Ice everywhere

Saxon Blue's Blog
Harvey Jones and Andrea Stokes
Sun 18 Jul 2010 01:55
69:20.546N 50:59.676W Saturday night

A full-on day today and amazing ice. Kali, Andrea and I got up at 0400, dropped the lines and raised the anchor. We got under way quickly and motored out into the early morning. It was light, of course, but really cold and even my Arctic suit was struggling to keep me warm. Kali and I stood watch until 0700 when I went back to bed and Richard and Jamie took over. The wind was light the whole time and we passed a succession of massive bergs.

When I got up again, things had really changed and we were now approaching the mass of bergs outside the Illulisaat Ice Fjord. This fjord has a huge calving glacier at the head but a restricted entrance out to sea. The result is a massive gridlock of bergs jostling to get out. Every so often, the pressure builds up too much and they splurge out, dumping everything from island-size bergs to tiny ice cubes into the open sea. The current takes all this ice North, past the entrance to Illulisat. If the wind is onshore, the harbour gets completely choked and it's never certain from one day to the next whether it's open or not.

>From about 10 miles out, the ice starts to build up. We were used to avoiding the occasional large berg but this was very different. The ice is just scattered at random. In Jamie's words, "it's a right mess". I had to slalom Saxon Blue around the broken bits, avoiding the ones that could damage us and wincing every time a smaller piece hit the boat. Jamie was on ice watch at the bow, gesticulating wildly as he spotted more or less imaginary clear leads through the pack. We had allowed ourselves plenty of time and we needed it as we had to slow right down to make our way though it all.

As we approached Illulisaat itself, the harbour looked as though it was completely blocked by half a dozen big bergs but there was a clear lead between them and the rock. We edged in slowly, looking at the Forward Looking Sonar all the time until we were in the outer harbour. There were some large docks free so we helped ourselves to one of them and then had a well-deserved lunch.

After that, Jamie, Andrea and I set off to walk over to look at the Ice Fjord itself from the land. On the way, we passed hundreds of sled dogs, pegged out on the rocks outside town. They were all sitting peacefully but, as soon as the owner of one pack drew up in his 4x4, they all went crazy. They had some very cute puppies, though. The walk over was really hot - I couldn't believe how cold it had been first thing. We were all overdressed and the mosquitoes were driving me nuts. It got so bad that I even put my head net on which made me even hotter and the bugs just bit my ears though the net so it was a complete waste of time.

The fjord was amazing, though. It is completely choked with ice. So solid that it looks as though you could walk across. As it was so calm, the whole thing looked like a painting and it was impossible to judge the true size of it all. It was eerie and still apart from the occasional rumble as a berg disintegrated. As we walked back to Saxon Blue, we were desperate for a drink but phoned Richard to discover that Paul had arrived onboard so we headed straight back. Paul had been delayed a few hours after his plane developed a fault and had to return to Iceland.

We were anxious to escape from Illulisaat harbour before the wind changed and the ice closed in so we dropped the lines and headed straight out. Paul took loads of pictures as we picked out way North towards Rodebay, about 10 miles from Illulisaat, where we had a dinner reservation. We anchored in the bay in front of the town and then had a lovely dinner in the tiny restaurant right on the beach. I'm not quite sure why there is a restaurant here as there are only about 40 houses in the village and most of them look abandoned. I think the German proprietors just fancied a change of lifestyle. I had Halibut but Musk Ox and Whale were also on the menu. The fish was great but the tinned vegetables were very Scandinavian.

>From there, we had a good walk around town, looking at more cute Husky puppies and trying to understand what it would be like to live in such a place. I don't think many people actually do live here all year round. I think they come up from Illulisaat for a break from the big city. So that's it for today. It feels like it's been going on for about a week. We got to see more ice than I could imagine before seeing it. It's been great getting used to handling the boat in such conditions and we'll have more of it to do tomorrow.


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