The destination for my expedition cruise wasn’t somewhere over the rainbow, but it may as well have been. As I flew towards my destination in Greenland, named by Eric the Red, I looked down on a continuum of white ice-cap that covers the vast majority of this, the birthplace of icebergs. To enhance this chromatic mosaic I spent seven days under a canopy of glistening blue sky.
I caught my first glimpse of Prince Albert II as the Air Greenland Airbus made its approach to the long runway at Kangerlussuaq. This international gateway – formerly known as Sondre Stromfjord – was built by the US Army after Denmark fell to Germany in 1941.
The naturalists and guides were on hand to ensure we reached our rugged terrain transport that took us the short distance to the tiny pier where we had our first encounter with the ship’s eight Zodiacs, which ferried us to this most indulgent of expedition ships. Later that afternoon, as we navigated the 60 nautical miles from Kangerlussuaq to the sea, I met my fellow cruisers – budding David Attenboroughs one and all.
Before dinner, expedition leader Robin West introduced his multi-talented team: Claudia Holgate, an ornithologist who also specialises in physical geography; marine historian Susan Langley who lectures in archaeology; naturalist Chris Srigley; professional photographer and marine-life guru Rob Suisted; and botanist Toby Musgrave.
Liaising for German-speaking guests was Christian Walter, who lives on Easter Island but has spent five seasons on expedition ships, as well as botanist and terrestrial ecologist Hans-Peter Reinthaler. Supplementing this impressive line-up was Nicky D’Souza, staff administrative assistant and guide, and Richard Sidey, a nature photographer who accompanies all expeditions to compile a DVD for passengers as well as contributing stunning images to the daily ‘Voyage Journal’ that’s posted on the Silversea Cruises’ website.
For centuries, visitors to Greenland have been attracted to the narrow strip of inhabitable land between the vast ice-cap and the often tempestuous Davis Strait.
Eric the Red arrived in AD 982 having been exiled from Norway for two murders and then similarly banished from Iceland.
The Vikings’ first organised immigration took place in AD 985.
The Danes reached this, the world’s largest island, in 1476 but were persuaded to leave by the native Inuit who described them as “Greenlander pirates in small boats without keels.”
A century later, Martin Frobisher arrived and took possession in the name of the English Queen.
The Danes considered this an infringement of their interests, but it wasn’t until the 18th century Danish Colonialists arrived and the first Governor of Greenland was appointed by the Danish Crown.
In 1979, Denmark granted home rule to the least densely populated country in the world.
The following morning, after my eyes became accustomed to the monochromatic vista of mist and waves, the sun appeared and our first destination of Sisimuit bombarded my senses with a symphony of colour.
The bleakness of the Kaellingehaetten Mountain was relieved by the brightness of the houses draped across the steep rocky hillside, while wild flowers such as purple harebell added to the vivid pastiche.
As in all our landings, a scout boat went out shortly after dropping anchor to check conditions for the Zodiacs. Once these had been ascertained, i.e. wet or dry landing, onto a pontoon or beach, the disembarkation began. We were divided into four groups by nationality to ease transfer from ship to shore.
With 5,965 inhabitants, Sisimuit is the second largest town in Greenland. Lying 48 miles inside the Arctic Circle it is also the nation’s northernmost year-round ice-free port.