Out of the fridge and into the freezer
I don’t think any of us ‘Greenland Virgins’ on board were at all prepared for the breathtaking beauty of this place. Richard Gregson 6. august 2011

Out of the fridge and into the freezer

Eventually we leave Iceland.  Nobody could have foreseen the ice conditions, it wasn’t in the plan, but you have to work with the hand you’re dealt.

Skrevet af Richard A. Lewtas Gregson | 06 August 2011
Kategori Activ | Periode Første Periode

Mere om "Out of the fridge and into the freezer"

Waiting in Husavik

This year it just so happens that the pack ice has taken a long time to melt meaning our route up the east coast of Greenland and into the fjord was totally blocked and impassable, leaving us little choice but to sit and wait in Husavik.

This in itself was not a chore as it is a great little place with some fantastic people.  The hospitality we received from the whole town was second to none, we all made some great friends, and more importantly they had all the services and shops we needed to carry on with preparations to the ship. Our extended stay here was certainly not in vain.

It had always been discussed amongst the crew that this stage of the expedition was where the real adventure would begin. Everything up until now had been about preparation, whether it was work on the ship, stowing cargo, obtaining victuals and even getting the ship up to Iceland. 

Sweet departure

This is what we had all been building up to for months, some of us for years! We left Husavik harbour in a medley of ships horns and waving from new friends now lost, and struck a course north north east toward the Arctic Circle and adventure.

The weather in Iceland had been good to us, with several balmy days and some glorious sunshine, but as we left there was a definite chill in the air. 

Unfortunately the wind was out of the north so we bashed on under engine with just one main sail and the fishermans staysail to steady her and dampen out the rolling.

As the miles ticked by, the phrase “I’m just going down to put on another jumper” from the guys on watch became more and more common. The temperature started to drop quickly and a thick fog rolled in reducing visibility dramatically, these two coupled together created a cold that could would chill you to the bone if it wasn’t for the superb protective clothing we have from Ursuit. 

Ice watch

We knew we were getting near the ice edge, and it is a very weird feeling to be staring into the damp blankness of the fog looking out for ice, something that every sailing sense in your body tells you to avoid!

I was worried to start with that it would be impossible to spot in the gloom, and we would hurtle into low lying rogue pack ice unexpectedly at 6 knots, not a nice thought.

Watch after watch went by with words exchanged at the handover to the effect of ‘ice is imminent so keep a sharp lookout’. 

When I did eventually see my first bit of ice I was amazed at how it stood out against the background, almost like it was being lit by a halogen bulb from within. 

Even the small chunks had the most amazing blue and green colours that made it glow against the backdrop of grey sea and foggy skies, making it very easy to spot even in the bad visibility.

To be prepared

I have been asked several times now on this trip whether I think about the dangers, if I worry about what could go wrong.  To be honest this is something that rarely crosses my mind.  Of course you know there are dangers, if there wasn’t then anybody could get themselves a boat and sail to the remote regions of Eastern Greenland, It’s just that we know as a crew we have mitigated against those risks.

To start with we know the ship is sound and we have 100% trust in her to look after us. That is a huge part of it. Secondly, I know that between the crew we have the experience, skills and courage to avoid bad situations, and if something does go wrong then we can deal with it and get ourselves back on track. It’s not that I don’t care about the risks, it’s just that I know we are prepared for them so there is no need to waste time worrying.

Dolphins as underwater movie stars

We recorded our first dolphins on the underwater camera as we neared the coast as a school approached from the starboard side and started darting around in our bow wave.  Someone said they were Harbour Porpoises but I’m not so sure. 

We hit the record button on the camera gear and watched crystal clear images of the dolphins dashing to and fro across the screen, a few of them even swimming along right in front of the lens as if they knew they were on camera.  I’ve seen a lot of dolphins in the past but never from this angle!

Wooden boat meets chunks of ice

As we pushed north past the entrance to Scoresby Sound, we met our first band of floating pack ice.  With one guy up in the crow’s nest to guide Jonas at the wheel, everyone else was on deck to witness the surreal encounter of driving a wooden ship into large chunks of ice. 

The first big impact was awesome as the ice shattered and disappeared down either side of the hull with a splintering sound akin to a large tree being felled.  A couple of times the boat was almost stopped dead in her tracks, as she first tried to ride over the ice, then eventually pushed it to one side and moved onto the next piece. 

This was only a small area we had to get through, but the ice charts show areas of much thicker concentrations ahead when we get nearer to King Oscar Fjord.  It may be a slightly anxious experience but at least I do have complete faith in the boat and that she will stand up to everything we will throw at her during the trip.

Greenland Virgins

Our first sight of land was at the southern entrance to Scoresby Sound with snow capped mountains showing themselves above the fog. I don’t think any of us ‘Greenland Virgins’ on board were at all prepared for the breathtaking beauty of the place and quite how dramatic it could possibly be. 

As we motored up the coast negotiating heavier and heavier concentrations of ice, the nearby coastline came and went in the fog as a series of the most dramatic mountain ranges I have ever seen, jagged peaks totally untouched by any human climbers, and surrounded by incredible colours of light, so far removed from anywhere else I have visited it may as well have been on Mars. 

The light is incredible up here and changes with every point of the compass you look too.  To seaward of us was a bright white low to the surface under the fog caused by reflection off the huge areas of ice.  Over the mountains was a deep purple and behind us in the gloom a funny yellow glow caused by who knows what. 

I turned to Jørn Riel as we were all stood on deck staring at the craziness in front of us and said “this is the most beautiful place I have ever been”.  He turned to me, took a drag on his old wooden pipe and replied, “Just wait until you get to Ella Island.“  Can’t wait!