(From 15 August 2012)
Greetings from 60*43’20”N 46*02’25” W.
I am on Day 2 of my eight-day/seven-night adventure on Sarfaq Ittuk, the coastal ferry operated by Arctic Umiaq Line that goes up and down the west coast of Greenland between Qaqortoq in the south and Ilulissat in the north. We have reached the southernmost town on the line, Qaqortoq. The whole trip from end to end is actually only 80 hours (3 nights) but I am doing the equivalent of two full trips. My itinerary is:
- Tuesday 14 August at 13.00 – board ferry in Nuuk (middle point, headed southbound)
- Wednesday 15 August at 23.59 – arrive in Qaqortoq (southernmost point)
- Thursday 16 August at 07.00 – depart Qaqortoq (headed northbound)
- Sunday 19 August at 13.00 – arrive in Ilulissat (northernmost point)
- Sunday 19 August at 16.30 – depart Ilulissat (headed southbound)
- Tuesday 21 August at 07.30 – disembark ferry in Nuuk
I am on board Sarfaq Ittuk to conduct interviews with tourists so this is a business trip, but as this is a brand new experience for me (like almost everything else in Greenland), it is hard not to have fun while doing it! Every five minutes I look out the window and see something that I want to run up to the deck to photograph!
For instance, this morning it was foggy almost the whole way from Paamiut to Arsuk, but in Greenland even the fog can be captivating! In the morning, I stood on deck at the back of the ship for close to an hour because I simply could not pull myself away. The only word to describe the feeling was eerie! I was the only one out there, and the fog was so thick and enveloping that you could hardly see 100 meters (300 feet or so) past the ship. You certainly could not see land even though it was just right there! The only sounds were the constant hum of the ship and the rhythmic sloshing of the waves. Sarfaq Ittuk means the sound the current makes against the boat, so I would say the ship has the perfect name! Every now and then a large iceberg would go silently by, although most were very small and almost transparent, as if only a few more hours needed to pass before they melted and disappeared completely. The best part about the morning was a fantastic fog bow over the water. Now, I have been told a time or two that I have a wild imagination, but I couldn’t help getting lost in a daydream while standing out on the deck. I was one of the last humans on the planet, and there was just the water, the fog, and the fog bow. And me! There was no concept of time or space or anything, and I was not specifically on a boat or in the water. I was just… there.
This whole experience of life on a ship and coming into ports that I have never seen before makes me feel a little bit like an explorer from a time past! What must the Icelandic Vikings and other explorers have thought when they saw Greenland for the first time? When they discovered that people lived all along the coast here? I must admit that it was a cruise tourist who said something in an interview to make me think about this perspective. He said that he prefers to see a country for the first time by ship rather than by airplane because it is a different understanding. He could not quite articulate what he wanted to say, but I think he must have shared my same sentiment of exploration!
My room on Sarfaq Ittuk is very nice; I have my own personal Cabin on the third deck close to the Café Sarfaq. It is quite like a simple hotel room but with a more efficient use of space. This is a ship, after all! When I first walked into the room, I had a strong sense of nostalgia. The room felt just like the cabins on the Amtrak Auto Train that I took several times as a child with my family between Northern Virginia and Disney World in Orlando, Florida. As a child, the first thing I wanted to do on the train was see what was behind every door, flick all the switches, and test all the features! I had to resist the urge to do all of that when I got on board Sarfaq Ittuk! The beds stow during the day to create a nice seating area; there is a little table for playing cards as well as a desk; the bathroom is compact but functional; and there are multiple electrical outlets and even wireless internet for purchase! All in all, not the worst way to spend seven nights!