Photographer's Note

In all the years that I have been traveling, I don’t think I have said “Wow!” as many times as I did on Tuesday 26 June 2007.

Four of us were staying in Tasiilaq on the east coast of Greenland, and we arranged with a local seal hunter to take us out for the day to explore the fjords to the north of the village. For 11 hours we braved freezing winds (but sunny skies) and saw what must surely be some of the most beautiful, rugged and spectacular scenery in the world.

Our hunter had an open 18ft fiberglass boat with a 115 hp outboard motor. It wasn’t comfortable (two of us sat on a ledge in the bow, two on an upturned box in the middle of the boat, and the hunter’s wife and son on the transom at the back), but it was sturdy and fast. We first headed south and then west into the open ocean where we weaved in and out of the pack ice at high speed (see Workshop photo here), occasionally hitting some submerged ice with a big thump on the bottom of the boat.

After about half an hour we turned north into Sermilik – a 10km wide fjord also known as the Egede and Rothe Fjord - and negotiated our way up the fjord between hundreds of massive icebergs which had broken off three large glaciers feeding the fjord. Most of the icebergs were a pristine white, but some were a sparkling aquamarine blue, whilst others were brown or black carrying large chunks of rock from the moraines on top of the glaciers. We headed north for about an hour, occasionally stopping to have a closer look at some of the more impressive icebergs which towered above us like 10 storey buildings, until we reached the Sarpaq channel. Here we hoped we would be able to get through the pack ice to the Ikasartivaq fjord to avoid retracing our route back to the ocean. Our hunter told us that nobody had done that this year, but he thought we had a chance that day.

As we motored up the channel, the pack ice got thicker and thicker until it completely blocked our way on the southern side. We backed off and headed towards the northern shore where we found a narrow channel close to the rocks, and pushed our way slowly through the ice. Twice we thought we couldn’t go any further, but our hunter found some cracks in the ice that he was able to open with the bow of the boat, and eventually we pushed our way through the ice into clear water. We were the first boat through for the season!

After breaking through the pack ice, we stopped at Tiniteqilaq - a small hunting village (population 141) where I climbed a hill to take this shot looking back over Sermilik. As I got to the top of the hill and saw this view, all I could say was “Wow!” That wasn’t the first “Wow!” of the day, and it wouldn’t be the last.

At first glance, the icebergs in this fjord don’t look that large, but when you see the red Bell 212 helicopter in the foreground, taking off from the only piece of flat ground in Tiniteqilaq, you get a better idea of the grandiose scale of this landscape. You can also see some of the village houses in the bottom left.

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Additional Photos by David Astley (banyanman) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1231 W: 108 N: 2568] (7797)
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