September 7, 2015, En Route To Kangerlussuaq — Boating among chockablock icebergs in Ilulissat yesterday was a breathtaking experience. Although we spent only a couple of hours in the presence of the towering cathedrals of ice, those 120 minutes were among the most moving on a trip that had touched my son and I in so many ways.
In only a week’s time, we had stood beneath magnificent waterfalls, did a rigorous trek to Santa’s Castle (who knew it was in Greenland?), tramped the grounds where ancient cultures had lived and gazed upon a cliff where eight well-preserved mummies were found. We met local people and learned something of their lives up above the Arctic Circle. Greenland and the Arctic certainly have the power to stir souls.
The fact that the sun broke through the clouds yesterday was like the icing on the cake. It was the kind of day when you breathe in deeply and give thanks for being alive. Today turned out to be the same sort of day — but even better.
The sun was shining on Iitilleq when we Zodiac’d ashore. The pea-sized town had only about a dozen houses, if that many, but what a view they commanded. For views that we could appreciate, we hiked to the hilltops. Following are a few photos from what we saw today:
As good as the icebergs had been and as beautiful as Itilleq was this afternoon, neither would come close to what happened this evening.
We were all hoping for clear skies so that we might see that spectacle in the sky known as Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights. We were not disappointed.
I noticed it first, a ghosty curtain of light in the sky at the aft end of Silver Explorer. I called Alex to the balcony. “Can you see it?” I asked, pointing to the sky. He couldn’t at first, but the light became more intense, green rather than white (as the Northern Lights often appear), shimmering like sheer curtains blowing at an open balcony.
At 11 p.m., Silver Explorer Expedition Team Leader Stefan did something unusual: He made an announcement that went something like this, “Pardon the interruption, but this is something that I think you’re going to want to see.”
Minutes later, everyone was out on the top decks, some in their bathrobes, all with cameras. Aurora Borealis was intense. One of the expedition leaders told me that he had not seen such intensity during his years in the Arctic. What a stroke of luck. And on the final night of our expedition.
I was fortunate with my photographs. Two Chinese ladies weren’t having any luck. Desperate and speaking almost no English, they put their cameras in my hands, as if I were the expert. I wasn’t. I had just been lucky. I made a few adjustments, increasing the aperture and decreasing the shutter speed and raising the ISO. They snapped a few photos and screamed with delight. Green streaks of light filled their viewfinders. The ladies thanked me over and again. I was happy to have done them a solid.
Our bags were supposed to be out in the corridor for collection by 11 p.m. At midnight, we were still outside watching the sky dance. What a trip this had been, and what an ending. Expedition cruising with Silversea never fails to enrich and enlighten. The company is a pioneer in the luxury expedition market, and it has perfectly choreographed all that it can to make for meaningful experiences. Most days, and nights, Mother Nature does the rest.
Tomorrow, a recap from my voyage to Greenland on Silver Explorer.