PLA16-17, trip log, Scoresbysund – Aurora Borealis
21.09.2017 by Oceanwide Expeditions Triplog
We arrived at the pier in Akureyri at around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, after a scenic bus ride from Reykjavik to the North. We settled into our cabins and gathered then for the first time in the Observation Lounge, for a first welcome by our expedition leader Katja and a mandatory safety information and drill. The briefing was held by First Officer Artur who was talking about ship safety and how to prepare for the worst. A general alarm-drill (seven short blasts followed by one long blast) was made, and we all took the SOLAS orange life jackets and mustered in the lounge guided by crew and staff. After a roll call to assure everyone was present, we went out to the lifeboats hoping to never actually have to use them again.
After a short break to enjoy this scenic navigation, Katja invited us for another briefing about life on board given by Dejan. Dejan introduced us to the interiors of the ship, hotel operations and dining room edict and Katja introduced the expedition team. Captain Evgeny joined us in the lounge for a welcoming toast before we headed down to the dining room for our first scrumptious dinner prepared by Head Chef Ralf and his staff.
Our first evening ended with a sensation – Katja called us on the decks, as our first Aurora was observed! We see the northern lights for a little while, and with this nice start we fall happily into our beds.
When we embarked yesterday, everything was so very calm and pleasant, that did not last long. Already around midnight last night the movement started, the ship was rolling and most of us had the feeling of sliding from side to side in our bed. In the morning, the restaurant was pretty empty for breakfast and in the lounge a lot of us sat starring at the horizon.
Outside the windows, the sea was grey, white capped and the spray was cought by the wind and sent high in the air. but not matter the weather, life onboard has to on, this means to at least to try to keep to the daily program, this morning this means lecture time. The lecture this morning was with Kasper and about the historical aspects of east Greenland, a subject that is clearly close to his heart. With this knowledge-input, its time for yet another meal. The afternoon does not show any signs of better weather, so Katja chooses to delay the planned briefings, these are mandatory and everyone is therefore supposed to attend and this would be hard when quite a few of us were still in our beds. So the afternoon is spent watching for seabirds or to rest.
Just before dinner, we are introduced to the evening Recap, a time to get together, get updated about the plans for the next days and to learn a bit more from the expedition team. This evening Gérard tells us about the Northern Light and Valeria about the sailers illness Scurvy. After learning everything about scurvy we all look forward to eat a lot of vitamin C in the restaurant, so the queue outside the resturant is long this evening. After dinner we entered the Scorsbysund fjord and finally we got some shelter from the seas – and we witnessed a wonderful sunset!
And the evening kept on getting better, because around midninght we are treated with yet another display of the Northern light, so for some of us, this night ended up being a short one, good night!
Last night, some auroras lightened the sky until very early morning so some of us did not have a long sleep, especially those who got up before sun rise to enjoy the wonderful colours of this morning.
After breakfast, Katja asked us to gather in the lounge to explain us the guidelines of tourism in the Arctic, as well as how to be safe with potential polar bears ashore, how to board the Zodiacs and to go ashore. Immediately after this briefing, the rest of the staff was waiting for us at the gangway for a Zodiac cruise.
We went along the shore to see some very strange basalt columns. They were formed about 60 millions years ago, when a hot spot produced as huge amount of lava, making many horizontal layers of basalt. By cooling down, the basalt retreats and it makes cracks in the form of regular polygons.
After watching this very particular phenomena, we sailed for a moment into the brash ice coming from the glacier front at the end of Vikingebukt.
We continued in a small bay, surrounded by mountains also made by successive layers of lava. We stopped by a small steam normally making a nice waterfall but as the weather was quite cold, this stream was not flowing any more. After a small walk to warm up, we went back to Plancius.
During the afternoon Plancius moved deeper into Scoresby Sound. Katja invited us to the lounge to give us information on the plans for the afternoon and tomorrow. Soon after we landed on Danmarks Ø. We were offered the choice of four different walks from leisurely to a fast hike.
The four groups stayed for two hours ashore, each of us having a more or less intense walk in a way to enjoy it as much as possible. The weather was perfect, with a lot of sun shine and a gentle breeze. All groups went back at same time.
We were just on time back on board Plancius for the delicious dinner prepared by the Chef Ralf.
Today we heard the wake up call a bit earlier than planned. The sunrise colours were so nice that Katja decided to call us a before to enjoy this beautiful moment before breakfast.
Close to 9 in the morning we arrived to our first destination: Sydkap (the South Cape). As we were getting ready at the gangway for activities, another announcement came out, the landing was going to be delayed for a while, as a sudden tidal wave from a turning iceberg far away came to shore and created a big swell on the beach. Once everything calmed down we started operations and, once on land, we divided into three groups: fast, medium and leisure.
The fast hikers headed towards a slope in order to reach the top of the neighbouring hill, while the medium group walked on a somewhat easier terrain alongside the same slope. Some Arctic Hares were observed during the long hike.
The leisure group stayed around the hut and enjoyed an easier walk on the tundra, and after a while, they went on a Zodiac cruise around some iceberg before going back to the ship.
During lunch, Plancius moved westward to the entrance of Ø Fjord (the Fjord of Islands), close to a small archipelago named Bjørneøer (the Bear Islands). On our way Captain drove Plancius carefully around huge icebergs to give us the chance to take pictures and enjoy the magnificent icy giants.
In the afternoon we landed in a small cove of a place named Jytte Havn, so called after a small wooden ship. As usual we made four groups of different speed. Surprisingly, this island was covered with a lot of vegetation, mainly Northern Willows, giving a predominant green-yellow colouration, that mixed with the red colours on the dwarf birch, made a beautiful combination for pictures.
There were still a lot of flowers as well, like if summer was lasting longer on this island. The leisure, and medium groups made a more or less long loop on this island to have a look to the other side with a picturesque sharp mountain range and on their way back to the ship they cruise on the Zodiacs around big icebergs stranded in the harbour. The fast hikers climbed up the hill of the island to obtain fantastic views.
Back on the ship, dinner was a bit special: a barbecue on the aft deck. The crew set up some tables and benches and many of us had dinner outside, while watching the magnificent light on the surrounding mountains, and some of us broke into a dance to keep warm.
Later in the evening, Plancius left its anchorage and slowly sailed the entrance of Ø Fjord, getting ready for a fantastic ship’s cruise tomorrow morning.
Wake up call was earlier than usual today but for a good reason, the sun was rising as we sailed along the scenic Rødefjord and the breath taking views were a fair trade for one hour of sleep.
At seven o’clock we heard Katja again with a second wake up call, this time for the lazy ones.
After breakfast we had a short pre landing briefing were we learnt about our morning landing at Rypefjord and that this was a good place for spotting Musk Oxen, the hopes were high. By mid morning we were positioned and ready to start operations. As soon as we got ashore Katja told us that there were three Musk Oxen just behind the landing site. Once everybody was landed we were briefed on how we would make the approach and try to get a good glimpse of them.
That was not an easy task, approaching them silently and without being seen was a central key for a successful sighting, otherwise these nervous animals would easily run way. It was amazing how we all worked as a group, remaining silent and slowly getting closer, and we managed to have a group of more than 50 people enjoying the oxen only 120 meters away from us!
We then got to a beautiful viewpoint over a rocky edge and when we were starting the way back we had another surprise, an Arctic Hare! Once again we became silent and we had an awesome close up of this pristine white furry bunny lying less than 20 meters away! Nobody wanted to leave but DJ and Sava were waiting for us with a delicious lunch.
In the afternoon we dropped anchor at Røde Ø, truly an iceberg alley. We boarded the zodiacs for an incredible zodiac cruise around these icy giants. The shallow waters around the island make these huge frozen beasts to get stranded here and gave us perfect photo opportunities. The shapes, the colours, and the size of these pieces of ice were just astonishing. What a fantastic place!
After a little over an hour and a half the zodiacs came to land in a small cove on the North of Røde island, which is indeed red, and cut by huge basaltic dykes. The intense colour comes from sediments of Carboniferous and Permian age, which were laid down in desert conditions, thus allowing the development of haematite. The brilliant red of the rock and some strange and magnificent rock formations, together with the huge concentration of icebergs grounded in the shallow water round the island made it an ideal contrast for pictures.
From the small bay many of us went up the slope to reach a viewpoint from where we gazed at the iceberg graveyard we had just cruised through, seeing it from a bird’s-eye view gave us quite a different perspective.
Back on board DJ surprised us with whiskey on the rocks, rocks from the ice we had just cruised around!
After a short briefing where we learnt about the future plans we heard the call, dinner time! Another gorgeous day in eastern Greenland.
At the morning landing at Hurry Inlet, we had our last chance to hike in Greenland for this time. We started with Kasper describing the life of the Thule culture inuits that lived in this region previously. They most often lived together in small groups of up to 25 people and on this landing site, we could see remnants of a few houses. Their main living was based on hunting and the dominant food resource was fresh meat. Scurvy was not a problem, most probably because they did not process the meat, and thus kept all the vitamins.
As usual, we divided into different hiking groups, where some investigated an old fox trap and some went over the ridge to improve the view over Hurry Inlet even more.
Before heading back to our home Plancius, some of the brave passengers had a refreshing polar plunge at the beach.
Straight after lunch, we landed on the beach in Ittoqqortoormiit after a bumpy zodiac voyage with increasing wind speeds.
We could stroll around by ourselves and explore this little settlement in our own pace. Some went to the little shop up the slope, while others investigated the church, the police station and the school. Many dogs came up to us and wanted to check out our items, especially down on the beach while we were waiting for our zodiac shuttles back.
The guides concluded our journey with a super-recap, trying to cover many aspects of Eastern Greenland and the divers showed some their diving photos, which were very much appreciated.
We could sleep in! Well, at least a bit. DJ woke us almost as gentle as Katja did the last days, and called us for breakfast at 8. A lot more of us were present than on the last traverse of the Denmark Strait, it seemed we had better sea legs by then, but also the wind and sea were nicer than on the way here.
In the morning we heared a very interesting lecture of Gérard about ice and glaciers, so we could understand more about all the ice we have seen in the past days.
After lunch and some snoozing it was paytime! We could settle our account with DJ, and then Katja called us to see some dolphins jumping behind our ship and following us for quite a while.
Then Birgit took us across the Greenlandic inland ice – virtually only, with her talk about her Greenland Crossing in 2013.
After that, it was time to return our boots, that had kept our feet so nice and dry the last week.Meanwhile we could already see the mountains of Iceland, and in wonderful weather we approached the fjord of Akureyri.
Katja and her team and the Captain welcomed us then for a Captain’s Cocktail, where we looked back on the great experience we just had, and where the divers showed us some more pictures of their underwater adventures.
The day ended in the open sea, at the bar – our last evening on board the Plancius!
After the breakfast it was time to say goodbye – to the fantastic days on board Plancius, to the team, to new found friends… The busses were already waiting for us, and the little blue expedition ship that had become a home for us in the last week had to be left behind while we were driving towards Reykjavik to continue our voyage or travel home.
We will never forget this voyage and its unforgettable moments which were - also for the globetrotter among us - an amazing adventure with unique impressions of Northeast Greenland. We definitively know now how it feels to get infected by the polar virus the expedition team was talking about. The one or the other is already planning in his mind the next travel to the far North, or maybe the far South.
Thank you very much for this wonderful voyage, for your flexibility and enthusiasm. We are looking forward to see you back on board at any time - in the North, the South or somewhere in between!
Travelled distance on our voyage: Nautical Miles: 1049
On behalf of Oceanwide Expeditions, Captain Evgeny Levakov, Expedition Leader Katja Riedel, Hotel Manager Dejan Nikolic and the rest of crew and staff on board MV Plancius: We wish you all the best and a good voyage home!