As we approach East Greenland we may encounter more pack ice where we may see seals and a variety of seabirds, including northern fulmar and migratory Brunnichs guillemots. This stretch of coastline is ripe for exploration, with its many secrets locked in place by drift ice for up to eight months each year. Home to snowy owls and musk ox, it's the world's largest national park, covering 972,000km2; most of which is inland ice and the rest a composite fjord landscape.
Over the next seven days a host of choices are open to us, and depending on ice and weather conditions, the east coast of Greenland is ours to explore. Our experienced expedition team, who have made countless journeys to this area, will use their expertise to design our voyage from day to day. This allows us to make best use of the prevailing weather, ice conditions and wildlife opportunities. We will generally make up to two landings or Zodiac excursions per day; cruising along spectacular ice cliffs, following whales that are feeding near the surface.
Over the coming days, be prepared to experience ice, lots of it. East Greenland contains some of the Arctic's most impressive scenery. Deep fjords and narrow channels, flanked by sharp ice-clad peaks up to 2,000 metres / 6,562 feet high. Glaciers create gigantic icebergs that drift throughout the fjord system creating breath-taking scenes. The landscape is filled with multi-coloured tundra home to musk oxen and Arctic hare. Throughout the area are ancient Thule archaeological sites, historical trappers' huts, and modern Inuit hunters' cabins. A highlight is a visit to the Inuit village of Ittoqqortoormiit, the most isolated and northernmost permanent settlement in the region, with approximately 450 inhabitants. The community boasts an excellent museum, gift shop, an abundance of Greenlandic sled dogs, and the opportunity to meet Inuit people.
Explore Scoresbysund, the largest fjord system in the world – a spectacular place that simply needs to be seen to be believed. North of Scoresbysund are, Kong Oscar and Kaizer Franz Josef fjords, two of the most significant fjord systems in all of Greenland, each one encompassing several smaller fjords and sounds. Thanks to the fertile volcanic soil mountains that protect areas from the strong winds, the area is rich in wildlife. You may spot everything from muskox and arctic foxes to mountain hares and even reindeer near the fjord. Look skyward and you could catch a glimpse of birds including glaucous gull, black-legged kittiwake, northern fulmar, common raven and common eider.
We will attempt to enter Kaiser Franz Josef Fjord, a remote and rarely visited fjord system with countless opportunities for exploration within the Northeast Greenland National Park. Cruising through Kong Oskar Fjord we will marvel at the geological beauty of the mountains. We will then head south along the coast of Liverpool Land, with our passage dependent on ice conditions. We aim to reach Scoresbysund, the world’s biggest fjord and favourite hunting ground of the local Inuit. Massive glaciers dump into this fjord, the birthplace of the famous big Greenland icebergs.
We plan to visit the remote Inuit community of Ittoqqortoormiit (Scoresby Town) and to hike across the tundra in search of ancient graveyards and summer villages occupied 3,000 years ago by the Inuit. This area provides excellent opportunities for sea kayaking in its maze of calm, interconnecting waterways. If we are lucky we may see musk oxen, arctic hare and seals.
Places we may along the east coast include:
Cape Humboldt is a beautiful bay on Ymer Island. There is a good chance to take a tundra walk and see musk oxen graze. We will also keep a lookout for Arctic fox and ptarmigan. A lone trapper's hut looks over the bay and magnificent icebergs.
Sefstrom Glacier adorns the narrow peaked waterway in Alpefjord. Enjoy Zodiac cruising and kayaking in this pretty area, where colourful Arctic flora adorns the tundra ground.
Ittoqqortoormiit is Scoresbysund’s colourful Inuit community of approximately 500 people. Here you can explore the village, the fascinating museum or sit in the beautiful Lutheran Church. The locals are friendly and from underneath their arctic fox-fur jackets, the shy young children are keen to say hello and practice their English.
Sydkap in Scoresbysund offers good walking and delightful views across the sound. Kayakers will have good opportunities to explore the lonely beaches. We may explore the ancient gravesites on the island, or the lakes with green tunnels and giant icebergs offer hours of enjoyment for kayak and Zodiac rides.
Rømerfjord: Rømer Fjord with its narrow channels and towering peaks is simply stunning, and lies roughly 167 kilometres / 104 miles south of Scoresbysund. There are great hiking options in the fjord where flowering tundra plants, scattered bones of whales and muskox from centuries of hunting by the Inuit, and fumaroles can be found. These are areas where heated groundwater boil to the surface creating bubbling pools and mineral formations as the water reacts with the atmosphere.
Rode Ø: Rode Ø island is a glorious place for Zodiac cruising, hiking and kayaking, with its rich red Devonian sandstone geology. Discover the impressive mafic dyke that runs through the east side of Rode Ø. Glaucous gulls find perfect perches and nesting sites along the top of the basalt extrusions. Kayak along the maze of icebergs - pillars and arches, caves and peaks that look as though an artist had sculpted them.
Hare Fjord: The scenery here is breathtaking. Walk across the tundra alongside a ravine or Zodiac cruise where you might find musk ox, along with flitting shore birds, seals and a variety of colours in the lush Arctic tundra. Kayakers can enjoy sublime paddling in one of the most remote fjords in the world. Nearby is the spectacular and impressive Ø Fjord, a perfect place for small ship cruising.
Nordvest Fjord: If mountains rising 1,200 metres straight out of the water wasn’t enough, how about the fjord itself, descending to 1,500 metres? There are also countless icebergs pouring out of the Daugård-Gensen Glacier. A great place for kayaking and Zodiac cruising with plenty of gorgeous bergs while the glacier itself, seemingly small from a distance, proved to be a formidable river of ice snaking down the valley.
Eskimobugt: No one can state the exact age of the neo-Eskimo site at Eskimobugt, but it may only be a few hundred years old. Subterranean winter houses designed with a tunnel that faces the sea where occupants would crawl through to the stand-up living chamber; at the opposite end is the sleeping platform. The walls were erected with carefully laid stones while the roof structure would be built from whatever material was available - driftwood, walrus bone, and available skin covering. Fire hearths were created by laying rocks in a circle with a bed of white quartzite stones. Learn from our historian about the incredible resourcefulness of the Inuit people whose men travelled formidable distances by kayak to hunt, and whose women crafted sophisticated garments from animal skins and fur – a people for whom survival in such extremes was paramount. Hiking here offers panoramic views, sightings musk ox and, occasionally Arctic hare.
Skipperdalen: See some of the most striking sedimentary sandstone, shale and siltstone formations imaginable. The alternating colours and patterns in the layers of rocks defied belief, and the layers of sediment here are estimated to have taken about 4,000 years to be laid down. You can also find the remains of a simple but highly effective wooden fox trap in use by Norwegian trappers in both Greenland and Svalbard from the early 1900s to 1960s. Skippendalen is also a marvellous place to hike and paddle in kayaks.
Other possible landing points in the area include:
Nordenskjöld glacier & Blomsterbugten