The Northwest Passage - In the Wake of the Great Explorers - Alaska, Canada, Greenland
Day 29 - Beechey Island, Nunavut, Canada
Today was magical! We had a nature landing on Beechey Island, an uninhabited island of Arctic wilderness.
The weather was on our side, no polar bears were around, and the polar plunge was happening!
We were so excited we were geared up first thing and on our Zodiacs as soon as our group was called. Beechey Island is best known for containing three gFranklin expedition members graves, first discovered in 1850.
It was about 1 degree, so we were layered up to explore the island for one hour, got some steps up, took in the magnificent views and captured some lovely pics. We saw a geocache site with some time capsules, lust off a stone beach full of pebbles like polished gemstones and the most spectacular coastline views with sparkling turquoise waters.
Next was the "Polar Plunge", where we could swim in the ocean! Wayne wouldn't miss out; he was out of his layers in a heartbeat to have a refreshing (and cold) swim. He was fearless, with just a little swearing to get him through! Another item ticked off the bucket list.
After lunch, the ship continued until we arrived at a wildlife hotspot - where we saw our first belugas, hundreds of seals, and more birds and spotted about six polar bears!
It was an incredible day of wildlife! The Captain stationed us in Radstock Bay on Devon Island for a few hours, a sensory overload. Pods of seals surrounded the ship; the beautiful white belugas were a constant shimmer against the coastline, followed by about six polar bears; one was swimming, hunting for food, and a mama bear was taking her little ones up the mountain.
Fun fact: To remain healthy, polar bears must eat one seal every five days
It was a beautiful afternoon of wildlife moments; we were all in awe! We were blessed to enjoy ourselves from our balcony, and we're grateful for our binoculars, as the naked eye wasn't quite good enough, nor the camera (iPhone) to capture the pics. All passengers with great lenses on their cameras will have arrested magical snaps this afternoon.
Dinner in Aune this evening, as the roast lamb always gets us! It was another delicious meal with ever-attentive service from our King Richard and Armani. A special thank you to Nenad (our Serbian friend), who runs a very efficient and energetic team. We always feel very spoilt by the warm welcome from the entire team.
As the evening progressed, we sailed past a couple of vivid blue icebergs, followed by another sunset and the surprise delivery of the Polar Plunge certificate. This week, we have been spoiled with sunsets!
Day 30 - Croker Bay & Dundas Harbour, Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada
This morning, the sun was beaming across the scattered sea ice as we opened our curtains; with a snow-covered island as a backdrop, we were sailing past Devon Island, which is 75% permanently covered in ice.
We were attempting to land at Dundas Harbour, but the sea had other ideas, and the Captain continued to Croker Bay for a bonus glacier viewing as it was a pocket of calmness for the morning. This was our most northern point yet in the Arctic Circle.
Morning coffee was on the balcony with the most mesmerising views of the glaciers as we navigated through the sea ice, a beautiful morning enjoying the best of nature.
Soon, it was time for lunch after a few hours of blogging and publishing our four-week adventures. We landed a window table for our arrival into Dundas Harbour, an abandoned old settlement.
You couldn't beat this morning, but the Captain topped it! He was busy navigating us through all the sea ice to find a cosy spot to park for the afternoon nature landings. The ship busily thrust all the sea ice from its path to clear our entry to the landing spot. Watching and being amidst all this ice and beautiful terrain. was thrilling The Zodiacs were released, and the expedition crew were off to scout the island for polar bears; they arrived back with good news, and the excursions were approved! They saw a couple of bears on neighbouring islands but stationed a few crew on the watch-out points with their rifles should the need arise to scare them away.
Our group was second last today, so we had a few hours to wait until we were called. Once geared up with quite a few layers, even though the sun was still sharing its warmth over the ship, it was still very fresh, about 1 degree, and the wind was creeping in. Just as we were about to make our way to Deck 3 to embark on our nature landing, the sad news came over the PA that all future excursions were cancelled. The wind was getting more robust, and the boats struggled to pick up from the island due to the sea ice filling the landing spots. We were disappointed but understood safety comes first.
Back in the room, we removed all our layers. We compensated with a few mojitos before dinner, chatting with our new shipboard friends to hear stories of their landing and enjoying the beautiful views as we made our way to Baffin Bay.
As we were heading to dinner, we were all advised, 'One hand for you, one hand for the ship' as the ocean started showing us who was boss and was around for the evening.
We all got through the evening with a gentle sway and were rocked to sleep.
Day 30 - At Sea, Eclipse Sound & Baffin Bay - In honour of our Queen
This morning, we woke, and the ship was very calm and steady, but the sea was still having a bad day upon opening the curtains!
The strong winds were still fighting with the sea, which we suspect might make our visit to Pond Inlet difficult today.
We were right; we arrived at lunchtime, and unfortunately, there was no anchor side and Zodiacs for a trip to explore. We quickly picked up a new ice pilot for our Greenland segment, returned our guest visitor Roger, a local from Nunavut and continued on our way.
We navigated our way to Baffin Bay with misty views of surrounding mountain tops with a dusting of snow. Further along, we had sneak peeks of glaciers as we sailed out of the Northwest Passage for Greenland.
During lunch, we all received an important announcement for our British passengers to confirm the sad news of the Queen's passing. This impacted all passengers of The Commonwealth and us being Australians. In honour of our Queen, we celebrated her life and thanked her for dedicating her life to us all over a glass of Bollinger (by royal appointment).
She will be missed, and it was a monumental moment; we spent the afternoon and evening with fellow passengers reminiscing about The Queen and sharing our gratitude for her reign, one of the longest-running monarchs in history. It gave us all a way of measuring the passage of time. It was a defining moment.
This evening was spent in Lindstrom with our incredible team to keep us smiling, and we had some fun moments taking candid pics before we retired for the evening.
Day 32 - At Sea, Baffin Bay, Canada
We are on our way to Greenland! Today was spent crossing Baffin Bay as we navigated our way to approach our new destination.
The waters remained friendly all day; as we sailed, floating around us in the near distance were scattered icebergs for everyone's viewing pleasure.
We enjoyed lunch with our new ship friends, Robin and Lynn, and loved listening to their life stories. The travelling Arctic Dentist and nurse. They grasped every opportunity as they became young adults, and the doors that opened for them have taken them to fascinating places. The conversation was inspiring; now they are visiting places they had once lived and visited over 30 years ago.
The afternoon was spent recording a few video messages to our dear friends worldwide; we love checking in and sharing our experiences with everyone; the world is to be enjoyed by all.
Dinner was another delicious affair, and we were again spoiled with a succulent piece of Bbeeftenderloin prepared expertly by the chef and served with lots of smiles and laughter from the great team in Aune.
We lost another hour this evening, so an early night for our impending arrival in Greenland; we can't wait!
Day 33 - Ilulissat, Greenland, Denmark
Where do I start? Today is the highlight of the Northwest Passage segment (still seven days to go).
Yes, we have seen the Aurora; yes, we have had to do a u-turn in the middle of the night due to our path being blocked by an enormous ice pack; yes, we have seen polar bears and snuck in a polar plunge, to name a few, but arriving into Greenland and being up close and personal with an ice fjord tops the charts. Mother Nature, you are the best gift of all.
Let's first celebrate our 55th country; Greenland is an island of the kingdom of Denmark, so Denmark is our 55th country.
Ilulissat is the Kalaallisut word for "Icebergs". Ilulissat is home to almost as many sled dogs as people. It has a population of 4700 and is Greenland's third-largest city and most popular tourist destination.
Let's quickly summarise the day: as we cruise into Ilulissat, we are surrounded by enormous icebergs we have not seen yet; we are welcomed by two massive whales breaching as we approach the shoreline, or better yet, the ice line. The village is wrapped in an ice fjord; we jump on the first tender boat to make our way to the fjord (a short 30-minute walk from town); we are treated to a dog sled practice as we walk through the fields where the dogs are homed.
Thank you, Arctic Living Ilulissat, for this enlightening experience on sled dogs. We were fortunate to see the dog sled practice and the level of excitement with all the beautiful dogs. We love how you put the dogs first, your high level of nourishment and care, your preservation of the Greenlandic dog sled culture, and your passion and love for this tradition.
We are then rendered speechless by the fjords as we reach the top of the hill. We hiked through the breathtaking and colourful natural flora to the actual fjord to experience this magical moment for the first time.
It was very picturesque, and we took many pictures to capture this incredible landscape and moment.
Ilulissat Ice Fjord is 66 km wide and 555 km long and is a UNESCO natural world heritage site. The fjord is a collection of icebergs that have calved from the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier, the fastest and most active glacier in the world, one by one, with a speed of 40 metres per day.
We followed this with a visit to the Icefjord Centre. It was incredible architecture with minimal impact and nicely blended with its surroundings, using only steel and wood to construct over two years. It only opened 11 months ago. It was imposing and a great way to learn about the life stages of ice, from a drop of rain to snowflakes, calving, drifting and melting!
A friendly chap who worked there joined us for coffee and shared his stories about Ilulissat and the dramatic change they are experiencing due to climate change; recently, the permafrost has been reducing, and the houses are beginning to shift and become damaged; among the changes in the ice. Thirty years ago, it was much closer to go and touch; now, the drive has become much longer.
In the Ilulissat Icefjord, global warming is evident. The Greenlanders are thankful for the growing interest in an issue they live with and adapt to constantly. The area is a site of extensive research undertaken for centuries and, as a result, is said to facilitate insight into climate change.
We enjoyed listening to and hearing about the village and how tourism is doubling and becoming stronger each year from around the globe; it was a beautiful, charming community with excellent infrastructure, nestled among a seascape of ice.
We captured a fantastic video of the dog sled practice and wanted to share it with the owners. Fortunately, being a small community, the lady from the ice fjord centre shared our contact details. Her name was Anso, and we later shared the video with her. They loved it, and Anso told us how much the dogs love the training; we could see how excited they were, too! What an experience.
We finished the day exploring the beautiful town, the bright-coloured homes and the scenic views. The ship was joyous this evening as the crew and passengers digested the sensory overload we were all grateful to experience, thanks to Hurtigruten.
Fun fact: Greenland is 80% covered in ice, and It got its name from Erik The Red, an Icelandic murderer exiled to the island. He called it "Greenland", hoping the name would attract settlers. But according to scientists, Greenland was Let'sgreen more than 2.5 million years ago.
Day 34 - Sisimiut, Greenland, Denmark
The ship received a wake-up call from the waters of Baffin Bay this morning around 2.30 am'; it was time to show us who was boss again. The pre-evening announcement should have been 'one hand for your partner, and one for the bed!'
We had a sneak peek, and the waves showed off at about four meters.
The ship is impressive in handling the wild sea; apart from a few bumps and creaks, she is very stable. A special thank you to our Captain Terje for keeping us safe and comfortable during these times, which have been few and far between.
We lightly slept to the morning, and upon opening the blinds, you could easily mistake the whitecaps for sea ice; this continued until lunch.
Our arrival in Sisimiut was delayed about one hour due to weather conditions, but as we neared our new destination, we were protected, and the sea had a breather and let us dock at the pier.
Everyone was off exploring the lovely village in a heartbeat and standing on solid ground for a few hours to recalibrate the body.
We opted for the walk-off self-guided tour and set out on foot to take in the colourful homes and beautiful nature views around town.
Other excursions included hikes to a volcano and up the mountains or a panoramic bus tour.
Sisimiut means "the residents at the foxholes". The second largest city in Greenland and the largest Arctic city in North America, with a population of 5600, is also the fastest growing city in Greenland. It has been inhabited for the last 4,500 years. The population of modern Greenlanders is a mix of the Inuit and Danish peoples, who first settled in the area in the 1720s.
We first arrived at a lovely souvenir shop, which was also home to a litter of puppies; they had them on display for us to all say hello and have a cuddle. The lovely shop owner's daughter was sharing the dog mama's story with us, and we couldn't wait to stop in on the way back to make a purchase and support this lovely family. The whole ship was just as excited to find a souvenir shop, too; she flourished with business all day, making us smile.
We continued walking around until we stumbled on a brassiere restaurant that looked cosy; it was part of Hotel Sisimiut. We stopped for a coffee and snack; it was so lovely we stayed for a while and just enjoyed the magical views. Chatting with the Thailand team andreturningk our basic Thai phrases after living in Koh Samui three years ago was enjoyable. We must note both Greenland destinations; the coffee was impressive!
It was time to head back to the ship, so I made a detour to uncover new sites, came across a beautiful lake in the heart of town, stopped back at the lovely Greenland Memories Souvenir Shop, and made a cuddly purchase for the cabin. We welcomed 'Sami the Seal' to our family whilst supporting the children of Nepal in need with a portion of our purchase via Plan International. Sami feels at home already, and the crew enjoy his company, too.
Golden hour was upon us, so we enjoyed taking some snaps of the bright and colourful homes on our way back, being cautious of the fast-paced traffic, not sure if they get extra points for tourists or were trialling to become a race car driver, so do keep this in mind.
Fun fact: Why are Greenland homes bright and colourful? In the 18th century, Greenland received timber kits from Scandinavia to build wooden houses. Only five colours were available, and each one had a special meaning. Nowadays, many of the colours are decorative.
Red: churches, schools, teachers' or ministers' houses, and trade
Yellow: hospitals, doctors, and health care personnel
Green: power works, auto mechanics, teleoperations
Blue: fish factories
Black: Police stations
This evening was roast lamb and Pavlova, always delicious and early to bed before the moody sea was upon us again for the evening as we prepared for a sea day back towards Canada. Greenland, you were a treasure.
Day 35 - At Sea, Labrador Sea, Greenland
We woke to the morning update over the intercom at 9.15 am, welcoming the day.
We were grateful to have slept through the night and felt refreshed, especially after hearing the waves averaged 5 metres throughout the night.
The sea was much kinder this morning, and we expect the same for our arrival in Canada.
Today's onboard activity was the bridge visit, which we are very excited about; as we have another two months on the ship, we thought we would give everyone extra space to enjoy as we will have another opportunity when it is quieter.
Today was a distinct change in weather; the sun was shining, so we took advantage and enjoyed a glass of champagne in the sun on the pool deck, chatting and sharing laughter with our fellow Pole-to-Poleguests before dinner.
Following dinner, tonight was a treat: Filet Mignon and Lemon Tart; we attended the Polar Molars session hosted by Robin, our Arctic Dentist friend, to hear his stories about practising in the 80s in the Arctic.
We finished week five with the most magical sunset to take us into week six. Join us next week as we travel South to the East Coast of Canada and the United States.