Please note that my “live” voyage reports are slightly behind schedule due to internet connectivity issues and a busy schedule that includes Zodiac landings in remote villages, hikes, local performances, fascinating lectures, scenic cruising through iceberg-choked fjords, gourmet dining, complimentary beverages (yes, including champagne) and conversations with a friendly group of like-minded travelers.
Each morning, over the loudspeaker, Silver Explorer Expedition Team Leader Stefan awakens us with the drowsy voice of someone who has just gotten out of bed. “G-u-t-e-n m-o-r-g-e-n,” he says, stretching out the German words and sounding as though his throat is in desperate need of clearing. His greeting makes for an amusing start of the day.
I step out on the balcony to forecast the weather. Cloudy and a bit misty but nothing too severe. Silver Explorer’s daily newspaper, Chronicles, tells me the temperature will reach 45°F (7°C) today. Time to bundle up and head ashore.
On the first day of our voyage, we were divided in four Zodiac groups, which are rotated for each excursion in order to be fair to everyone. Today, our group, number 3, departs the ship at 8:45 a.m. Our group is the first to go. At 8:30 a.m., Alex and I pull on our parkas, which Silversea provides free of charge (and to take home) for each guest, our lifejackets (specially designed for the Zodiacs) and backpacks with aluminum water bottles that Silversea has given to us.
We head down to reception. Adjacent to reception is the mudroom, where rubber boots are available, particularly useful for wet landings when you need to step into ankle-deep water to go ashore. We’ll have a dry landing today, however, so we are wearing our hiking boots.
To board the Zodiac, we walk down a set of half-a-dozen or so steps to a landing alongside the ship. The Zodiac is secured and three staff are waiting to help us step safely inside. During the Zodiac safety briefing on the first day, we learned that we were to grab the forearms of each assisting staff member for a sure grip, step on the rubber portion of the Zodiac and then onto a platform put in place inside the boat. The sea can be a bit bumpy and the Zodiac does bounce with it, so we always try to get seated as quickly as possible.
One all are seated, our driver zips us away from Silver Explorer in the direction of our destination. The wind is chilly this morning but feels good on our faces. Everyone appears to be in a happy mood, curious about what they will see today. Cameras come out and we jockey for position, still seated of course, to get what we hope will be some great shots, which can be challenging with the Zodiac bumping about and the heads of others blocking the view.
After a few minutes, we reach our landing, a rocky outcrop, which the crew has deemed safe for us to step ashore, with plenty of support from the staff at the landing to assist us.
On Silversea’s expedition cruises, mornings typically begin with landings to some significant site. This morning, we came ashore in Qilakitsog, where eight mummified bodies were discovered in 1972. A few of the mummies were remarkably preserved and are on display in the museum in Nuuk. I saw those on a trip to Greenland a few years ago. Here, we were only seeing the site where the mummies were found by two brothers who had been hunting in the region.
Nearby the site where the mummies were found were ancient settlements, which expedition leader Patrick informed us about. Both Thule and Dorset cultures may have lived here. We would have stumbled right over the houses had it not been for Patrick.
Back on board Silver Explorer during lunch, we repositioned six nautical miles to Uummannaq, a small hunting and fishing village that rests at the foot of Uummannaq Mountain, which translates into “in the shape of a seal’s heart.” The mountain rises to more than 3,800 feet (1170 meters) and “climbing it requires technical skills.” Our plan was to hike along the base of the mountain.
Yesterday’s hike to the waterfalls was longish but not overly strenuous. Today’s hike turned out to be strenuous. The daily on-board newspaper Chronicles described the outing as a “hard hike” of about three miles over rocky and uneven terrain. “For this hike, you should be surefooted and not suffer from vertigo.”
Our destination: Santa’s Castle. A turf hut was built there for a Danish television program and remains Santa’s home in the popular imagination of Danish and Greenlandic children, who believe that Santa Claus lives here. We went inside for a look and then headed back to town.
Our time in Uummannaq ended with a performance by a local choir singing Greenlandic hymns. In an old rock church, the performance was lovely. Afterward, we stepped back on the Zodiacs and headed home to Silver Explorer through what I will think of in years to come as “iceberg alley.” The icebergs were scattered and stunning, and we’d soon be at the source of them all as we continued our journey on toward Ilulissat. First, however, we have one more village to visit, home to some of Greenland’s most ancient people. We’ll step ashore in Saqqaq tomorrow morning soon after Stefan wakes us in his groggy German. For now, however, I’ll say “Guten Nacht. Bis Morgen.”