This past August I sailed on board the annual Voyage of the Vikings cruise bringing me to Greenland for the first time. The cruise stopped in the ports of Qaqortoq and Nanortalik, as well as slowly navigated through the scenic waters of Prince Christian Sound.
Before visiting this distant island, I didn’t have any preconceived notions about what to expect. I knew it was remote, probably chilly even in the summer, but other than that I was totally at a loss for what to anticipate.
"I knew it was remote, probably chilly even in the summer, but other than that I was totally at a loss for what to anticipate."
The Greenland ice sheet covers 80% of the country and is the second largest in the world after Antarctica.
Qaqortoq and my first iceberg
Our first stop in Greenland was Qaqortoq. As we were sailing into the fjord that holds this small town, I stepped onto the outside deck of our ship bundled up in my warmest clothing. The first thing I spotted was an iceberg floating by. It wasn’t just any iceberg; it was a beautiful sharp-cornered block of blue tinged ice with an arch near the top.
This was the first of many icebergs that would lead me to take part in what has to be one of the most unique forms of sightseeing ever: iceberg spotting!
Intimate with the ocean
There is a distinct sense of intimacy with your surroundings that comes with ocean voyages. Instead of looking through a plane window and seeing the massive Greenland Ice Sheet below, I stood on an outside deck and watched colossal icy blocks float past our ship.
After leaving Qaqortoq that evening, we were treated to an unforgettable sunset with icebergs scattering the horizon line. It was freezing cold on the outside deck, but a few of the passengers, myself included, braved the chill to photograph the unfamiliar beauty of this serene country.
The orange sunset created a mystical atmosphere around the frozen landscape. Massive icebergs appeared to be dancing on the horizon like mirages in a polar desert.
"After leaving Qaqortoq that evening, we were treated to an unforgettable sunset with icebergs scattering the horizon line."
"The orange sunset created a mystical atmosphere around the frozen landscape. Massive icebergs appeared to be dancing on the horizon like mirages in a polar desert."
"The icebergs did look like glacial beasts slowly rising out of the depths, quietly parting the still ocean surface."
Trapped ice in Prince Christian Sound
The next morning I woke up before the crack of dawn to experience the scenic cruising through Prince Christian Sound, a complex web of channels in southern Greenland.
Here was where my mind was truly blown away by the sheer amount of ice trapped within the long, narrow fjords. The icebergs appeared to take on individual shapes, as if they each had their own personalities. Some were long and jagged, like a row of shark’s teeth, while others were round and fluffy like clouds in the sky.
All around us was quiet, save for the ship's engines. Sometimes an iceberg would roll in the water, but that was about the only noise here. Calm, refreshing, and beautiful, these are the words I would use to describe Prince Christian Sound.
Our final stop in Greenland was the tiny port town of Nanortalik. The bays here were filled with jagged ice protruding from the ocean, some pieces enormous, others tiny, and a couple of them pointing straight into the air like icy pyramids.
A fellow passenger and hobby photographer from New York affectionately referred to the icebergs as “monsters”. They really did look like glacial beasts slowly rising out of the depths, quietly parting the still ocean surface.
- Icebergs are formed when ice breaks off from a glacier into smaller floating pieces in a process called calving.
- Cruise ships generally visit Greenland in the summer months, but smaller expedition ships do tours from early spring to late autumn.
"The ice was the first and last thing I saw of Greenland."
The ice that captures your imagination
As we departed from Nanortalik I don’t think anyone on our ship was ready to leave Greenland just yet. During the sail away, we made the most of our remaining time on the outside deck of our ship, breathing in the cold air, watching until the last of the "monsters" disappeared on the horizon.
The ice was the first and last thing I saw of Greenland. It has captivated my imagination ever since that first sighting and will undoubtedly bring me back to this remote country one day. Vast overwhelming nature is a gift for the mind and one of the things I value the most from my time in Greenland. There simply is no place quite like it.
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