Following an overnight in Iceland where the Arctic terns were calling for much of the short night, we gathered at the airport in Reykjavik for the flight to Kangerlusaq and then on to the fishing port of Ilulissat. The airport is located north of the city, and we managed a quick glimpse of the ice in the fjord below us. Being a recce trip, none of us were quite sure what lay ahead, and each of us had our own expectations.
The town was busy, with well-stocked supermarkets open until late, which proved very useful since we were self-catering in the simple youth hostel in town. We managed to get fish most evenings. But nothing was to prepare us, seasoned Arctic travellers, for our first view of the ice-fjord. Boarded walkways keep tourists off the fragile tundra, although the botanists managed to photograph the varied habitat nonetheless! We left reluctantly after some photos, but had built sufficient time into the itinerary to allow us to return over the next few days to watch and listen to the ice.
There were many more treats in store in Ilulissat: Supper at the ice-hotel looking out over the sea and the edge of the fjord; walking around town; watching local families heading out fishing from the harbour, some fish ending up for sale in the local fish market; our ‘mid-night’ sailing trip along the ice front with other little red boats conveniently forming a wonderful contrast for the photographers; or just standing down near the harbour watching and listening.
Early starts and late nights are a feature of life in west Greenland, but there is time to doze on the boat journeys until someone sees a whale fin or tail, and those who have stayed on deck are normally rewarded with the best view. Camp Eqi, and the ice front were truly stunning; sitting on the balcony of our eco-huts enjoying tea and cake was relaxing after long walks to the inland ice or, for those who preferred it, a short amble more locally. Disko Island was an amazing contrast to the mainland, with basalt cliffs towering above the small settlement. Wherever we went, the local families were incredibly welcoming. Our accommodation and food were very simple, but everyone managed to do their bit to help. I had been told this part of west Greenland was amazing, and it exceeded all expectations. A sabbatical on Disko Island to collect basalts for my work colleagues might be in order?