After a very long days night (24 hour daylight is a little disconcerting), we were up at 6:00 am to prepare for a flight to Ilulissat, on the west coast of Greenland. There was quite a mob scene at the check-in counter, with two flights checking in, ours to Illulisat and another one to Copenhagen. The gate agents weighed every bag to make sure we didn't go over the 20kg (44 pounds) per person limit. We went over the limit on one bag, but it averaged out to 20kg each, so they let it slide. Otherwise, we would have had to pay extra, or start tossing toiletries and books.
I had wisely left my copies of Us Weekly and People in the hotel room, since we didn't need the extra weight, even though they both had the exact same pictures of Angelina Jolie looking as gaunt as a sub-saharan drought victim and Jessica Simpson's amazing weight loss regime, which evidently causes you to lose weight everywhere except your boobs.
Our flight to Illulisat went off without a hitch, despite the lack of trashy magazines to read. We landed at Ilulissat, and were the last to deplane, because Alex decided that the last 15 minutes of the flight was a good time for a nap and conked out. Maybe it was because he was up until 1 am, pointing out the window and saying, "But it's not dark out! I'm not supposed to go to be in morning time!"
At the airport, someone from the Hotel Arctic was there to greet us and schlep us and several others to the hotel overlooking the ice fjord. This was our first view of real live ice since arriving in Greenland, and this was what we came to see. Alex was so excited that he perked up immediately and wanted to run around to see all the ice floating in the bay. We had to wait a while to check in, so Frank and Alex went off to explore the grounds, while I sat vigil with some of the bags and tried not to fall asleep on one of the sleek, modern Danish couches in the lobby.
It was interesting to listen to the sounds of the hotel guests and workers going about their business. Most of the guests spoke Danish, while the staff spoke mostly Inuit to each other. The staff was able to deftly navigate among Danish, Inuit and English, depending on who was speaking to them. There were times when the Danish and Inuit seemed to blend together, and it was hard to know who was speaking what. So much for eavesdropping.
I was very happy to find out that the guest rooms had Wifi, so I would be able to keep in touch with the world back home, at least on this stop. Yes, people, I am blogging from the ends of the earth today.
After we checked in, I took a nap and wrote up my first blog post, and Alex and Frank walked to town in search of a transformer to turn 120 volts into 110 so Alex could charge up his waning Nintendo DS. They were not successful, unfortunately, which caused Alex to take on the look of a boy whose dog has just been run over by a beer truck. He was forlorn that his dreams of spending his vacation playing unlimited Pokemon Diamond Edition would be ruined. Frank was convinced that Nintendo was missing out on a market by not making the game 120V compatible.
In the late afternoon, we went down to the lobby to wait for our guide from the World of Greenland tour company to take us out to a cruise of the ice fjord. We were told to dress warmly, since we would be out on a boat in the middle of icebergs and ice floes for several hours. Finally! All that snow gear I packed would come in handy.
We arrived at the dock to meet our boat, a brightly painted fishing boat with a friendly captain and first mate, along with three Danish women tourists. We set off through the gray, calm waters through millions of tiny and not-so-tiny ice floes. It was cloudy, and the sea and sky seemed to merge together at some points, and it was hard to tell where one began and the other ended.
It was chilly on the boat, but not terribly cold. The boat was not moving that fast, but the little wind it produced made it seem a little colder, so Alex wrapped his travel blanket around his head like a babushka. Frank was happily snapping pictures of the brightly colored buildings of Ilulissat, the ice in water, and just about anything else that came into his viewfinder.
We were about half an hour out when we saw the first massive iceberg rising out of the water. I thought it was the side of a glacier, but the captain later explained that it was in fact an iceberg that was stuck between the landmass on either side. There were cracks and fissures throughout, and we could see some water running off at various points. After tooling around for a bit, the captain cut the engine, and we sat still at the base of the giant berg.
"It's ginormous!" Alex exclaimed. He was right about that.
What impressed me was the dead calm silence in the air. Even though we could see currents running through the water, the air was still and there was nothing to see but ice for miles around. It was nature at its most starkly beautiful.
The captain explained to us, using a map from 1990, that the glacier has been receding for hundreds of years. The alarming thing is that receded the same distance between 1850 to 1990 as it has from 1990 to now. It's pretty dramatic to see global warmiing in action.
Eventually, we started back, but took more photos of the ice as we departed. Who knows if these magnificent icebergs will even be there when Alex is an adult.
Alex sat inside with the captain and first mate, and regaled them with stories of his Pokemon battles (real and imagined). They were good-natured about it, and offered us coffee and hot tea as we made a fairly fast clip through the chilly ice water fjord. Alex eventually got tired and lay down on the bunk inside and fell asleep, possibly dreaming of ginormous icebergs on a clear glass sea.