1 : the trip
Taking off from Paris... First stop over at Copenhagen to give
us a slight nordic foretaste. We have 3 or 4 hours to visit
the danish capitale, of which we probably don't estimate the
true worth, then we take the plane again.
more hours during which we fly over the North Sea, off the British
Isles and the Faroes...
At last I see my first iceberg ! A little white splash in the
vast blue sea... When we arrive over Greenland, everything becomes
white, except the blue shadow of the clouds on the ice cap.
Warning: turn off every electronic equipment
during the takeoff and the landing of your plane.
foot for the first time on greenlandic soil at Kangerlussuaq
for the last connecting flight. The wait is a bit long before
a little plane takes us to Ilulissat. With its coloured wooden
houses nestling in a rocky austere environment by the sea, the
town seems rustic and pleasant. We are at latitude 69,2°
North, 300 km beyond the artic polar circle.
correspondent, Silver, welcomes us and drives us to the hotel.
The area is more or less in construction and isn't much to look
at to begin with. Nevertheless we now hold the key of a small
bungalow facing the sea.
endlessly draws to a close on the horizon. Dark shapes of icebergs
slowly glide to the open sea. We savour the unspeakable feeling
of beeing in a place, instead of seeing it on pictures... That's
it, here we are !!! ^__^
2 : Ilulissat and Ataa
the morning we have time to have a walk in town. During the
night, the bay covered itself with small pieces of immaculate
ice. In front of this unusual landscape, I feel like I'm making
our planet's acquaintance a little further.
numerous chained sledge dogs are waiting for winter on a lead
in the gardens.
From time to time a car passes, and it is strange to think it
is used only in Ilulissat, as towns are not connected by roads
in Greenland (people travel by boat or by plane between two
We discreetly watch a native woman pulling up a piece of ice
on the rocks with a spade, then crushing it in order to bring
it back home in a bucket. Do you need any fresh water? Oops!
A piece of iceberg...
lunch, we take a little red boat to Ataa, an ancient fishing
village offering a tourist infrastructure.
We are delighted to be the only guests this week (sorry for
the travel agency, but... ^^): it's strenghtening our impression
of running away at the back of beyond.
first sail under a dazzling sun that makes icebergs blinding.
Halfway some mist forces the boat to slow down while it was
already slow, and the landscape becomes more unreal. We will
take almost five hours to cover the 60 kilomètres separating
Ataa from 'Ilulissat !
a matter of fact, we are not alone there: a group of hikers
led by two guides from Terre d'Aventures is also staying at
Ataa this evening, so that we can hear their enthusiastic tokens
about the region. Together, we have fresh fish for dinner, caught
in the neighbouring lake by Leonardo the cooker, and radishes,
planted by our own guide, Jeff, whom acquaintance we also make.
We already took a turn round the area with him doing the commentary.
We learn Ataa's history, and which local plants are edible -
that will be useful later...
3 : Eqi, Port Victor et kayak
is already daylight at four o'clock in the morning, and the
rest of the "night" until sunrise seems endless. Our
track of time is turning upside down. All day long, the sun
seems to wander the sky slowly.
boat we took yesterday leads us to glacier Eqi in the company
of Terre d'aventures' group, which leaves us once arrived at
Port Victor. As the others unload their equipment, we're doing
a quick reconnaissance. The hikers saved us with their advice
to put mosquito nets on our heads. It is certainly ugly but
to hell with aesthetic ! Once we go ashore, an armada of voracious
midges attack us !
Victor is very small, but what a view! After the wharf, a sheer
footpath snakes up to the old red cabin of Paul-Emile Victor,
the first camp from which the French Polar Expeditions started
to study the icecap between 1948 and 1953. This vast expanse
of ice, also called inlandsis, permanently covers 85% of the
entire land. Explorers did not laugh everyday. Inside the cabin,
on the yellowed paper-covered walls, one can read these handwritten
notes: "What did we come here for / We would better be
use the cabin as a refuge nowadays. The French Track to the
inlandsis begins here. We will go there during our stay, startinf
from another point. A little further, we notice several small
brand new bungalows: it is Ice Camp Eqi, which of course offers
a wonderful panorama.
the moment, we go back to Ataa. The sea carries along the multitude
of fragments of ice fallen from the glacier, among which the
boat makes slow and careful progress. Cold is enlivening in
this magnificent landscape. Yet, travelling by boat seems all
the more to be lasting forever, because distances seems shorts
on the map. In the meantime, Jeff put a plan together, which
we will carry out the day after...
the afternoon, Jeff introduces us to sea-kayaking. Preparing
the equipment is a bit tedious. We pull on waterproof suits
and boots over our clothes. It turns out that paddling is quite
exhausting for us beginners, but the experience is exciting.
We carefully approach one of the icebergs parking in Ataa's
bay, so that we can touch it with the hand... It is relatively
small on the surface, but its submerged volume is truly impressive.
caution is advised. The mass and shape of an iceberg change
as it is melting under the sun; its centre of gravity moves;
and so the iceberg can suddenly turn upside down. It can also
split up into pieces. These movements raise waves that can be
very dangerous when you are close by, a fortiori in a small
boat which can overturn. We always keep an eye and an ear towards
the surrounding icebergs, ready to face the wave if one of them
begins to move.
Ataa by evening
we stop in a little creek, our true Greenland lover guide gives
us more informations about the country, especially about the
inuit civilization. We also gather mussels for dinner.
We spend a quiet evening, making better acquaintance of our
hosts and taking full advantage of the solitude of the place.
4: hiking and speedboat
plan to climb the hill overhanging Ataa int he morning. We have
been told we would be able to see the inlandsis in the distance
there. "Count two hours to climb", are we also told.
It first seems exaggerated to us, as the hill does not seems
to present any difficulty.
the unevenness of the ground confirms our hosts' words. The
more we climb, the less easy it is. The slope is much more steeply
than it seemed from afar.
two hours, we are still sweating blood and tears climbing the
rocks; the top is still far, and we have to think about the
return ! If there was a track among these scrubs, we missed
our efforts are not vain: even so, we can see the inlandsis
from the rock promontory where we stand before going back. It
is like a white luminous line crossing the horizon.
look hard to climb when you see it, eh...?