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Date: 29 Jul 2010 18:28:00
Title: Maintenance and exploring

Wednesday night

We decided to stay where we were today as we all felt it was just about the most lovely spot we'd found in Greenland. We spent the first part of the morning sorting out planes to get Richard back home and Magnus out to join us. Luckily, it all coincides pretty well so we have to be back down South near Qaarsut for August 1st. That gives us time to explore some new anchorages as we go down the coast.

Kali then got cracking with washing just about all the bedding and clothing onboard while Richard and I did a check of the steering gear and stern gland. We found a few loose bolts which we tightened which sounds like about 10 minutes work but actually took hours. Still, lunch was a fantastic Thai style soup so that kept us motivated. Once we'd finished the maintenance, Andrea and I went for an expedition in the tender. We headed across the fjord to a bird cliff visible on the other side. There weren't many birds there - I think they've all fledged their young and left by now. A few gulls were wheeling around and small flocks of Guillemots bobbed on the water. I was just thinking out loud that the birds chose to nest on such precipitous cliffs to be safe from Arctic Foxes when one little fox came into view and casually sauntered along one of the bird ledges, arguing with some Cormorants as he went. Hmmm.... So much for that theory.

On the way back to Saxon Blue, we detoured past some other islands and Andrea spotted what she thought were more graves on one of them. We parked up on some rocks and went to have a look. There were a few graves there but we also found a tiny stone structure that we both thought must be a fox trap - as described in various books we've read. We carried on over the island and climbed a low hill from where we could both see a ruined house. As it turned out, we were looking at different houses and there were others around as well. They were better preserved than the ruins on our island, the walls were high enough to see the courses of stone and turf and the entrances had their stone lintels intact. These entrances were long passages though which the occupants had to crawl. This kept the cold and the bears out. Some of the houses were large - I paced one out as 12 meters long!

Right along the shore, there was a row of three terraced ruins with all the entrances facing into the small bay. By the side of the houses, some ancient, weathered whale bones were placed on a rock. The feeling of a village community where people lived ordinary lives was really strong. Andrea wondered whether our island with its few houses and many graves was more of a burial island and I think she might well be right. We explored more up the hill on this new island, though, and found a substantial burial area on the top of the hill. The graves were similar to those on our island. One of them had two skulls inside, side by side. These graves were certainly further away from the houses than those next to Saxon Blue. Whether that's significant, I've no idea. Either way, it's all evidence of many years of living and dying out here. On a day like today, when you stand looking out at the islands and mountains, it's easy to conclude that they had a pretty good life. Hard, sure, but hunting here before it all got eaten must have been amazing.

We got back to Saxon Blue a long time after we intended with Andrea seriously in need of food. Luckily, dinner wasn't long coming (mushroom and butter bean pie) which gave us just enough energy to go ashore and do some filming of Andrea in her new Janeway costume. It was lovely being out in the late evening light. It's getting hard to conceive of darkness. It's almost midnight here but the sun is still shining on the mountains. I think this place has given us a real feeling of the connection between the ancient way of life here and the modern one. These old houses don't look that archaic and you can really see why they're located where they are. The Inuit had a complex material culture that allowed them to live in this beautiful but harsh land in relative comfort. They weren't about to stand around getting cold, that's for sure and they had ways of catching everything edible. I suppose the only problem is that they've now eaten most of it.

Harvey

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