Sweet Little Arsuk

Summer 2022
John Andrews
Fri 3 Jul 2015 15:49




We have had a splendid two days enjoying our landfall in Greenland. The wind did pick up as predicted and we made excellent progress overnight with the wind over our starboard quarter. As day broke, we could see the high snow-covered mountains of Greenland ahead of us. Cape Desolation was spread out to the South, and although we could see a line of ice banked up there, our passage into Arsuk was unencumbered apart from a line of impressive icebergs that we would have to sail round. The sun shone brilliantly as we made our approach, our happiness completed by seeing a large pod of seals porpoising around not far away and in the distance, a whale blowing and finally showing us its tail.

The Lonely Planet talks of ‘sweet little Arsuk’, and it really is a lovely little village, the colourful houses dotted around the hillside making a very appealing landfall. Apparently very wealthy at the height of the cod-fishing in the 1970s, it still maintains a general feeling of well-being. It has a charming little wooden church, which had its doors unlocked so we were able have a look at the simple painted interior. It has a school, a clinic and a very well stocked shop and post office.  There is even an on-site bakery as there was fresh bread and Danish pastries on sale. A small fish processing plant was not actually working but lights were on and we did see one fisherman bring in a couple of boxes of fish.

Arsuk is at the mouth of a network of fjords, and having walked round the village and out to an abandoned sheep farm in the morning, we decided to explore the fjords in the afternoon. Rather perversely, surrounded by all the natural grandeur of Greenland, we decided to make our way through a very narrow channel to two abandoned settlements – one a worked-out cryolite mine at Ivigtut, and the other a deserted naval base at Gronnedal.  All the buildings are still there, boarded up but totally abandoned. Our reason for going there was because there was reportedly a sheltered pontoon where we could tie up, and a number of walking trails into the hills which we would all be able to enjoy. In the event, the pontoon was absent and the naval wharf proved impossible to tie to safely, so we retreated to a sheltered anchorage at the head of the Arsuk fjord and spent an idyllically peaceful night beneath the massive bulk of Kungnat, which rises 1400 meters from sea level. In the morning John and I went for a short walk ashore while Roger stayed on the boat. There were some signs of attempted agriculture - a fenced-off area and some agricultural machinery - but no obvious planting of crops.

We are now on our way up to Paamiut, which lies about 100 miles to the North. We are tackling the journey over three days, weaving our way through the inner passage and anchoring overnight.  The weather forecast for the next few days is for no wind and clear skies, so we will be motoring all the way but there should be no high winds to alarm us. We are passing several glaciers on the way that are delivering quite large quantities of ice into the sea. To reach our anchorage last night, we had to weave through some big chunks of ice, but found an ice-free bay with a slight off-shore breeze in which to anchor and have had a peaceful night, punctuated only by the occasional crump of a collapsing iceberg.

Today we plan to do a twenty mile passage to our next possible anchorage in Narssalik. We will be passing the Sermilik glacier which apparently calves large quantities of ice into the sea. We may find that there is too much ice to anchor safely, in which case we will very likely go straight on to Paamiut. The days are long and we will be able to arrive there in daylight hours. Today has dawned sunny and calm so we are looking forward to a good day, with perhaps some opportunities to fish for cod on the way.