Friday, July 31, 2009

Voyage of the Vikings, Day 07 – Nanortalik, Greenland

As we approach Greenland, it seems that icebergs everywhere!

It's 5:30am and we are 20 miles offshore of Greenland. It's different from what Keith expected. Except for the icebergs, and the occasional patch of snow, everything is dark, almost black. Kathy says it reminds her a bit of glacier bay. (The big surprise is that Kathy is up this early; the first time since boarding.) The most striking aspect of this coastline is the jaggedness of the peaks. For a land shaped by glaciers, we had expected a more rounded form.


We Approach Greenland


Early Morning Observer

Nanortalik means "land of the polar bears", according to the information we are given. The story is that the occasional bear is sighted, stranded on an iceberg floating by. Keith wonders about this story, recalling that polar bears swim quite well.

Nanortilak is Greenland's southernmost town, and the first port to entice us ashore. There are no commercial tours offered, but we want to see a bit of the place. Kathy wants to send postcards to the grandkids, and we both want to be able to say we have been here.

Even as we approach close inshore there is little color. Much of the landscape is dark, bare rock, and the very scrubby vegetation is a very dark green, almost brown. It may look different in a brilliant sunshine, but from this aspect the name "Greenland" seems something of a misnomer. It's beautiful, but in a different sort of way.


A Grey and Brooding Coastline, Punctuated With Icebergs

The story goes that the first European settler, Eric the Red, named it Greenland to promote settlement. One would have to be a good fisherman to settle here. Nothing appears arable, at least the limited parts we've seen.

Keith is following our approach on the GPS, which shows us passing directly over the center of a small island. What's wrong with this picture? Since we're clearly not aground, we shall assume the map database is wrong. We hope the captain has better charts!

There are three substantial icebergs right in the middle of what we think to be the channel. It Appears wide enough to slide by, but one does worry about the 9/10 of the bergs which is underwater.

As we approach the harbor, the bergs are so numerous as to cause us to question the wisdom of entering, but our intrepid captain proceeds on. I am amazed how close he passes the ice. He seem dedicated to the proposition of very short tender rides. If he doesn't drop the hook soon, we shall be most assuredly aground. I've promised Kathy that we'll go to breakfast as soon as that happens.

The Port of Nanortalik


Iceberg, Close Up and Personal

It is said that man plans and God laughs. Well God laughed this morning, when Keith planned to go ashore. As we were finishing breakfast, Keith began to feel some very powerful urges, which continued through the day. Keith spent the entire day trotting back and forth across our cabin, in between snatches of sleep. It appears Keith has had his first encounter with the cruise crud.

Kathy decided to brave the 38 degree temperatures, bundled up in layers, and took the tender ashore. It is a 10 minute ride to the dock, where she was welcomed by a group of local children. This is the first time Holland America has visited this port, and all the locals are out in force.


Nanortalik Greeting Committee

Kathy’s first stop is the tourist center where she purchased postcards and postage. She also tried on a $3000 seal jacket, but decide that our souvenir budget could not absorb the cost. Greenland is Danish and the monetary unit is the krona; 5 krona = $1.

The terrain is very level near the shore, but rises sharply as you travel inland. K waked along the waterfront and visited several stores where you could buy anything from a loaf of bread to a 50 inch flat paneled television. Then there was the seal market.


Nanortalik Seal Meat Market

On her way to a bench where she sat and wrote postcards, Kathy was accosted by an army of black flies.


Nanortalik Beachfront Teenage Hangout


Result of Teenagers Hanging Out Unsupervised

An interesting note ~ There are no strollers in Nanortalik. Instead, babies are pushed in substantial quilted prams.


Arctic Baby Carriages

Kathy finished her cards and mailed them at the local post office, where she was told that they would take about 2 weeks to reach America.


Signpost Leads Kathy to the Post Office

Kathy spent about 2 hours on shore before returning to the ship. She took lots and lots of pictures, a few of which are included below.


The Port of Nanortalik


Greenland Flag


Maasdam at Anchor in Nanortalik

It's now 5pm, and Keith seems to be feeling better. We are in the Crow's Nest, watching our departure. The lounge is as crowded as we have seen is so far. We guess everyone wants to oogle the icebergs on the way out. Reminds Keith of the old saying, two's company, two hundred is a crowd.


A Crowded Crow’s Nest

On the way up to the Crow's Nest, Keith planned to go on deck and take some photos. God laughed again, and turned on the rain spigot.

Following departure we enjoyed a light supper in the Lido. Then to bed.

A rumor circulated through the boat a couple of days after we left Nanortalik, to the effect that the Maasdam was nudged by an iceberg that was ungrounded by the rising tide, just as we were departing. We don’t know if this rumor is true. We do know that a diver descended to inspect the hull the morning we reached Scotland, several days and a thousand miles after departing Greenland. We don’t know if the rumor and the diver are linked.

See ya’ tomorrow, same time, same station.

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