Calving Glaciers and Arctic Wildlife
It’s not possible to get close up to the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier by boat because of all the icebergs in the ice fjord.
It is possible to have a good look at one of the others though, Eqip (pronounced Eh-ri, I’m not sure how the transcription gets to Equip), if you’re prepared to spend five hours each way on a boat, which I did. That reminds you once again you’re definitely up in the polar circle. On a bright summer’s day, the wind is literally icy, as you travel out through the ice cover on the water, between the icebergs.
Boats have to keep a safety distance of 400m from the wall of ice. All around the ice on the water crackles and pops as the oxygen it contains escapes.
This glacier calves around every half-hour. There’s a rumble like thunder, a crack like a gun and a lump of ice falling down into the sound in an explosion of what looks like powdery snow. This glacier, too, is on the retreat.
The oxygen-rich waters are full of fish. Attractive for seabirds:
I saw little seals popping up between the icebergs. Some humpback whales also put in an appearance, although they were playing hard to get for the camera:
But the species of wildlife I had most contact with was undoubtedly the hardy Arctic mosquito. Yes, even in Ilulissat, surrounded by icebergs, there are mosquitos. Elke Meissner, the German honorary consul, told me you could set your calendar by them, mid-June to mid-August. No doubt that too, is changing. A climate-change induced extension of the “grozzie” season is definitely not something I’d welcome. In Zackenberg, I was told they’re only around for one month – unfortunately I picked it. The wind keeps them away, so the boat trip with the icy wind was a treat. But when we got close to land to pick up some people camping in the area of the Eqip glacier, they were all wearing mosquito nets and desperate to come on board. They brought clouds with them, but they didn’t survive long (for one reason or another).
Meanwhile, the captain chopped up some of the ice he’d taken on board at the glacier – the ship’s drinking water.
12 hours later, we headed into the harbour of Ilulissat.
DateAugust 3, 2009 | 4:21 pm