayaking
With the wind dropped to 5 knots, we had our last chance to head out kayaking. With 8 kayakers in tow, we headed off in the zodiac to find some shelter before getting into our kayaks. With a low cloud base, the wind on our backs and waves breaking on the shoreline, we kept our distance and made our way towards a solitary iceberg. As the swell increased and reports from the ship of gusts of 30 knots of wind, it was time to get ourselves back into the zodiac and return to the ship. Despite only being on the water for 1 hour, it was very surprising just how far we had paddled – a truly atmospheric kayaking experience to end our kayaking adventures in Greenland!

Day 8: At Sea Towards Iceland

At Sea Towards Iceland
Datum: 24.09.2019
Positie: 67° 19.30N 019° 35.80W
Wind: SSW -2
Weer: Sunny
Luchttemperatuur: Day 8

At 7:45 gentle wake up call made by Sara and her delicate and soft voice. With first glance through the windows we could see beautiful weather almost clear skies only few high clouds on the skies, gentle breeze but unfortunately the sea state gave us little bit of experience how challenging and rough the sea can be. From time to time waves reached 4m in height, but Hondius and the length and stability of the ship eased rolling and pitching almost to the minimum.
After tasty breakfast we could listen to amazing lectures given by Pippa about whales in the North Atlantic, a lecture filled with lots of information and details about those magnificent creatures. Later during the day, we could listen to Rosalie and learn what we can find below the surface of the Arctic Ocean.

In the afternoon, closer to Iceland the sea state started to settle, we could only feel gentle and pleasant rolling. Catherine our dive guide shows us all the information and highlight moments during diving excursion on this trip. Just after Catherine talk Alexis presented his lecture about Kayaking in the Arctic. Amazing history lesson with lots of interesting information. After break for a coffee and carrot cake we could participate for a quiz made by Sara and expedition team, we had lots of fun trying to answer all these sometimes hard but also funny questions.

The sea completely calms down as we enter the fjord and the expedition team invited all of us for captain’s cocktails, Remmert and the Expedition team celebrate with us, the end of an astonishing trip as we enjoy breath-taking views of the Icelandic coast.

Day 8: Disembarkation: Akureyri

Disembarkation: Akureyri
Datum: 25.09.2019
Positie: 65° 41.00N 018° 08.60W
Wind: S-3
Weer: Clouds
Luchttemperatuur: +10

Our amazing journey of exploration was over, but certainly some memories had been made for a lifetime. The arctic had certainly given us a great trip despite at times making us work hard for the experience! A truly unforgettable experience.
Safe travels and we hope to see you back onboard soon!

Total distance sailed on our voyage: 1092 NM

On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Remmert Jan Koster, Expedition Leader Adam Turner, Hotel Manager Dejan Nikolic and all the crew and staff, it has been a pleasure travelling with you.

Details

Reiscode: HDS15-19
Reisdatum: 17 Sep – 25 Sep, 2019
Duur: 8 nachten
Schip: m/v Hondius
Inscheping: Akureyri
Ontscheping: Akureyri

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Aboard m/v Hondius

Hondius is het eerste geregistreerde Polar Class 6-schip ter wereld dat voldoet aan de nieuwste en hoogste Lloyd's Register-normen voor ijsversterkte cruiseschepen.

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