ABOARD SEA SPIRIT- East and West have separated. As we enter the dining room for breakfast, the seating pattern is already set: passengers have arranged themselves geographically, Westerners to the left, Easterners to the right. As two of the six Americans on board, we follow along, joining those from the UK, Belgium and Australia. The Germans tend toward the middle, the foursome from India roams.
The ship has moved along the Nuuq Fjord and our first excursion will be to the abandoned fishing village of Qoornoq.
We are divided into groups by language and given the times to depart. Like kids wearing clothes for the first time, we don our arctic gear. Silk or thermal underwear, socks, wind and waterproof pants, a long-sleeved shirt or tee and sweater, gloves, hat, our bright jackets, the high, clumpy waterproof boots and finally, the heavy suspender-like life preserver.
Pockets full of niceties like lip balm, tissues, dry bags for cameras and cell phones, we clumsily gather for our turn to clomp down a deck to the stern and take our place on the side of a zodiac.
Watching Sea Spirit’s expedition staff at work is a confidence builder. Not only are they experts in their fields they are adept at safely filling, unloading and maneuvering the oversized rubber craft.
We balance ourselves and watch as the ship gets smaller and land gets nearer, delighted by the abundance of small icebergs, bergy bits and growlers, their shades of blue glimmering against the overcast.
Expedition staff helps us out, proffering a steadying arm in case we slip on the algae and moss-covered rocks. Once ashore I am charmed. It is as if Nature set up a sculpture garden. Icebergs of all shapes, sizes and shades have settled on and around this spit of land, some shifting and turning into ever changing groupings, others still.
It is hard to tear away from such beauty, especially with a sinus infection affecting my balance, but curiosity wins and gingerly I negotiate the rise toward the former settlement.
Tracks that once transported fish to be processed and shipped out now tilt drunkenly between “town” and the plant. Small houses are not totally abandoned; Inuit families use them as summer homes.
The younger and nimbler want to climb beyond rifle-toting Expedition team members lined up like directional signposts but they are turned away. Polar bears are rare but not unknown this far south and the team always errs on the side of safety.
Good to know.
The Captain worked on the same principle. We were to continue up the fjord for an afternoon excursion but the ice was increasing and he turned us around before reaching our destination. We were learning first hand about itinerary shifts on an expedition cruise. The Ice Age never ended in Greenland and the winter of 2017 had been unusually harsh.
Given the unexpected free time, we explored Sea Spirit from the small gym to Dr. Gloria Gonzalez’s infirmary, bridge to the hot tub on the stern.
When we leave the lake-like Nuuk Fjord and head north into the sea, Sea Spirit’s movement becomes more pronounced. Stabilizers smooth much of it out but some lurching occurs.
Which explains why about half the passengers do not show for the Captain’s Welcome aboard party. Among those who do, half do not make it to dinner.