For me, Ilulissat should be called Elusivessat. I’ve been within six nautical miles of Greenland’s most-visited town twice, yet I’ve never stepped ashore.
Today, we were scheduled to zip to shore in Zodiacs, join a guided town tour and hike for 45 minutes to a vantage point for viewing Ilulissat Icefjord. Our tour and hike were cancelled.
Others had booked pricey helicopter flights to view the most productive glacier in the northern hemisphere, the Jakobshavn Isbrae Glacier. All of their flights were cancelled.
The reason for the cancellations? Icebergs, and lots of them, clustered between our ship and the shore.
All of that ice presented an opportunity, however. Silver Explorer’s Expedition Team quickly arranged for boats to take us on tours of the Icefjord. The boats were originally scheduled to take us on afternoon tours, but with the morning’s plans in the deep freeze, so to speak, our afternoon plans were shifted to become our morning activities.
Alex and I transferred from Silver Explorer to a Zodiac that took us a sturdy wooden boat waiting to take us out into the ice. The skipper, Edvard, appeared to be in his mid-thirties and apparently knew the area quite well. He’d been working these waters for quite some time. He told us that he bought the boat from his former boss. Katak had been built in the 1920s to transport researchers along Greenland’s rugged coastline. Today, Edvard and his boat Katak take tourists out to the Icefjord to view the spectacles of nature.
We spent about two hours puttering among the icebergs, stopping for about 20 minutes for Edvard to tell us about Ilulissat and the icebergs. The town is about 350 miles north of the Arctic Circle. With a population of around 4,500, Ilulissat is Greenland’s third largest town, after Nuuk and Sisimiut. There are nearly as many sled dogs here as people, however. The town’s name derives from the Greenlandic language, the Kalaallisut word for “Icebergs,” and there are plenty of those here.
The Jakobshavn Isbrae Glacier sends about 20 billion tons of icebergs out into the fjord annually. Some of the icebergs are up to 1 kilometer in height (3,300 feet). They eventually break up and find their way to the Atlantic Ocean. Larger icebergs often do not melt until they reach a latitude equal to that of New York City.
The sun broke through the grey clouds about midway through our boat tour. The day was simply stunning.
Following is a recap of our day in photos. One more full day on Silver Explorer. Would we see what we’ve all waited for? Aurora Borealis. We could only hope. For now, though, we have the icebergs to admire as we sail away from a town I have visited twice but never set foot ashore. Maybe next time.