The Journey to Greenland
We have been preparing for this expedition during a year and a half. This is how far in advance you have to book one of the few ice class yachts that dare reaching the remote corners of ice-filled Greenland fjords. We were planning to explore the biggest and one of the most hard-to reach fjords - Scoresby Sund.
There is an aircraft runway along the shore of Scoresby Sund. It was built by a US oil production company in 1970s. After becoming aware of all difficulties of Arctic oil exploration, the Americans have withdrawn from this development prior to commencement of works. The runway was sold at a bargain price to the Danes - the actual "masters" of Greenland. We were supposed to land at this airbase after flying from Iceland, then go down to the sea level and meet our yacht arriving from Britain.
Several hours prior to our departure, the British have reported to us, via satellite connection, that the ice conditions did not allow them to reach the Scoresby, and that despite all the efforts they were forced to give up. "This email is by no means to panic you, but as you will see in the attached, the conditions at the moment will not allow us to enter Scoresby Sund. I have attached a satellite image of the conditions today, alongside an image from this time last year". The image clearly showed how the ice coat was blocking off the bay, even though during the last 30 years by the month of July there would be only a few isolated icebergs left.
We can't say that we were completely unprepared for this scenario. Several days earlier, the British have already alarmed us by sending the satellite images of the ice situation in the region.
The last time such late summer has occurred in Greenland was 30 years ago. Nevertheless, we were hoping for the best...
This message meant that our plans have come to a complete halt, since flying to the runway located "in the middle of nowhere" at the empty Greenland's shores didn't make any sense — without the yacht we simply didn't have anywhere to go.
So, we weren't going anywhere. The only thing that was going was our plans — that is, directly to Hell.
After our scheduled satellite connection with the British team we found out that the last night has almost ended as a tragedy for them. The yacht got into the ice trap while moving between the icebergs in poor visibility, and it almost got stuck in the heavy ice. Mark, the yacht's captain, said that it would not be feasible to reach Scoresby in the next 3-4 days.
"We will not give up" — that was our decision, and so we ordered the yacht to go to Iceland, to the Western fjords instead.
"We´ll be there in 48 hours" — reported Mark.
We do not wish anyone to find himself or herself in Iceland in the middle of a short summer without a prior hotel reservation. At the peak of the tourist season it was almost impossible to find a room in a hotel or a hostel, or an available car rental. There were 12 people in our group...
We were saved only because of the relationships that one builds up after years of traveling. Bragy Ragnarsson was able to work a miracle, our logistical woes were solved and we set on a trip to the Western fjords, dedicating two full days to photography and exploring the new terrain.
After reaching the fjords we finally met with our yacht and our sailing trip had begun!
During the next week we swam on the inflatable motor boats jumping on the waves up to several feet high, disembarked onto the cliffs covered with sea grass, slept in the tents, climbed the mast, set sails and cooked a meatball soup at the cook room, while being rocked by a six-degree storm.
Finally, we managed to reach the Greenland, but that will be an entirely different story.
We were fighting for it and we won, bringing home wonderful photographs!
Story and photos by Mike Reyfman, panoramas by Dmitry Arhipov
29 June 2011