Wednesday, September 19, 2007

In Greenland ...

Wouldn't you know it! During the last days of our trip and the part I'd been looking forward to the most ... Greenland ... I got pretty sick with bronchitis. I spent alot of my time on board the Explorer, while everyone else was on shore having fun and seeing the sights.

I did, however, make it on shore in Ilulissat, where the ship refueled and we had several hours to wander through the town. Greenland is Danish and though the Inuit of Greenland are related to the Inuit of Canada, the villages are very different in appearance. While the homes and buildings in the Canadian Arctic are prefabricated and somewhat dull in appearance, the buildings that we saw in Greenland are very colorful European style cottages, painted in many colors of the rainbow. Through one window, I spied lovely orchids blooming. They must be a godsend in the winter months, bringing joy to that person who carefully tends them and watches them open delicate petals while the weather outside is foul.

The harbor in Ilulissat

Ilulissat seems to be a very busy place. At the dock next to the Explorer, was a large fishing trawler that had just brought in its catch. Halibut already cut, frozen and packaged was being loaded into containers that would be shipped and available in grocery stores in North America and around the globe.

Fish, Arctic Char, I believe, drying in a back yard in Ilulissat

And then there is the way the locals do it. I'm sure these folks eat fresh fish daily in summer that they catch themselves. And as you see in the photo above, they preserve it for those long winter months when the ice on the waters makes fishing impossible.

I first became interested in seeing Greenland some years ago when on a flight back to Virginia from Europe, we flew directly above the southern tip of Greenland. It was November and early afternoon. I watched in awe and delight as glaciers and mountains passed below us adorned in splendid, frozen white. Then five years ago I had the opportunity to sail through the Svalbard Archipelago, another stunningly beautiful place. There was lots of wildlife but no Inuit to visit. So when I received information about this trip, I had to sign up, immediately.

As autumn begins and shadows grow long here, I wonder what it's like in Ilulissat. Has there been snow yet? I'll bet the snowmobiles and dog sleds are being dusted off and warm boots, mittens and hats are coming out of the closet.

But who knows ... with the planet warming, it may still be relatively warm. I hope to have another chance to get back to these wonderful places. By following my dream of seeing Greenland, I found the Canadian Arctic and have once again fallen head over heals for the spirit of the north.


Star said...

Too bad you were unable to participate more fully in the activities in Greenland. Your photos reveal such a beautiful place with a rich culture to be explored.

I know that winter has its own beauty, but I don't look forward to the driving challenges and know that I wouldn't want to be facing winter preparations in September!

Becca said...

I'm so glad you finally made it Greenland - but what a shame you were sick!

Now I see where my halibut comes from :)

Lucy said...

Do you know Jane Smiley's novel 'The Greenlanders'?
I read it some years ago now, and no longer seem to have it, but it's one of those books that's always stayed with me. It's based on the idea of the Old Icelandic sagas, which I always loved, but imagines the old mediaeval settlement there, its decline and fall, including the early explorations into the New World. It certainly intrgued me about the place.

marja-leena said...

How wonderful that you were able to visit Greenland, though limited by your illness. Ou very dear freinds in denmark went there about three years ago and shared their remarkable stories and photos. One day, I hope to see it, and many other northern lands (Canada, Alaska, Saame...). I might be asking you a few questions :-)