Travel memories from Northern Atlantic in May-June 2007

No ticket for the following cruise up to the Disco Bay area had appeared during the night. My hope to see more white icebergs had got a cloudy grey tint.

Pretty much like the weather that surrounded the ship when I once again walked out on deck 5, around half past seven in the morning.

We passed a row of islands and skerries on the port side, but I could not see anything that was behind them. A sunny light from the small lighthouse? No, not even a single little blink was zeen with the zoom.

After some time I thought of the archipelago of Stockholm, but here there were no trees on the islands. It wasn't so easy to see how large they were. Is it a small house on the island to the left below? No, I didn't think so.

On the way to Nuuk.

A cold weather had played outdoors during the night, and left small pieces of ice on the deck.

I had read that there was a whale watching point in Nuuk, and I hoped to get a glimpse of a whale or two.

I've heard an expression like 'the fog has lifted' - I guess that is how it looks when it has lifted maybe some twenty metres.

We passed another group of tourists. The guide had a white part to be easy to spot, not an umbrella or cane like human guides often use.

Like most tourists on guided tours they got out of order for a while, but soon obediently followed the guide in a line again.

Then they got tired of flying, and walked on for a while.

(No, they didn't ... they just took a closer look on the water.)

Signs of human communication.

That must be a small house, among the antennas. So maybe what looked like a house on the other island really was a house. That gives a better clue to the size of the islands.

This morning I had breakfast when we arrived to the port around nine.

There were several container trucks, and two persons in more traditional local clothes. Thanks, nice to see.

On the hills around the harbour there were several houses. Must be a nice view from up there, on days with better weather, but it is a long way to fetch foot- and other balls that go in the wrong direction.

A Kalmar truck with the curved letter K.
(In case you have missed it, I also write about Cars made in Sweden here in konditori100.)

This harbour is situated some distance from the city centre, so we would get a bus ride including a guided tour. We had been arranged in groups again, and luckily I was in the first group. The last group should not depart from the ship until a quarter to eleven. I wish the guide had given us more information.

Many persons from the nordic countries had come here before us.

Eric the Red had landed on Greenland in year 982 AD, during the viking period, and settled in the southeastern area later called Vesterbygd (western settlement). Later more vikings arrived to Greenland from Iceland, and in 987 there were two areas with settlements - the second called the Østerbygd (eastern settlement) in this area of Greenland. By some reason the viking settlements came to an end in the early 15th century. (A helicopter excursion to the remains of the settlement in Anavik was planned for this cruise, but sadly had been cancelled due to the crasched helicopter. Noone injured, as I understood.)

(Seemingly the next visitors to Greenland were an English expedition during their search for the North-West Passage, led by John Davis, in the mid 1580s. Then a few occasional ships visited during the 17th century.)

A more lasting visit began in 1703 with a suggestion to the Danish King to re-establish contacts and trade between Denmark and Greenland. At the time the Danish Kingdom included Iceland and Norway. Some years later the Danish pastor Hans Egede suggested a similar idea to the Danish King, and he set out to find the settlements of the Norse.

He did not find any of the settlements, but founded a new Danish settlement in 1728 called Godthåb (today Nuuk). Egede remained on Greenland for almost 15 years. However the settlers didn't stay so long, since they found it too hard to grow enough food.

Around 25 % of Greenlands inuit population was killed - accidentally - as a result of Egedes achievement to establish new contacts between Denmark and Greenland. An inuit child had visited Copenhagen, and returned infected with smallpox - an illness that was new to the Greenlandic inuits.

In early October 1888 Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen and his five companions arrived to Nuuk - but not by ship. They were the first who had crossed the inland ice. 560 kilometres on inland ice, on their way from Greenlands east coast to the west coast. It had taken them 40 days to cross the ice, manhauling sledges with equipment, and then they still had a distance to go to reach Nuuk. For the expedition he had created new sledges, the first skis with metal edges, and clothes and sleeping bags of a new design.

Nansen is the man who ordered the historic ship Fram to be built, as a polar exploration vessel. It was finished by Colin Archer's team in June 1893. What Nansen used Fram for, is another story. (Nansen was rewarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922, but that is yet another story.)
The Fram from 2007.

In late July 1903 Amundsen visited Nuuk with his expedition on board Gjøa, and here he added another 10 sled dogs for his expedition to sail through the North-West Passage. They managed to sail across north of North America, and arrived in San Fransisco 19 October 1906. After 3 years and 4 months since they left Oslo in Norway. Amundsen later used the ship Fram to sail to Antarctica, where his team was the first to reach the South Pole, on 14 December 1911. I think it was in 1918 another of his expeditions, with the ship Maud, sailed through the North-East Passage, the second expedition to make it.
(To read about the early polar expeditions is very interesting. I can recommend it.)

And now I was here, on the planets largest island, comfortably cruising along a part of its coast.

A coast guard vessel also visited Nuuk.

Nuuk is the capital of Greenland. Here lives around 14,000 of Greenlands circa 56,000 inhabitants.

Naturally there have been discussions back in time about which country 'owned' Greenland, or parts of it - Norway or Denmark. In this view Norwegians were the first to settle, but those settlements were left by one reason or another. Later Danes settled, and left. The discussions were a bit lost during the period when the Danish King ruled also over Norway and Iceland, and then Norway got into a union with Sweden. After World War I the matter was settled by the International Court at the Hague, who decided that all of Greenland was a part of Denmark.

Noone seemed to think of the inuits who came to Greenland around the time the Norwegians settled, and continued to live there ...

Greenland was a Danish colony until 1953, when the inhabitants became equal danish citizens. From 1979 Greenland has Home Rule status, and the possibility to have a parliament.

My friends and I began with a walk in central Nuuk.

We passed smaller and larger houses with homes for Greenlanders.
I guess that for many persons it was a big difference to move inte these apartments compared to the traditional ways of living, both for better and worse.

At the time the university was enlarged, in hope that local students will stay on Greenland during and after university studies.

A 200 metres long pedestrian street, that's good.

Volvo FM12 and Volvo N717 in Nuuk.
The cars in Nuuk are only used in Nuuk. There are no road connections between the settlements.
Also a Volvo.

Think of one country that is as large as Great Britain, Belgium, Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, Spain and Italy together. In Nuuk you find the only traffic light, for pedistrian crossing, and the only roundabouts.

Back at the old harbour.

Several of us tourists visited the National Museum. They had an interesting and well made exhibition.

The smallest rune stone I've ever seen. In the museum shop they sold copies. One of them now is the only full size rune stone copy I have in my glass cabinet...

The largest shell I've ever seen - and the sign tells that it is the biggest shell in the world. Sphenoceramus steenstrupi lived 80 million years ago. This is a full-scale plaster cast, since the original shell still is in a museum in Copenhagen. I did not see a full scale copy of the shell in the museum shop. (No, I didn't want to buy one.).

A very pleasant person helped me to get a photo where its size is clearly seen. Thank you.

After the visit I used my footwear walking to the shuttle-bus. It was time for lunch on board Fram.

Lunch break - intermission

Directly after the tasty lunch, around half past one, I walked alone back to the city centre.

I passed the container harbour, and the only Saab I saw on Greenland.

Volvo N7

Close to the old harbour I passed a seafood market.

Then I went back into the museum, to take a closer look at the exhibition in another building.

The eldest findings indicate that the first humans came to Greenland around year 2500 BC. Over time there seemingly were either 6 slightly different cultures, 6 waves of immigration or a mix of this. I think all of these came from Canada.

Objects from the world's northernmost dwelling. Independence I culture (c 2300 - 1600 BC). Micro-blades, scrapers, weapon points, burin spalls, tooth and needles (in numerical order).

Apparently there were no people living on Greenland between 0 - 1000 AD. Then a warmer climate changed the conditions for hunting walrus and dwelling.

From the Thule culture, North East Greenland. Weapon points, knife and a small sculpture.
The world's northernmost umiak (women's boat). Almost 12 metres long, dated to the 15th century. They were skilled hunters that also used kayaks and dogsleds.

The Venus of Nordostrunding, found in North East Greenland. Carved from walrus ivory.

A 14.5 centimeters long block of wood, that has been decorated with 30 carved faces. Found in a grave in Upernavik, North Greenland.

In the 12th - 13th century three groups of people met in the Thule area. Late Dorset people had come further north from Eastern Canada, where they originated some 3,500 years earlier, as the climate changed. The Norsemen visited and made trade business, as with the Thule people (inuit) who later came from the Bering Strait. Objects from the cultures have been found in each others houses. In Norse sagas and litterature the "skraelings" / "skrællinger" were mentioned, an expression probably used for both the other cultures.

Items found at the Landnamnsgården in Narsaq, housegrounds that I visited a few days earlier. From around year 1000AD. Boat model, arrowheads, spade, 2 ladles and cup (in numerical order).

Around 1300 AD the Late Dorset culture disappeared, as did the Norse around 1450. People in the Thule culture spread along the coasts, and around 1500 they lived all over Greenland. During the last days I had met several of their ancestors.

It was an interesting exhibition, with plenty of information. Thank you for presenting the history in that way.

Many signs in the museum have information that the objects have been returned to Greenland. This is a 'movement' beween many history museums on the planet, to bring objects back to museums in the original countries.

All the work that is done to achieve this is a clear sign that many historical objects are important to lots of people all over the planet.

This should also be seen as a signal to take good care of historic objects, and not destroy or damage them. That goes for smaller objects and for larger like old buildings and other items that are seen by many as worth to preserve.

They can't be replaced.

After the museum visit I walked over to another place, via this street with colorful villas.

It was a wonderful weather and I had plenty of time to spend, so I thought that maybe maybe I could have the slightest little tiny chance of spotting a whale for a short few seconds.

I had read something about the possibility in this area. Maybe I was wrong, but as I wrote - it was a wonderful weather and a lovely view.

Various boats passed.

I looked towards Greenlands nearest neighbour - Canada - at the closest there are just 26 kilometres between them.

- - -
A journey into the centre of the mind presented this memory of passing these waters some years earlier.

- - -

More than 1000 years earlier Norsemen sailed between Greenland and the North American continent, in their ships. (Want to see more of viking ships, Fram and Gjøa?)

It is told that Bjarni Herjolfsson and his group sailed from Greenland to Iceland in 986 AD, and had been pushed by the wind further west of Greenland at the beginning of their journey. There he had seen land.

In or around 1000 AD Leifr Eiricsson, son of Eirik the Red, led a group to explore the land they had heard about. The texts tell that they were in the areas of todays Baffin Island, the coast of Labrador and Newfoundland. I have read that Vikings sailed to this new land at least 3 times, perhaps 6 times. Somewhere else I read that they sailed to the American continent often, to get timber.

I think it is a bit fascinating that they disappeared from Greenland without anyone knowing what happened. A description of a Christian church wedding in Hvalsø Church in 1408 is the last written document, in annals in the Vatican. In 1410 a ship sailed from Greenland to Norway, and that is the last known contact.

If they had sailed back to Iceland and perhaps Norway due to the colder climate, a period called the Little Ice Age, wouldn't that have been documented in some way or another in these countries?

In the winter of 1002/1003 AD a boy was born in a winter camp in the area called Vinland, and Snorri Thorfinnsson probably became the first non-native born on the American continent.

There have been various ideas added to this, about how far they sailed and how far inland they went. And other discussions have taken place, too. Among others about the viking's map of the Vinland area, and that Columbus son Fernando in a book about his father told that Columbus had visited Iceland before he began the preparations for the expedition that took him across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492. And in 1472 an expedition was financed by the Danish King, and led by 2 Germans who sailed via Greenland and on westwards ... And the Mandan indian tribe in North America, first described by a Frenchman in 1738 - not looking like indians and many with blond hair and a religion very similar to Christianity ...

Anyway, we know that vikings lived on the North American continent. In 1959 the Norse ruins in Newfoundland, in L'Anse aux-Meadow, were found.

What if the Norsemen had settled on the North American continent like they did on Iceland and Greenland - would the continent had another name today?

Norse America.

Back to Nuuk on Tuesday 5 June 2007.

I walked away from the coast, actually in the direction of the inland ice.

It was tempting to continue in that direction, to get up on the top and look around.

But, it was a quarter to three in the afternoon. If I walked up there, I would miss the departure of the ship. So ...

Instead I walked around in Nuuk, glad that I was able to walk around there - in the capital of Greenland.

Then I was reminded - I also was in Denmark.

Denmark - the largest country in Europe.

Then I happened to roll again, the Volvoish way.

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom.   (Title of song by The Collegians, released in 1957. Maybe not rock, but good roll.)

Volvo EC70 and Volvo L120.

Volvo is a latin word that means "I roll".

(No, I am not on anyones payROLL - I just liked to see the Volvos, by some odd reason...)

Volvo 4500

I liked to see several of the buildings, too.

The use of wood can make a facade so nice. In the background are the leaning towers of Nuuk, looking as if they lean away from each other.
Good idea.

Such a gorgeous nature. I did not take the time to walk over there, to see if there was a good reflection of the mountains in the lake.

I had read in a Greenlandic magazine that Greenland had marketed their oil potential, which resulted in a breakthrough around the turn of the year. Four companies had decided to begin exploration, in six places in the Disko area further north on Greenlands west coast. Another company already had the rights for exploration near Nuuk.

It made me feel a bit puzzled. Most experts say that our use of oil is one of the main reasons to the warming of our planets climate, which cause the glaciers and sea ice to melt with an increasing speed. That would for sure change Greenland. And here on Greenland are people who wants to find more oil to use...

I also heard others who were glad about the warmer climate, since it could lead to more mining industry. The increase in melting water could be used to produce electricity. Well, that's correct in a way. And even a fast melting inland ice will provide falling water for hydroelectric plants for a long time. When there is no more ice that can melt, we may have developed other energy sources.

But I understand the perspective they have with possibilities to get incomes to Greenland and more job opportunities.

I feel more worried about the effects of the climate changes seen as a whole.

One of my thoughts concern the cold seawater east of Greenland that act as an engine for the Gulf Stream. If Greenlands inland ice and the sea ice in the Arctic melts faster, there will be more cold water in the region - and it will spread southwards. Could that mean that the Gulf Stream may 'turn' further south than today? How would that affect the climate around the North Atlantic?

(During the first half of 2010 I read that some people said there were no danger that the Arctic sea ice would melt away, since the area it covered was increasing. Seems natural to me, with my old concern about the effects I mentioned in the former paragraph. More cold melt-water in the Arctic waters may well make a larger area freeze in the winter. But that doesn't mean that everything is good and safe. Some time later I saw another report stating that the thickness of the sea ice decreased faster than anticipated.)

I also wonder about the possible changes on the planets surface. In Sweden there still is a land rising after the heavy ice cover during the Ice Age, when northern Europe was covered by ice, that ended some 9,000 years ago.

What will happen in Greenland when the heavy pressure of the inland ice decreases? If Greenland will be 'pushed up', water will be pushed away and the sea level may rise a little around the planet - but maybe that will not be a 'problem', if the up-push of Greenland results in a down-push of other land masses ... If so, I wonder what land masses will sink ...

Nearby is Iceland, on the border of two continental plates - whose earlier movement have created a visitor attraction: the rift valley in the Tingvellir park. In 2004 it was said that the plates drifted away from each other with 1.5 centimetres a year ...

(It often feels a bit odd to be a tourist in environments like this, but I use to think that there are many other climate-negative things I don't do...)

Now back to my tourist memories.

I had walked back to the harbour. Several kinds of ships operated here, and there were various kinds of work going on.
Helle is a Scania R420 and Anja is a Scania P380. These trucks work for a company with a motto - 'You lift the phone, we lift the rest'. Right on.

The small boats had a separate marina in the harbour. But all of them were not there ...
I don't know what way they use when going to the sea, but I saw a boy going down the stairs riding a bicycle...

Then I came back to Fram, and a Kalmar DRF 420.

At this time Fram wasn't as high as when I left her.

It was ebb tide, a natural phenomen that the innovative technical gang-plank couldn't handle. Some of the crew tried to build a stair.

I suggested that they instead should use the old-fashioned gangway that stood nearby.

While they worked on, I walked on in the harbour area.
Scania 124G
I have often seen Scania trucks with various kinds of cargo - but it is seldom I see Scania trucks as cargo.
Volvo FL 220

A good combination of old and new technology. I used it, and was back inside in Fram around five o'clock in the afternoon.

A quarter later I was outside on Fram again.

I've seen one of those before (or maybe it is the same on another quay), a large black rubber 'balloon' with used car tyres on the surface. I wonder if it is used as a fender when oil supply ships are near oil platforms?

Behind large containers and under some items I saw two smaller containers with text that was familiar in two ways. Thule - naturally I thought about the Thule area far north. But "grej" ...

In Swedish the word "grej" is a slang-word meaning gadgets, things and such. They hardly paint such a word on a container in that way. I haven't found that word in the English language. And no - I don't think that it is a viking word that have survived through the ages.

That's one way to keep it open.

It was a kind of an interesting view over the harbour, but the view from the starboard ...

It's much more comfortable to get to that high observation area, than on the vessel I saw in Qaqortoq. Wonder if it's comfortable to be up there? When the sea is calm.

Up there I am quite sure that it's comfy.

Many houses have a fantastic view.

A fishing vessel sailed out of the harbour.

Soon we too would leave Nuuk.

Half past nine I was outdoors again. We were on the way under thick grey skies, but not as low as in the morning when we arrived. I had a feeling that we left Nuuk the same route that we had arrived. If so, we would round a point of land after some time, and head northwards.

It was pleasant to see at least a little sunset. The sea was calm and the air cool. Very nice.

Maybe that is the point we will round?

There is a smaller ship.

There are a group of birds.

Where are the wales? I hadn't seen a single one during the cruise.

With the thick grey cloudcover - where did the sunrays come from? From above?

A little later we were further away from the coast.

The photo editor also suggested that it looked like this, which is a bit more pleasant.

I have to admit that I'm not sure about how colorful it was. A photo with another camera a little later resulted in this.

I zoomed in on a white part of the coast.

I thought it might be a tongue of the inland ice, but we must have been too far south of the area I had seen on the map.

Later I walked around indoors.

Administrative work after midnight. They had much to do.
No, I did not take anything to eat. And I did not exercise either.


At a quarter to one I said goodnight to the model of the historic Polar vessel Fram.

When I woke up in the morning, the new Fram would have carried me to another area along the southwest coast of Greenland.

2010-07-12. Text/pictures: Arne Granfoss ©. Prod: AG Informice