Saturday, September 7, 2019

What the Bag Lady learned in Greenland

I wanted to go to Greenland "before the glaciers melt". A Road Scholar trip included a couple of days in Iceland and then a small-ship cruise in Greenland, so I signed up with my travel companion. It was an expensive trip, but as I look back, it was worth every penny.

Here's some of what I learned.

1. Greenland is the largest island in the world, with a population of only 60,000, living entirely on the coasts. It is a territory of Denmark and IT IS NOT FOR SALE.

2. Most Greenland towns are tiny. The population is 88% Inuit and 12% Danish and Other.

  • Sisimut - population 5,524
  • Ilulissat - pop 4,905
  • Uummannaq - pop 2,282
  • Qeqertarsuaq - pop 845
  • Nuuk - pop 17,635

From where we docked, the towns were an uphill but doable ascent.

Photo by Erikur Einarsson 

3. Greenlandic dogs are not pets. They are working animals who live outdoors. Puppies begin their training at six months. We were told not to touch the dogs.

4. Many cemetery markers have no names on them. The people believe the soul of the person is still alive, so marking the body is unnecessary.

5. "Climate", according to Google, is "The usual condition of the temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, rainfall, and other meteorological elements in an area of the Earths's surface for a long time. In simple terms climate is the average condition for about thirty years." It is warmer in the current 30 years than in the previous 30. But 1,000 years ago it was warmer than it is now. The earth undergoes periodic climate changes, from warmer to cooler to warmer again, in a kind of wave pattern. It is currently in a warmer phase. I don't know how much of the current climate change is because of human activity and how much is the normal earth cycle.

6. I understand more about what causes glaciers, and what sustains them. That happened one afternoon when my travel companion - who has expertise in geomorphology - drew the story of a glacier for me on the back of a daily schedule.

7. Icebergs are a wonder. We traveled past them, up to them, among them, and beside them. 

Ginger ale and a 2,000-year-old ice cube

  • From the National Snow & Ice Data Center I got this excellent description of how they form and what happens to them: 
    • " Icebergs form when chunks of ice calve, or break off, from glaciers, ice shelves, or a larger iceberg. Icebergs travel with ocean currents, sometimes smashing up against the shore or getting caught in shallow waters. 
    • When an iceberg reaches warm waters, the new climate attacks it from all sides. On the iceberg surface, warm air melts snow and ice into pools called melt ponds that can trickle through the iceberg and widen cracks. At the same time, warm water laps at the iceberg edges, melting the ice and causing chunks of ice to break off. On the underside, warmer waters melt the iceberg from the bottom up."
  • About 80 percent of an iceberg's mass is under the water. We learned that at some point an iceberg will flip over, and that no boat should be in the vicinity because the wave made by the turning is dangerous. I asked how long it takes for an iceberg to melt and was told "within a year". Here's one that was beginning to rock toward toppling as we motored beside it:

8. Whales - I've seen humpback whales in Hawaii, and now I've seen them in Greenland, where they were hanging around the icebergs. None of my photos caught them, but our guide says I can share the one he got:

Photo by Erikur Einarsson

9. Small cruise ships are the best! Our vessel carries a maximum of 224 passengers, with over a hundred crew members. We were able to get into fjords that the larger boats couldn't manage. In most of our ports, our boat's passengers were the only ones on the streets. We experienced the usual comforts of a cruise: great service, wonderful food, interesting lectures, and memorable outings. My companion and I were on the 3rd deck, with the least expensive fare, but with porthole views:

10. Back in Iceland, before our flight home, we met the puffins. Sixty percent of the world's puffins live in this area, and they are the most common Icelandic bird. The adults mate for life. When the young bird is ready to fly, the parents leave. The young make their way to the sea by moonlight. In modern times, though, many are drawn to the lights of town instead. In those communities, many are rescued by local residents, and taken to the sea and released.

My husband and I were in Iceland in 2005, before it became a tourist destination. This summer I could see how the country has changed, for better and for worse, with the arrival of many visitors. So far, Greenland is still a quiet place. I hope it stays that way.


Terra said...

Thanks for sharing about your experiences in Greenland and Iceland. The cruise you went on, on a small ship, sounds ideal. That is good you noted that Iceland was warmer 1,000 years ago, rather than simply looking at the most recent 100 years which is just a blip in the long history of the earth. Those are great photos through the porthole.

Elizabeth said...

Your Greenland trip sounds very interesting. For such a well informed person, I am surprised (actually genuinely amazed) that you say you don't know how much of the current change in climate is caused by humans. Do you not trust the scientists? They are in agreement on this, it is indeed human induced change. Perhaps the misinformation being spread by those who stand to gain (like the fossil fuel industry) has muddied the waters for you?

Tom said...

Beautiful photos. I have several friends and relatives who've been to Iceland this year. As you say, it's the latest place to go. So can Greenland be far behind?

Rian said...

What a wonderful post, Linda. I loved the pictures and the information. Sounds like it was a very interesting and educational adventure. Visiting Greenland had never entered my mind, but neither had visiting Alaska or Hawaii... and I found both amazing.

Arkansas Patti said...

Really enjoyed this post and think you have put Greenland on the top of my wish list. Those port hole shots were cool. Interesting about the puffins. New born baby turtles in Florida are also fooled by lights on the coast as they think they are the moon. I use to join turtle safaris sponsored by Game and Fish to rescue them.

DJan said...

A very interesting and informative post. What a wonderful trip you had, and fortunately for me and your other followers, I was able to experience much of it with you. Thank you so much! :-)

Cynthia said...

What an unusual trip and i love your reason for visiting. Nice photos, too. I would love to go!

nothoughtsnoprayersnonothing said...

What a wonderful experience. And pictures too! Now I don't have to go and I can maybe visit Hawaii instead.
But perhaps you have posted about that too? You are going to save me a bunch of $$$$

Ann Winegar said...

I appreciate your description of your trip. You have a wonder way of explaining what you learned, saw and experienced. Thanks.