22 September 2013: Qaqortoq, Greenland

Qaqortoq, Greenland: Easier to Say Than to Get to

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Greenland is, by area, the world’s largest island that is not a continent.

It spreads over about 836,000 square miles.[whohit]-Qaqortoq-[/whohit]

The population is about 56,370.

About 80 percent is covered by snowfields and glaciers…which partly helps explain why today it is also the world’s least densely populated country.

About 90 percent of the residents are native-born Ka-la-al-lit, the local tribe of Inuit people.

There are, depending who you ask, either TWO or FOUR stoplights in the entire country.

Then again, there are only about 2,500 cars in all of Greenland.

And only 150 kilometers or 90 miles of road, only about half of which are paved.

Qaqortoq is hard to find on a map, but I suspect the Greenlanders like that quite a bit. It is pronounced as if that middle Q was a hard H: Ka-HOR-tock.

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Sunrise at Qaqortoq. Photos by Corey Sandler

The settlement, near the southern tip, is—like all of the Inuit villages I have visited in northern Canada—a very matter of fact place, just like the Inuit people.

There are some prefab Scandinavian houses, some boxy shops, and a few commercial enterprises: a sealskin tannery, a shipyard, and an open-air market.

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Boxes, pretty boxes, pretty boxes on a hill. Photos by Corey Sandler

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Arriving in Qaqortoq by ship’s tender; a far north nod to a famous bar. Photos by Corey Sandler

But it is Greenland, one of the far corners of the world, and that is very apparent to every visitor. And because it is late September, there was also very much of a feeling of the imminent arrival of winter. In fact, the dock was coated with a bit of coarse snow when we arrived on ship’s tenders at 8 in the morning.

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Laundry on the line, and the way out of town through Iceberg Alley. Photos by Corey Sandler

I led a group of guests on a photo safari up the hill and around to the heliport—the only way other than seasonal boats—to get in or out of town.

And then we went to the market, although we chose not to purchase any of the whale meat that was being cut up on the tables there. Standing next to a chunk of whale meat is enough to convert a butcher to a vegetarian.

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Scenes around Qaqortoq. Photos by Corey Sandler

The Queen of Denmark in Sealskin Shorts

In 1721, Scandinavia came back when Denmark claimed sovereignty over the island.

In November 2008, Greenlanders went to the polls for a referendum.

More than 70 percent of voters turned out, and almost 76 percent approved a motion for independence from Denmark.

Denmark still holds the Faeroe Islands.

On June 21, 2009, in a mix of solemn ceremony and giddy celebration, Greenland welcomed self-governance.

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, handed over the official document bestowing self-governance to the chairman of Greenland’s Parliament.

Marching in Nuuk, she wore the traditional Inuit outfit for a married woman: shorts made of seal fur and a beaded shawl.

The Queen usually dresses a bit more European.

All text and photos copyright 2013 Corey Sandler. All rights reserved. If you would like a copy of a photo please contact Corey Sandler through the box on this page.

 

 

21 September 2013: Prince Christian Sound, Greenland

That’s Ice…Prins Christian Sund, Greenland

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Let there be light.

And ice, snow, glaciers, and whales.[whohit]-Prins Christian-[/whohit]

After an abundance of gray and some unmusical rock ‘n roll, Silver Whisper arrived at Greenland at midday on Saturday. And the skies turned blue and the sun shone on some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.

The Prince Christian Sound (Prins Christian Sund in Danish) is below the mainland of Greenland and includes Christian IV Island and other islands.

The sound connects the Irminger Sea to the west with the Labrador Sea to the east.

There is only one settlement along this sound, Aappilattoq.

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Sea Smoke passes above icebergs in Prince Christian Sound. Photo by Corey Sandler

We spent about seven hours passing…carefully…through the 60-mile-long Prins Christian Sun (Prince Christian Sound) at the southern end of Greenland. I’ve been to Greenland before, but this was the most glorious day we have ever seen at this high a latitude.

I was up on the bridge to give commentary to the guests, and there I met Magnus, the Ice Pilot who had come on board the ship to assist the captain and crew in navigating in the sound. Ice Pilot is a very specialized job: he is not there to advise on navigation, but instead to share his understanding of the currents and winds and the ways in which huge icebergs move.

Magnus joined us in Reykjavik and will stay onboard until Cornerbrook, Newfoundland.

I did mention icebergs, right? There were hundreds of major ones in the sound and thousands more once we emerged. The largest were the size of apartment buildings, and we were seeing only the one-third or one sixth that was above the surface.

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Ice in the sound. Photos by Corey Sandler

On our starboard side, the cliffs rose 1500 meters (about 5000 feet) in a near vertical wall; a few miles inland the plateau was more than 2000 meters high. And nearly all of the interior of Greenland, perhaps 80 percent, is still covered with snow. The snowpack and glaciers are declining, yes, but there is still a huge amount of ice in Greenland.

At the end of the day, the temperature dropped into the mid- to lower forties, and temperature inversions cause fog and sea smoke to hover above the water, bisecting some of the bergs for dramatic emphasis.

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Aboard Silver Whisper in Prince Christian Sound. Photos by Corey Sandler

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After Ansel Adams. Photo by Corey Sandler

All photos Copyright 2013, Corey Sandler. All rights reserved. If you’d like a copy, please contact me.