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Greenland: The north beckons (part 2)

Towering icebergs and craggy glaciers fill the fjords of Greenland’s east coast, a dramatic landscape perfect for a wildlife-rich expedition

Greenland: The north beckons (part 2)
Image: Christopher King

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Check out part one of our three-part Arctic adventure with Quark Expeditions, where we start by looking at how to prepare for a once-in-a-lifetime trip

An Arctic adventure

Days 1 & 2, Iceland
I touchdown in Reykjavik, keen to get exploring. Roaming cafes, bars and museums, I understand the city’s reputation for friendly locals, out-there cuisine and sparkling-clean streets. The next morning, I meet the other passengers for our chartered flight to Akureyri, before embarking on the Ocean Atlantic.

Day 3, Denmark Strait
It’s a full day at sea until we reach our first landing spot. A screening of David Attenborough’s The Hunt in the theatre sets the scene before resident historian Bob Headland hosts a lecture on unveiling the Arctic. There’s tales from expedition guide Anders Kjærgaard about his experience dog sledding in Northeast Greenland.

Day 4, Deichmann Fjord
After an introduction to polar photography, we leave the ship for a trip on a smaller inflatable boat (Zodiac). At the ancient basalt rocks on the shore, we catch sight of a polar bear — the first of 10 we will see on our voyage. Photos are shared back on the ship before a bar talk from guide David Burton about his time abandoned in Greenland with no money.

Day 5, Warming Island & Kong Oscar Fjord
It’s an early start as we get the chance to take a Zodiac out to explore Warming Island’s glacier, with mist hanging low around the surrounding mountains. We spot our second polar bear, and then it’s back to the ship for talks on sea ice and ornithology. After dinner, we disembark to explore Ella Island by foot, climbing over limestone rocks for a view over the bay, as musk ox graze on a nearby beach below.

Day 6, Narhvalsund & Ella Island
All layers are donned for a hike through Northeast Greenland National Park. The group is split up for different paces. I join the ‘chargers’, covering 8.5km with three Danish sheep dogs in tow. We find a reindeer horn (the deer were last spotted here in the 1930s) and rock dating back 65 million years.

Day 7, Blomsterbugten & Kejser Franz Josef
We hike over slated rock, drink from glacial streams, forage for blueberries and pursue musk ox. Back on the ship, ice cream is served on the deck as we soak up the view of bobbing icebergs. A Zodiac cruise takes us to Waltershausen Glacier, stretching seven miles wide. We explore blue ice and caves before seeing a huge calving, sending waves as the ice tumbles into the water. This is the furthest north we’ll be, making it the ideal time for a polar plunge, where we jump from the ship into the sea. It takes a minute to muster up the nerve to jump into the chilling 2.5C waters, but it’s exhilarating.

Day 8, Mackenzie Bugt
In true expedition style, we wake to a thick layer of fog that prevents us from landing. A Zodiac cruise takes us through the strong waves to Bontekoe Island, where a moody cloud formation sweeps over the land. We board to travel south, breaking up the day with waffles, lectures and a movie screening.

Day 9, Scoresby Sund
We land for the afternoon to explore Ittoqqortoormiit — one of the most isolated towns in Greenland — before watching the sun set over the fjord.

Day 10, Nordvestfjord
It’s another early-morning start to hike around Eskimobugt, a bay where we spot musk ox and Thule ruins. After lunch, we explore the surrounding fjord and icebergs by Zodiac. Dinner is a barbecue on the deck accompanied by mulled wine.

Day 11, Nordvestfjord
We land to find ancient Thule tools and a burial ground amidst the waterfalls and hills of the bay. The steep cliff faces of Bear Islands provide a scenic Zodiac cruise before a lecture by marine biologist Annie Inglis.

Day 12, West Scoresby Sund
The morning’s adventure includes a hike into the boggy grounds of Danmarkoer. Before returning to the ship for breakfast, another polar plunge opportunity is offered, this time running in from the beach.We warm up with coffee and documentary screening before we board a Zodiac cruise to a three-mile long glacier, with more sightings of polar bears (with cubs in tow).

Image: Tamsin Wressell

Image: Tamsin Wressell

Life on board

Food
Breakfast and lunch are buffet spreads, while dinner is a three-course menu. Gaps are filled with afternoon tea and canapes in the evening. Happy hour in the theatre includes classic and contemporary cocktails.

Activities
Daily lectures give an insight into the history, wildlife and geography of the region. In the theatre bar, there’s documentary screenings during the day and anecdotal tales by expedition guides in the evening.

Wildlife spotted

  • Ringed seal
  • Hooded seal
  • Humpback whale
  • Polar bear
  • Arctic fox
  • Musk ox
  • More than 25 species of bird (including ivory gulls and Arctic terns)

To book your cabin on Quark’s Greenland Expedition, visit travel.quarkexpeditions.com/explore-greenland