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    T r a v e l R e p o r t-S e i t e  1
M e n u e
Uummannaq Fjord
Markus Ziebell

Author: Markus Ziebell, Photos: Markus Ziebell
Translated by: Carmen Chaplin
Trip made by: Stefanie Fay and Markus Ziebell
This trip was made in August 2003

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Among icebergs and whales with a folding kayak

The enormous icebergs pile up here, until they are pushed over a 200 meter shallow rise in the fjord. From there, they drift towards Disko Bay and the North Atlantic
  Our arrival in Kangerlussuaq, around midday, is greeted by brilliant sunshine. Nevertheless, our connecting flight to Ilulissat is delayed by nearly two hours because of fog. The Greenland Air >Dash 7< has already aborted two attempts to land in Ilulissat this morning, due to dense fog there. So by the time we finally leave, the machine is packed. We're lucky, and when we're about 50 meters from the ground, the fog allows us a glimpse of the runway, and we are able to land. Ilullisat, which is situated on Greenland's west coast, is known for its nearly 12-kilometer long ice fjord. But due to the huge ice masses that drift right before this coast, dense fog constantly forms, and may shroud Disko Bay for days or even weeks at a time.
The Danish building style dominates in Uummannaq, as anywhere else in Greenland, and due to the lack of soil, its colourful wooden houses all have concrete bases that are built directly onto the rocks.
  We're lucky with the weather, and we use the following two sunny days to prepare both our continuing journey by ship, and our planned kayak tour. The regular service ship routinely sails up the west coast to Upernavik. In the summer months, it is an alternative to the helicopter, which is commonly used in Greenland. After our ship has departed, we sit in the evening sun for a long time, and let Disko Island and countless icebergs glide past us. In the morning, the weather changes again, the temperature has dropped to 6 degrees Celsius, and it is drizzling as we approach our final destination. Also on bord are the members of the Uummannaq football team, who have reached second place at the Greenland championships, and are now being feted enthusiastically by the population as we enter the port.
  Most of the hill slopes are utterly without vegetation. The sparse plant life can only survive in the few sheltered bays. But even here, the grasses and shrubs seldom grow higher than ankle-deep.
  Uummannaq's official camping site can be found just outside town, close to a small lake. Unfortunately, there are no sanitary facilities, and there is no room among the naked rocks for more than a two-man tent. On this island, there are very few spaces between the rocks where enough soil can accumulate to allow a few sparse grasses to grow. All the houses have concrete foundations that are built directly onto the rocks.

The next day, it is dryer, and gradually, in the course of the day, the fog lifts. We go to the harbourmaster early, and wonder whether our folding kayak has survived the long journey by ship from Aarlborg. Without any problems or bureaucracy, we retrieve our boat, and are even able to leave our wooden crate that we need for the return journey with the harbourmaster for the duration of our paddling tour. While I start putting together the boat, Steffi raids the well-stocked local supermarket and gathers our supplies. Suddenly, three long boats emerge from the fog. They are kayaks, although not linen-covered Inuit kayaks, but two fibreglass boats and one Feathercraft folding kayak. After a short conversation in English, it turns out that Doris and Matthias are from Schleswig in Germany, and their companion is from Herne. This is a good opportunity to pick up some relevant information that might come in handy for planning our trip. The weather seems to be more changeable than usual this year. The three of them have been stuck in a storm for several days. In the afternoon, when the fog has almost gone, we say good-bye, climb into our heavily loaded Klepper, and paddle south towards Nussuaq Peninsula. There, we find one of the rare camp sites in high grass next to a small stream
  At a length of up to 25 meters, the fin whale is one of the largest whales, after the blue whale. Because fin whales belong to the baleen whales, which only eat plankton, they don't look upon us kayakers as prey. Still, a sudden movement by the whale could get our little boat into serious trouble.
  The fishermen's refuges are fixed to the rocks by steel cables, and show that the calm can be deceptive here. But luck is on our side, and as early as the next day, we are treated to one of the most impressive spectacles that nature has to offer. Already from far away, we can hear the repetitive gushers and mists of an enormous ocean mammal.
It is rare for this area to be so free of ice as to make it possible to ride all the way to the two glaciers by boat.

AAs we draw near, whe recognize two fin whales swimming up and down in front of the bay, hoovering up krill, which the water is teeming with here, and filtering it through a set of thin plates in their mouths, known as baleen. They aren't bothered by our presence, and so the two animals swim past us only a few meters away, close enough for us to catch a whiff of their fishy breath.

We continue our journey east, and the ice fields increase. We pass by numerous 30- to 40-meter-high white giants. As their centre of gravity is forever in danger of changing due to thawing ice, these behemoths may seek to find a more stable position in the water at any time, or even break up altogether, and we keep a safe distance. Again and again, we can hear ice breaking, but thankfully, always far away from us. At the east end of Uummannaq Fjord, there are two glacial tongues: Store Glacier and Lille Glacier.

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