23/May/2018
Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Travelling through the Arctic: the expedition to the kingdom of ice

Travelling through the Arctic: the expedition to the kingdom of ice

A commercial vision. There’s no other way of defining Erik the Red’s strategy. According to Icelandic literature, it was this Viking with his red manes who christened the island Greenland.

He thought that if he gave it an appealing name then it would be easier to convince the Islandic people to follow him to the frozen isle. And he was right.

What we don’t know is how the colonists reacted when they arrived at “the green land” in the 10th century only to find that 84% of its surface was covered by ice.

Green or white, the island of Greenland has one of the most striking landscapes on earth. The largest island in the world, it has 56,300 inhabitants. Mass tourism has not touched its shores. Only a few people have discovered the hypnotic charm of the ice.

In Tasiilaq you can book activities like kayaking, climbing and whale watching. / Photo: Val Lubrick

One way of reaching its remote lands is to sail between layers of ice on board the Kapitan Khlebnikov, the legendary Russian icebreaker.

This is the passenger vessel that has crossed the Northwest Passage the most times. In 2016 it is embarking on a new adventure: a voyage to Greenland.

The expedition will last 21 days and will be the first time that a “tourist cruise” has sailed through the Lincoln Sea and the Kennedy Channel to the north of the island.

The vessel has all the comforts of a cruise ship, including a heated swimming pool and sauna, but that’s where its similarities to a traditional relaxing holidays come to an end.

The purpose of the voyage is to attempt to explore one of the most inhospitable places on the planet; the kingdom of ice.

The ‘Extreme Greenland’ cruise will be covering the least known parts of Greenland, including its northernmost point, Cape Morris Jesup, if weather conditions allow. 

The circular route will sail along what is known as ‘iceberg alley’, where blocks of ice are not measured in metres, but in football pitches.

The expedition has several planned stops on land, ranging from scientific stations such as Station Nord to explorations on foot or using special footwear to practice ‘snowshoeing’. The white landscape is interrupted occasionally by colourful houses.

These are the towns of Ittoqqortoormiit and Tasiilaq. The first is one of the most remote towns on Greenland. It has just over 500 inhabitants, who live by fishing and hunting.

The second is located one hundred kilometres to the south of the Arctic Circle and is the starting point for lots of different activities, from sleigh excursions to kayaking trips.

The Kapitan Khlebnikov is the only passenger vessel that has two helicopters on board.

One of the biggest attractions of the expedition is crossing the ice. Like all good icebreakers, Kapitan Khlebnikov does so with ease: the ice gives way, greeting passengers with its unique crunching sound.

However, you’ll have to wait until 4th August 2016 to enjoy this soundtrack, which is catchier than ‘Let it go’ from ‘Frozen’.

Source: Passenger 6A.

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