OTL13-22, trip log, Spitsbergen - Northeast Greenland

by Oceanwide Expeditions

Logbook

Day 1: Longyearbyen: embarkation

Longyearbyen: embarkation
Date: 27.08.2022
Position: 78°14.1‘N, 015°37.8‘E
Wind: SSE 6
Weather: cloudy
Air Temperature: +6

Today is the day! Our long-awaited Arctic adventure is about to begin (a few years wait for some of us!). Our story begins in Longyearbyen, the largest settlement in the Arctic Archipelago of Svalbard, where we board M/V Ortelius, the ship that will be our home for the next fourteen days. What will we see on our voyage? We can only guess at this stage, but the smiles on the faces of the guests as they arrive show the excitement everyone is feeling.

It is a beautiful sunny day alongside the coal pier in Longyearbyen and at 4 pm guests arrive ready to board for our epic trip. The expedition staff waits on the pier to welcome us and guiding us to the reception for check-in. We now have a little time to settle in and get our bearings on board the vessel whilst the bridge team prepares for the ship to depart from the pier.

With everyone onboard, we are called to the lecture room to attend the first of our mandatory briefings - a ship safety briefing from the chief officer Mickael and house rules from the assistant hotel manager Vladimir. On completion of the briefings, we take part in an abandon ship drill and gather at our designated muster stations on the sounding of the alarm. Everyone puts on the life jackets; we follow Vladimir and Stephen to the assembly points close to the lifeboats. As we have accomplished the drill, we are ready for departure. But we do have very strong winds hitting the ship from the side and decision is taken to leave a bit later and instead meet the Captain first.

Captain Per introduces himself and welcomes everybody. Our expedition leader Jan welcomes us onboard, and we get to know all the expedition guides. We all enjoy raising a glass of our chosen beverage in celebration of starting the voyage.

A delicious dinner buffet awaits us with a variety of dishes prepared by head chef Heinz and his galley team, served by our friendly dining room staff. After Dinner we have some free time to explore the ship and wandering the decks. During the last few hours, the wind picked up to 25knots which makes it impossible for the Ortelius to start her voyage from the coal pier into the Fjord and open waters. We get our first understanding what it means to be flexible when plans change.

Some of us are enjoying for a little longer the fresh and very windy air on the outer decks in the beautiful evening light, others have a cup of tea or drink in the bar, meeting our travel companions and for some it is time to head to their cabins to get a good night of rest before our first full day of the trip tomorrow. We will later learn that we only left Longyearbyen at around 2 in the morning.

Day 2: Krossfjorden – Camp Zoë & Lilliehöökbreen

Krossfjorden – Camp Zoë & Lilliehöökbreen
Date: 28.08.2022
Position: 78°13.3’ N, 011°23.0’ E
Wind: E 4
Weather: lightly clouded
Air Temperature: +8

This day starts with our expedition leaders wake up call, reminding us to get up and seize the day. We start the day with a hearty breakfast to get us going, then we go to get our boots to be properly prepared for our first landing in the afternoon. After that we start in the lecture room with the mandatory Zodiac and Polar Bear safety briefings. We are taught how to enter and exit the zodiacs safely and how to put on our zodiac life jackets. Finally with all our safety briefings completed it is time for lunch and we are ready to start our expedition activities.

Our first landing will be at a location called Camp Zoe, which is in fact the name of the cabin standing here. It was built in 1911 by Henry Rudi and named after the daughter of Ernest Mansfield, named after the daughter of Ernest Mansfield, the chief of NEC, the Northern Exploration Company. Today it is used by residents and scientist from Ny Ǻlesund. The weather is perfect – almost.no wind, sunshine, and glassy seas. We enter the Zodiacs for the first time and do our first steps on arctic ground.

We split up into different Hiking-Level-Groups”. The “Long-Hikers” are first to start their adventure and after them the medium group starts to hike on this beautiful piece of land. We all discover the cabin which is still used nowadays by residents and scientist from Ny Ȧlesund and then wander off on our ways.

We see our first reindeer quietly feeding and not really caring about our presence. Julian, one of our companions in the “long-hiking-group”, brought a big surprise for us all. He has two images of Tinayrebukta and Tinayreglacier with him: a photo of a painting made by Jean Paul Louis Tinayre and a photo Julian has taken in 1986 of the same view. The bay and the glacier were named after the painter who had joined the 1906/1907 expedition by Albert of Monaco I. and you can see an impressive retreat of the glacier. Now, this group is on a mission! We want to go the same location and get a new image of the scenery. After some adventurous hiking over some hidden mountain ridges a few of us make it until there. Julian takes photos and shares a lot of very interesting background Information of his work. As we all make our way back to the landing side to get ready for the Zodiac-ride back to the ship, a Humpback Whale appears next to Ortelius. It is staying close by the ship and the coastline for quite some time so we can all take a long look at this amazing creature and enjoy its presence. Time flies when you are surrounded by beauty.

At the daily recap we hear about our plan for tomorrow – we are leaving Svalbard and will head towards Greenland – and yes, by taking a path through the sea ice. Annina gives a lovely talk about Svalbard reindeer and Julian shares the above-mentioned images of Tinayrebukta and the glacier he took on the afternoon hike.

During dinner, the captain has repositioned Ortelius to Lilliehöökbreen and we can enjoy the view on this once 12km long, massive and breath-taking glacier front. We cruise for at least an hour in this beautiful landscape surrounded by icebergs, misty mountain ranges and ever-changing light.

Day 3: In the Ice

In the Ice
Date: 29.08.2022
Position: 78°48.8’ N, 002°16.0’ E
Wind: NNW 5
Weather: snow/rain
Air Temperature: +2

We wake up in what seems to be the middle of the ocean – there is nothing but water, clouds, and the sky. Every now and then, a tiny piece of ice is floating by. There is some ice on the decks and handrails are frozen. Yes, we are on the way to the pack ice, but we do have time until we get there.

Julia is holding a lecture about all things Longyearbyen is hiding and we do learn a lot about this small town. She also introduces us visually in the magic times when the light returns after three months of darkness. Maybe some of us will come return to experience this very beautiful time of the year. Towards the end of the lecture, we start hearing ice scratching on the ship’s hull. This is well timed, and we find our way to the outside decks to enjoy the view. Ortelius is smoothy sailing and ice floes of different sizes and shapes are all around us. This is beautiful!

During the following hours, the ice is getting denser and denser. The ship keeps on pushing floes to the side to make its way. Sometimes our speed gets as low as 0,4 knots, sometimes we have more space to manoeuvre. We do not see very much wildlife – a few Northern Fulmars and some Little Auks – but all the different shades and shapes of the ice are making more than up for that.

At 3pm the hotel department is offering hot chocolate & rum on the foredeck to heat up the frozen ones that have spent hours outside. The atmosphere of ever-changing fog, clouds and sunshine offer us a mix that we have not seen before. The last hour in the ice can be called the “Golden Hour” Thesea is totally flat; the sun sends golden rays down on us – this is a calm and brilliant way to say goodbye to the pack ice.

We meet at the daily recap in the lounge and, yes, the plan is still to keep sailing towards Greenland.

Later in the evening, around 10pm the sighting of a fin whale is announced. We make our way outside; the captain even turns the ship around and we can get some nice views on this beautiful creature. What a day it has been!

Day 4: At sea

At sea
Date: 30.08.2022
Position: 76°28.6’ N, 003°13.0’ W
Wind: NW 4
Weather: cloudy
Air Temperature: +1

Today we continue our journey through the Greenland Sea. As the surface is smooth and only a gentle swell moves the water mass, we all enjoy being out on deck, watching birds, although few, and being on the lookout for marine life especially whales. And soon somebody announces “There, at 2 o’clock, still far. A blow.” Cameras and binoculars are raised to spot the breath of the whale. In sequence, several very high narrow spouts of tiny water droplets rise into the sky. Our hearts beat faster. Are we going to see it closer? Will we identify the species? Or will it just dive into its underwater world and disappear?

But then the whale surfaces again. Closer. Showing a rather low splashguard on the top of the head. Followed by a long dark back. No dorsal fin visible. We patiently wait for the last blow when the giant arches its back for the dive and exposing a large triangular dorsal fin. No doubt: it is a fin whale! Soon after, it happens again. Another huge blow in the far distance. Coming closer it exposes a bluish-greyish body colouration and a small dorsal fin far back only visible on the dive. Wow, we now have met the largest animal ever lived on our planet, the blue whale. How lucky we are to have found these giants in the vast ocean. To explore remote places and to experience nature are main objectives of expedition cruising. But it goes beyond this as it also connects on-site experiences with knowledge transfer and putting observations into a broader context. Today is one of those days when the profound knowledge of the expedition team and even guests are shared.

In the morning, Julien Dowdeswell kindly gives us amazing insights of the traces and patterns of the sea floor created by glaciers during past expansions and retreats. Using modern technologies his research has in great details revealed the history of specific polar glaciers, helping to understand past, current, and future climates.In the afternoon Jan takes us on a different journey into the past: The history of Paleoeskimos in Greenland. As warmer and colder periods of hundreds of years alternated, the climate and living conditions in the Arctic changed considerably. Various people appeared and disappeared like the Independence I in Northeast Greenland, followed by the Saqqac further south, the Independence II, the Dorset I and II and eventually the Thule people who died out before the Europeans arrived. A reason for their disappearance might have been them overhunting their main food resource, the musk oxen. Fortunately, they got later reintroduced and are now part of today’s wildlife raising our hopes to meet these iconic arctic animals in the coming days.

Finally, Ursula gives us a short introduction to cetaceans pointing out that watching whales requires the ability to patiently watch water. Quite vividly she explains the breathing patterns of whales as they differ when travelling, feeding at the surface or at greater depths. She also points out that identification photos of whales (including information on dates, species, GPS positions and photographers contact details) can be sent to the Citizen Science project Happy Whale (www.happywhale.com) to help to increase our understanding of the whales’ worldwide distribution.

Although Ortelius covered a lot of ground southwards today, we sure didn’t walk much. Instead, we tremendously increased our knowledge on seafloor signatures of past glaciers, paleoeskimos and whales.

Day 5: First steps in Greenland

First steps in Greenland
Date: 31.08.2022
Position: 74°06.6’ N, 020°51.8’ W
Wind: SE 4
Weather: rain
Air Temperature: +4

This morning we reach the east coast of Greenland at around 74 degrees North. Our goal is to land on Clavering Island. It was named by the second German North Polar Expedition (1869) after commander D.C. Clavering from an earlier voyage in 1823.

A scout boat leaves early in the morning to check conditions ashore at Dødemandsbukten (Dead man’s bay). This not very cheerful name comes probably from the gravesites of some Northeast Greenland Inuit’s. For us it doesn`t seem to be a good omen either, because the crashing waves at the beach and the increasing wind, means that the scout boat comes home with some very wet expedition guides and that the landing is cancelled. But only 7 nm away is Eiskimonæs, a much more sheltered landing site. This area was first used by Inuit, then from 1931-1939 by Danish scientists, then

during the war it was headquarters of the Sledgepatrol. In 1943 German soldiers burned one of the buildings and a few months later the US Air Force bombed the site. We can land and take a short walk in the rain, looking at the burned hut and the equipment that is left behind.  Two stoves are easily identified. Our walk takes us also over the tundra where we spot Knotweed, Polar willow (in yellow autumn colour), Bell-heather, Nodding saxifrage and even some arctic poppies. A bumpy Zodiac ride brings us back to the ship for lunch.

As we sail away from Clavering Island, Katja gives a presentation about the ice in the Arctic, offering a smorgasbord of snow crystals, glaciers, icebergs, sea-ice and even some optical phenomes caused by ice crystals in the air. The sailing is still smooth, though wind and waves have increased.

After dinner John Shears wows everybody with his presentation about the search for Shackleton’s Endurance. In the beginning of 2022, he led an expedition to the Weddell Sea with the goal to find the “world’s most famous wreck”. He shares with us the highs and lows of the expedition and the first high resolution pictures of the ship which rests well preserved in 3000m deep water. The state of the ship, the sharpness of the images and the incredible feat of finding it are mind boggling. A National Geographic documentary is being produced and will hopefully come out next year. Some glasses are raised to John and of course “the Boss” Earnest Shackleton.

Day 6: Teufelsschloss, Blomsterbugten & Maria Ø

Teufelsschloss, Blomsterbugten & Maria Ø
Date: 01.09.2022
Position: 73°19.9’ N, 025°18.1’ W
Wind: light air
Weather: cloudy
Air Temperature: +10

We start our day with an early wakeup call from Jan. At 5h10 we arrive at Teufelsschloss and quite a few of us get out of our cosy beds to enjoy the stunning scenery as the sun rises. This beautiful mountain in the middle of the fjord is surrounded by fog and everything is quiet and mystical.

What a morning! This fantastic early wake up is followed by a great breakfast in the dining room.

The expedition team set out to scout the site where we are to land this morning: a beautiful place called Blomsterbugten which means “the flower bay” and promises a lot of flowers and vegetation. And these promises should be kept! A carpet of red, orange and yellow coloured tundra awaits us, and we take off to discover the land and maybe find some Muskox.

We part in different groups and go on different ways. Some of us go to the little hut first called Varghytten and was built in 1930 as a Norwegian trapper hut.  Restored in 1972 and in 2002 the hut looks very inviting and some of us dream about being here for a couple of days and wonder how that would be…

Later we go on with our hike through fantastic landscapes and still cloudy and rainy weather. We keep our mood up as we finally spot three Muskox feeding on a hill in front of us. We take some time to quietly observe these giant and powerful animals and take a lot of photos.

Eventually it is time for us to leave and return to the ship just in time for a delicious lunch to warm us up and get dry.

While we eat the ship repositions to our next location, a scenic little island called Maria Ø. Named by the oldest daughter of Alfred Gabriel Nathorst in 1899.  After the expedition team went out to scout the area, they are happy to report no bears sighted so once again we loaded up into our zodiacs and headed ashore for a landing. Upon arriving on the shore, we split up into our different groups and start our afternoon hike. We reach a close-by bay where we see the remains of an old station which was first used by Germans during WWII and later by the Danish expedition Lauge Koch using the fuel tanks and other remains. We see old and rusty tanks, tea kettles, all kinds of heavy tools, broken glass bottles, plates, and cutlery.

We continue our hike through the area and some of us can spot again a Muskox. This time the single animal is quite far away so we observe with cameras and binoculars. As we continue our walks over the hills, we see many beautiful flowers, lichen, moss, and trees we have been learning about this last two days.  Again, we are speechless about these beautiful Autumn colours surrounding us.

Day 7: Segelsällskapets Fjord & Alpefjord

Segelsällskapets Fjord & Alpefjord
Date: 02.09.2022
Position: 72°25.7’ N, 024°53.8’ W
Wind: SW 2
Weather: partly cloudy
Air Temperature: +8

We wake up to a wonderful day with sunshine but still a lot of mist. On our way to our morning landing the mist starts lifting and we discover the peaks of the mountains that surround us. We are quite uncertain whether we can do the landing because poor visibility is a no-go for polar bear safety reasons. At 9am two staff zodiacs go ashore to assess the situation and luckily the conditions have improved. The go-ahead is given and as we proceed with getting ashore, the mist lifts further and we are surrounded by sunbathed mountain peaks of 1500m and a fogbow in the mist, and Ortelius in the sunshine.

The landing site lays in Segelsällskapets Fjord: incredible rock formation, mostly red and white make you think you walk over delicate pieces of bacon. We spend the first hour just studying the various sites within a perimeter. Then a large group sets off to climb to a higher viewpoint and we come across a family of five ptarmigans. Once at the top, the views are breath-taking! The mist has disappeared completely, and we are surrounded by high mountains and the beauty of the fjord. We make our way back to Ortelius to enjoy our delicious lunch and let all these impressions soak in.

After lunch we all board zodiacs for a zodiac cruise in Alpefjord. Our intrepid captain Per has anchored Ortelius right in front of the glacier that pours itself into the middle of the fjord. The view is impressive, and even more majestic due to the incredible sun that makes the colours of the ice come out even stronger. As soon as we are in the zodiacs, we all coordinate our efforts to approach a bearded seal on an ice floe that Jan had found. We then go from iceberg to iceberg in these calm waters, mesmerized by the blue colour of the ice and the many different shapes and forms. The glacier front is huge, and it takes us half an hour to drive all along it one way. On the way back we find some more icebergs to admire and take pictures from, before we head back to Ortelius where a delicious barbecue is waiting for us on the helicopter deck. The weather is beautiful, the views are incredible, and the company is great. We eat, drink and dance in this incredible scenery. What more can we ask for!

Day 8: Antarctic Havn & sailing towards Scoresbysund

Antarctic Havn & sailing towards Scoresbysund
Date: 03.09.2022
Position: 72°00.8’ N, 023°08.8’ W
Wind: light air
Weather: partly cloudy
Air Temperature: +10

This morning greets us with bright sunshine as we approach Antarctic Havn, the bay in which we hope to make a landing. A few big icebergs in the water, wide valleys, and huge mountains in the distance – this is such a different landscape than any other day.

There is a layer of fog out on the ocean, and we do hope it does not approach and cross our plans. This natural harbour was named "Antarctic Havn" by the Swedish Arctic explorer Alfred Gabriel Nathorst after his ship Antarctic, which anchored there on 20 August 1899 during the Swedish Greenland Expedition in search of survivors of Salomon August Andre's Arctic balloon expedition that left Svalbard in 1897.

As we land, we can distinguish quite some remains of history on the beach: a Norwegian hunting hut that originally had been known as "Karlsbak Station". It was built by Jonas Karlsbak and Odd Åmbak in 1930. The hut had a meteorological facility and Karlsbak/LMU was its radio station. The station was active in 1930–38 and again in 1946–59. Close to the building there is a memorial to Norwegian explorer Helge Ingstad (1899 – 2001), who was using the Antarctic Haven hut as his residence when he wintered there as the Governor of Erik the Red's Land in the winter of 1932–33. The historical Norwegian Antarctic Haven Station was restored in the summer 2001 by the Nanok East Greenland Fishing Company. It was destroyed in 2002 by an avalanche.

As usual, we split up in groups and go on our walks along the beach and riverbed, up the slopes over tundra and rocks. There are still lots of flowers and an ocean of cotton grass. Some can observe and listen to a flock of snow buntings, other find some tracks of a polar bear; geese and a muskox are resting in the distance. As we return to the landing site, we realise the effect of the bright sunshine: shirts and short sleeves have taken over from the sweaters and warm jackets. While most get dressed for the shuttle back, two courageous ladies use the waiting time for a quick and improvised polar plunge.

While Ortelius starts making its way out of Kong Oscar Fjord and into the open sea, many of us enjoy the beautiful weather on the upper decks with coffee or tea, sunglasses and binoculars and let the astonishing landscape work its magic on us.

In the afternoon, Julian is kind enough to share more of his knowledge and holds a lecture on “ice and environmental changes“. And as we can hear and see, we have all the knowledge – we just need to act. Later, and for hours on, we admire the beautiful coastline with its rigged mountains and see the sun disappear behind them. What a day it has been (again)!

Day 9: Vikingebugt & Danmark Ø

Vikingebugt & Danmark Ø
Date: 04.09.2022
Position: 70°21.4’ N, 025°14.9’ W
Wind: light air
Weather: partly cloudy
Air Temperature: +11

Day # 9 of our cruise starts in the middle of the night as Jan, with his calm and soft voice wakes us up as Northern Lights are building up above the Scoresbysound. Apparently worthwhile to get us out of bed, to put on a warm layer or two and to grab the camera or phone. And wow… the lights are strong. From East to West a horizontal curtain of lights moves above the horizon; green and yellow and even a bit red in colour and they are surrounding the bright Venus. Overtime the lights move higher and higher, framing the Great and Little Dipper and the North Star above our heads. We all are quietly enjoying the amazing phenomena until the cold starts creeping through the layers, forcing us to go back to bed eventually leaving an empty deck in the black Arctic night.

In the morning, not surprisingly, rather tired looking guests leave their cabins. Just in time to get immediately fully awake. A polar bear is sighted! Everybody hurries back up on deck to see it walking along the steep rocky mountain slope, passing small patches of snow. It appears to be well fed and large, but its gender is not recognizable in the distance. By the time we enter the zodiacs in the beautiful Vikingebugt, the bear has left the area and we wonder what has brought him there and where he is heading next.

We on the other hand start an amazing zodiac cruise towards the glacier named Bredebrae. Soon after we clip the zodiacs together to listen to Eveline’s on-site lecture on the geological history of the surrounding mountains and the stunning basalt columns exposed at the steep slope. The colourful patches of yellow arctic willow, red bearberry and numerous flowering plants contrast beautifully against the black and red rock faces.

In the afternoon we land on Danmark Ø. The Greenlandic name Ujuaakajiip Nunaa means “Little Johan’s Land” named after a Scoresbysund colony manager. After a short hike we reach a different place of history where Thule people have lived before the Europeans arrived. The remains of their winter houses are well visible in the ground showing the entrance, a low narrow channel, leading into a wider living area. They built the roof with animal bones like the long and arched rib bones of whales.

During our hikes we find forests of yellow polar willow and dark red arctic birch as well as a lot of still flowering plants: arctic harebell, arctic cinquefoil, blue heath and even more exciting the broad-leaved fireweed, the national flower of Greenland.

Heading back to the landing site a sandy shallow beach invites more than two dozen guests and guides to do the long-awaited polar plunge. Most of them are running fast into the cold water just to turn around and run back even faster. However, some brave ones even went for a little swim. Congratulations to the Polar Plungers!

The day ended with the ship sailing through the narrow and up to 900 m deep Fønfjord. And many of us are falling asleep hoping to hear Jan’s gentle voice again in the middle of the night: “I am sorry to wake you up but there are beautiful Northern Lights in the sky.”

Day 10: Røde Ø & a place without name but with musk ox

Røde Ø & a place without name but with musk ox
Date: 05.09.2022
Position: 70°28.9’ N, 028°04.9’ W
Wind: W 4
Weather: partly cloudy
Air Temperature: +9

After another night with Polar lights, it is a little bit hard to get up early in the morning. But it is certainly worth it. Pink clouds, white icebergs, and the red sandstone of Røde Ø come into view as Ortelius slowly approaches our landing site for the morning. The narrow gap between the island and the coast acts as a barrier, trapping all icebergs that have been discharged by the Westfjord glacier. We make use of the favorable tides and land in a narrow bay on Røde Ø. A short climb to the ridgeline leads to a spectacular viewpoint over the iceberg cemetery. The white and turquois of the icebergs contrasts nicely with the orange of the polar birch and the yellow of the polar willows. It is hard to leave this special place, but after the landing we cruise through the iceberg alley back to the ship. The various shapes and shades of blue are fantastic, each berg looks like a unique piece of very chunky ice art. There are ripples, dimples, waterlines, sharp and very rounded forms. Each telling a story.

The ship is now anchored at a lovely location close to shore and after Jan spies several musk oxen on the slopes above the ship the decision is made to go ashore here for an afternoon hike or stroll (depending on the energy levels). The sun shines hot on us as we walked through the red and orange tundra. Polar willows and birches here are much bigger than we have seen further north. One could call the vegetation even lush, reaching up to 60cm in an area where there is enough water. But our real goal are the musk oxen. With binoculars we can see them moving through the tundra above us. Slowly all groups creep a bit closer.  The long hikers get the closest, witnessing the head butting of two large males. After two reverberating collisions the subordinate bull runs away.  September is mating season for the musk oxen and after the fight the dominant male shows a strong interest in a cow. Fascinated we watch through binoculars the interactions between these ancient creatures. The views over the iceberg filled bay sparkling in the sun with a miniature Ortelius are equally beautiful and some of us are having a longer break on some rocks to soak in this amazing scenery. 

A short Zodiac ride brings us back to the ship in time for recap and dinner. Later we ship cruise through the ice littered Rødefjord in nice evening light.  For the night we anchor in Rypefjord hoping for another show of the aurora borealis.

Day 11: Øfjord, Grundtvigskirken and West Milneland

Øfjord, Grundtvigskirken and West Milneland
Date: 06.09.2022
Position: 70°4.1’ N, 026°50.5’ W
Wind: N 1
Weather: bright
Air Temperature: +10

Rypefjord has offered us another night sky filled with stars and northern lights. This morning we wake up to Ortelius lifting the anchor, we are heading out to Øfjord.

The mountains surrounding this fjord are high, like walls they reach down directly into the sea. Some have spectacular peaks like the Grundtvigskirken (1977 m, first climbed in 1999), a mountain in the shape of a church including a bell tower. The weather gods are generous and provide us with sunshine and calm waters. As we reach the end of the fjord a blanket of fog covers the islands Bjørneøer, a few big icebergs lay aground in the vicinity. We stop here for a short hour as we are taking over a passenger from the sailing ship Rembrandt Van to take him back to Iceland. We observe the fog, which is moving in fast and, at the end arrives at the place we wanted to land this afternoon. We will need to change plans, but it makes for a beautiful view with almost magical atmosphere.

After lunch however, the fog has been burnt away by the sun and we attempt a landing just at the northwest corner of West Milneland. A small sandy beach welcomes us, the steep cliffs of the surrounding mountains make us feel small.  While some head off to higher ground and ridges, others make their way over the tundra and some hills. Every now and then we find a special little plant that manages to survive in these hard conditions. Everyone is enjoying the views over the valley and the waterfall coming down from a glacier. A group takes some arctic silence: interesting how much you hear when you yourself make no noise. A huge iceberg with a big arch is visible in the distance. We can see pieces falling, moments later the sound reaches us. We expect it to collapse at any moment, but it doesn’t. In the lower parts we find a lot of small ponds in the tundra, we find our way in between them before we return to the landing site and the ship.

As Ortelius leaves the landing site towards the more open side of Scoresbysund we pass by the arched iceberg – it still hasn’t collapsed. We head towards our next destination while the low light shines upon more enormous icebergs.

Day 12: Ittoqqortoormiut & Hurrey Inlet

Ittoqqortoormiut & Hurrey Inlet
Date: 07.09.2022
Position: 70°28.6’ N, 021°58.3’ W
Wind: NE 5
Weather: bright
Air Temperature: +10

We wake up to a wonderful day with sunshine just in front of Ittoqqortoormiut, the small settlement where 350 people live. The setting is beautiful with all the colourful houses in the sunshine. After breakfast we land, and we start exploring the village. Every single house has a different colour, from blue to green through yellow and even a purple one. The settlement is topped by a satellite dish and next to it is a meteorological station from where they release a meteorological balloon every day at 11am and 11 pm sharp.

Most of us gather for the event and we are all surprised at how fast the balloon disappears into the higher levels of the atmosphere. At the same time, there is the sledge-dog feeding and all the dogs are howling from excitement. After a stroll to the school and the church, we visit the tiny local crafts-shop and the supermarket where we meet most of the locals. At noon we all board back onto the zodiacs to return to Ortelius for our dining pleasure in the restaurant on Deck 4, aft!

We sail into Hurry Inlet where the wind has picked up a little and the windchill effect is considerable. Jan and Katja have chosen a very nice landing spot for our last landing in Greenland this afternoon. The site is named Nøkkedal and is a beautiful example of arctic tundra. We all land at around 3:15 and get off in different groups. As soon as the fast hikers arrive at the top of the first hill, they find a lonely musk ox walking slowly in the valley. They observe for a bit and then walk off for higher grounds.

The other groups walk on different paths but also towards the back lands to try to get a glimpse on the ox. Every group will be lucky, and some can observe how a muskox shows his rights in his territory, so they retreat towards the landing site. The long hikers walk all the way to the highest ridge to have a breath-taking overview of the area and find large flocks of geese flying south. The largest flock is about 65 geese and is identified as Brant geese. We find a reindeer antler, which is interesting as they have gone extinct in the area for the past 100 years. The other groups enjoy again the tundra with all its flowers, mushrooms, and lichen.

Back on the ship the daily recap awaits, and Jan tells us about the crossing of the Denmark strait and the hotel manager Stephen goes through all the formalities for our last days. After dinner, a lot of happy people gather in the bar. What a wonderful day it has been and what a beautiful way to end our Greenland expedition.

Day 13: At sea in the Danmark Strait

At sea in the Danmark Strait
Date: 08.09.2022
Position: 68°21.0’ N, 020°04.9’ W
Wind: SW 7
Weather: Fog
Air Temperature: +6

Last night the swell picked up and the ship started to move quite a bit. By morning however, the seas calm down. It is foggy outside, there is no wind. It is the last day that we spend on the ship that has been our home for the last 2 weeks. It will be a day to fill our heads with the last pieces of information that we didn’t have time for yet.

After breakfast Annina introduces us to the world of plankton and the importance of all these drifting creatures. Julian also offers to explain the rich geology and tells us all about icebergs and finally Ursula teaches us about the life and biology of the polar bear – the king of the arctic, which we have had the privilege of seeing in its natural habitat.

It is also a day to dwell in memories of the trip, to share experiences and to simply process all the adventures we had. We can enjoy some relaxing time before our last evening onboard starts.

In the afternoon the friends of the Scott Polar Institute hold a very entertaining auction to raise funds for a scholarship within their program. For that they offer items related to the institute and the Shackleton Expedition, that is the one trying to find the wreck of the famous Endurance in the Weddell Sea.

As the final point in the program of today, we all meet again in the bar for the ”Captains Farewell” and thank everyone for this amazing trip: crew members, expedition staff, officers, Captain and of course all passengers together made this a wonderful adventure. And we get to see a very beautiful slideshow revisiting the entire trip which Werner has put together for us.

After dinner the fog starts to lift a bit as we come further south. We can see the lighthouse and the coastline of Grimsey; the almost full moon is rising in dark orange. We enjoy our last evening together, share stories and laughter, before it is time for a last night on the ship.

Day 14: Akureyri: disembarkation

Akureyri: disembarkation
Date: 09.09.2022
Position: 64°41.2’ N, 018°04.4’ W
Wind: light air
Weather: partly cloudy
Air Temperature: +12

Unfortunately, every trip comes to an end, and we arrive in Akureyri in the early morning hours. During our last breakfast, the crew and expedition staff are taking care of our luggage. We disembark and all that remains is to say our goodbyes to our newly made friends, fellow travellers and all the welcoming faces of the Ortelius we have come to know so well.  The Ortelius lays up alongside the jetty, so we take some last photos before saying goodbye to the expedition staff. Some of us may have some days left Iceland others may have to get back to work when coming back home. Regardless, we all take home many great memories, thousands of photographs and new friends made. The Arctic is an incredible and unique part of our planet, and we are grateful to have had the opportunity to observe and soak up this pristine and fragile environment!

Thank you all for joining us on this remarkable adventure; for your great company, good humour, interest, and enthusiasm.
We hope to see you again in the future, wherever that might be!

Total distance sailed on our voyage: 1935 nautical miles

On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Per Andersson, Expedition Leader Jan Belgers, Hotel Manager Stephen Bell and all the crew and staff, it has been a pleasure travelling with you!

Details

Tripcode: OTL13-22
Dates: 27 Aug - 9 Sep, 2022
Duration: 13 nights
Ship: m/v Ortelius
Embark: Longyearbyen
Disembark: Akureyri

Trip log video

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Aboard m/v Ortelius

Fortified for both poles of the planet, the ice-strengthened Ortelius is thoroughly outfitted to provide you an up-close experience of the Arctic and Antarctic.

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