Friday 31st August

After another stormy night we arrived in Ilulissat in Disko Bay.

This is where the Ilulussat Kangerlua (Jakobshave Icefjord) meets the sea. From this icefield massive blocks of ice calve (break off) and are taken by wind and currents across the Davis Strait and Baffin Bay where they are caught by the southward flowing Labrador Current and into the Atlantic off Newfoundland and Labrador where they are constantly monitored to ensure maritime traffic is warned of the icebergs’ progress. We accessed the icefjord by fishing boat where we toured icebergs which are amazingly big, beautifully carved and layered with colour from black to turquoise blue and pure white.

Occasionally the boat would nudge into smaller pieces of ice, called growlers, which once broken slip down the side of the boat. According to a guide book the icefjord produces 20 million tons of ice per day, equal to the volume of water used by New York City in one year! It is thought that the first Europeans to visit here were the Vikings who hunted seals and walruses. How appropriate that we are on a Norwegian ship! The 17th century saw the settlement expand as the Dutch, English and Scottish whalers established onshore production centres. In 1780 the Danish king decided that the entire business should be only for Greenland and even had a naval battle to oust the Dutch from the harbour.

As we write this we are anchored at 69deg 13min North and 51deg 06min West with a 360 degree view of icebergs and floes in Ilulissat harbour which in Inuit (Inuktituk) means icebergs. The sea water in the harbour is crystal clear leading one to be able to see the underwater sections if icebergs. Many of the icebergs are initially stuck on a rock barrier that shallows the water at the end of any fjord. Today only the floes and older and smaller bergs can make it into the sea. Those that do make it to the sea past the past with such speed that they had passed the observer before one could say ‘iceberg’. We are currently at – 3 hours BST. We gain another hour tonight, but first from Deck 5 a view of the sunset over the Davis Strait.

Thursday 30th August

During last night and for most of this morning we have been battling against strong winds and high seas. A reason for this is because the Greenland ice fields are so big and high that they act upon the weather like the continent of Antarctica and blow outwards to the sea from the centre of the island. Upon reaching the sea the cold winds meet the warm air above the Davis Strait. This sudden drop in pressure and rise in temperature creates strong winds along the edge of the island.

By lunchtime we had reached the town of Sisimiut, the second largest in the country but has the look and feel of a small fishing village. It is located 75km north of the Arctic Circle and is Greenland’s northernmost year-round ice-free port.

 

Sisimiut was originally an Inuit settlement but traded as a trading place between Greenlandic settlers and the Dutch, English and Scottish whalers and traders who arrived here in the 17th century.
We saw some evidence of this when we visited Avssaqutak, down the fjord accessed by fishing boat through rough seas and what felt like square waves! This abandoned village has the remains of whaling and fishing industries as well as a church that may have been established as a result of the work of a Danish missionary in 1756 and the later conversion to Christianity of the indigenous peoples.

Sisimiut is today one of the largest shrimping centres of Europe processing more than 10,000 tonnes each year.

Wednesday 29th August

We concluded our visit to Copenhagen with a visit to the Rosenborg Slot built as a summerhouse for the royal family in 1606-1634 by Christian IV. When built it was surrounded by very large gardens which have now been reduced to a park known as the Kongens Have. Some rooms are open to the public but most of the complex, like the Kremlin in Moscow, is the working home of the royal family and their employees.
Later we visited Amalienborg, another royal palace built in the 1750s by Frederik V. The royal family have lived here ever since and on one day of our visit was visited by President Macron of France. Again this is a working palace and uses the Danish Royal Life Guards to guard the monarch in 2 hour shifts. At noon the guards are replaced by guards from the Rosenborg Castle. When we caught up with them they had already marched through Copenhagen to switch places at Amalienborg.

  

There is a Russian connection here as close by on the Bredgade (road) is the Marmokirken, the Alexander Nevsky Kirke. This a Russian Orthodox Cathedral and is easily identifiable in this part of the city by its golden, onion domes just as in the Kremlin. Consecreated in 1883 it was a gift from Russia to mark the marriage of Tsar Alexander III and the Danish Princess Marie Dagmar in 1866. Her funeral was held here in 1928.

     

To round off our stay we did a grand tour of the canals by barge.

At 21:30 we flew by Air Greenland Airbus A330, over the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean directly to Kangerlussaq on Greenland’s west coast. The journey was unusual because, for most Europeans, flights across the Atlantic at night chase the sun eastwards, i.e. dark in the west upon departure, light in the east upon arrival. As we were travelling “backwards in time” we saw the sunset in the west but did not arrive in Greenland to see the light. From the air we caught a glimpse of the MS Fram at anchor in the fjord surrounded by total darkness. The transfer to the ship was conducted by coach along unmade roads in total darkness to a little jetty where we transferred to the ship by Zodiac motorised dinghies. In the darkness one could see the milky, glacial meltwaters having been stirred by the propellers of the dinghy. By 1:00 a.m. we were underway down the fjord to meet the Davis Strait. As fjords funnel wind and water, the right turn at the mouth was most interesting with regards to the movement of the ship!!

Tuesday 28th August

This morning we explored the oldest part of Copenhagen, known as Christianshavn on the island Amager. Apparently there is some evidence that the earliest Europeans lived here but it was not until 1521 that Christian II engaged Dutch immigrants to use this fertile alluvial island to plant and run market gardens. In the 17th century Christian IV fortified the area and connected it to what is today the city of Copenhagen with bridges. We crossed the Inderhavn, formerly a major part of the port of Copenhagen lined with Art Deco buildings and the remains off a ferry terminal, by the new retractable bridge.


Arriving on the island we saw the North Atlantic House which is a cultural centre for Iceland, Greenland and the Faroes. It is an 18th century warehouse overlooking the Greenlandic trading area.

Our walk continued along the Overgaden Oven Vandet (upper street above the water) which was across the canal from the older Overgaden Neden Vandet (upper street below the water). The latter was built first but to keep out the waters of the Oresund a higher dyke had to be built. These two cobbled wharves are lined with 17th century buildings and are the home today of houseboats and yachts.

Adjacent to the dock is the Vor Frelsers Kirke, a Baroque church built between 1682 – 1696 by a Dutch-Norwegian architect in the form of a Greek cross. It has a twisted, spiral like tower added 50 years later.

A floating bar was an ideal stop for morning coffee. Across the main road from here is the Christians Kirke that was built between 1755-1759. The interior is ‘theatre like’ with upper level seating galleries and an altar taking the place of the stage. The royal family had a ‘box’ here directly opposite the altar and the organ. The church is in an area formerly inhabited by German traders and mariners and some of their warehouses and homes can still be seen.

Later we were alongside the Inderhavn where modern buildings with reflective glass walls provide interesting views of the city. Crossing the havn by the Krippels bro, an Art Deco bascule bridge built in 1937 but not used until after the war, we stumbled across the Borsen. This is the former stock exchange with a tower which we thought resembled a narwhal’s tusk, but is thought to be four entwined dragons’ tails. The major trading here was between Denmark, Sweden and Norway.

Passing the Gammel Dok (Old Dock) which housed navy ships in 1739 but later had warehouses for commercial vessels of the 19th century. Further exploration along the harbour banks took us past the Amalienborg complex which is essentially the equivalent to Buckingham Palace. Yesterday and today President Macron of France has been staying here. Security was tight both on land, the water and in the air.

A little further along is the very small landmark, but with huge crowds surrounding it, of the ‘Little Mermaid’. It was made in 1913 by Edvard Eriksen, whose wife, Eline was the model.

After dinner we slipped outside to the Nyhavn illuminated.

Monday 27th August

Today we flew from Manchester to a rainy Copenhagen, Denmark. Our approach to the airport took us over the Oresund with a view of Sweden, and in particular on the final approach, the bridge which links Sweden with Denmark. The bridge is a double decker with a railway line on the lower deck and motor vehicles on the top deck, but because of its proximity to Copenhagen airport the approach to the bridge from Denmark is by a tunnel. This is “The Bridge” in the recent TV series. Before its construction the journey to Sweden was a long one by ferry.

We arrived in time for lunch in the Nyhavn (New Harbour) which is part of the inner harbour and is lined by 18th century merchant houses and fish processing buildings. Today these buildings are bars and restaurants.

By the evening the rained had stopped and we explored a new waterfront overlooking the oldest part of the city called “Christianshavn”. The new retractable bridge was perfectly reflected in the windows of the new theatre opposite the new Opera House.

Northwest Passage

Coming shortly our next expedition – following in the steps of John Franklin who went in search of the Northwest Passage in 1845.

Two years later the expedition had not returned. Searches took more than a decade to establish that all crew members were dead and the ships lost. In 2014 and 2016 the remains of the two ships from the expedition were found and artefacts recovered.

Our expedition is hoping to take us close to the two vessels as well as through the fabled sea route.