Rúnar Óli Karlsson

Aurora goes to Greenland

After long discussions, it was finally time to head West to to the promised land, Greenland. The drift ice from the North had been unusally dense this summer but the latest forecast from the Danish Meterology Institute, looked promising. No ice was supposed to be to the South of Scoresby Sound, the shortest distance across (180nm) from Isafjordur Iceland. We left at 18:00 from Isafjordur against 20knots of headwind doing 4-5 knots. After about four hours, we saw the sun setting in the West with Gannets diving from high in the air. Quite a magnificent sight. We were four in the crew; captain Sigurdur Jonsson (Siggi), Runar Karlsson (that´s me), Smari Karlsson his brother and Asgeir Sigurdsson (Geiri), the brother´s nephew. We changed shifts during the night and did three hours per shift. Me and my brother together and then Siggi and Geiri. The night passed pretty fast and we were still making quite good mileage despite the headwind.

In the morning the wind changed to SW about 17-20 knots and we gained speed, doing 8 knots and we started to burn miles quite fast. The sunrise was beautiful and we saw some dolphins playing in the wake.

Around noon, we spotted the first ice. Huge blocks in the beginning but when we got closer, smaller pieces started to appear above the horizon. The first mountain we saw was Mt. Einar Mikkejlsen and soon more mountains started to appear though the coast was still 100 miles away. Siggi made us some nice traditional Icelandic meat soup for dinner that Sir Robin Knox-Johnston called Irish stew after having tasted it last summer in Iceland. Then the wind died for few hours but picked up again in the evening for a while.

The mountains of East Greenland kept getting bigger every hour and we started to see the entrance of d´Aunay Bugt which was our destination. We slowed down the speed when more ice started to appear and we were making slow progress. The weather was excellent for navigation between the frosen water blocks, blue sky starting to turn red in the evening and hardly any wind. After sunset the landscape changed dramatically. The big ice bergs became blue and made strange sounds when the small waves hit them. The small pieces made beautiful silhouettes against the red sky in the North. Seals jumped of the ledges of the flat ice bits and where very curious about our travels. Looking out from the stern, the sky and the sea became one and it looked like the ice bergs where floating in the void with the moon adding even more drama to the scene. Smari didn´t think much of this and said he had been to Denmark before! Though Greenland is under Danish rule it doesn´t mean that the landscape is the same…

About 12 miles from the coast it became clear that we were not going to make it to d´Aunay Bugt. The ice was attached to the land and it was time to make some decisions. Siggi went to the navigation room and looked at the maps. Finally he came up with another anchorage described in the pilot book written by Mr. Willy Ker who we met the week before in Isafjordur (Willy is 82 and still sails alone all over the world in his small 26ft yacht!). The place we would hopefully call our home for a while was Høst Havn or Autumn Harbour. It was about 10 miles to the north of our previous destination. We navigated slowly but steadily through the late night and finally made our anchor at around nine in the morning of 16. August.

After a well earned nap, we decided to move the boat a bit since were in the middle of the iceberg highway, with ice of different shapes and sizes coming too close. Now it was finally time to put out the Zodiak and head towards shore. It was a small step for mankind but a big leap for Borea Adventures when we reached the shore. Ten steps inland and two minutes of experience, we decided this was not the best place to be! Big polar bear marks in the gravel didn´t look very promising since we didn´t have a rifle.

Still we decided to stroll on the beach for a while but kept our eyes sharp looking in all directions if Teddy decided to make a visit. After photoshoot, we took the Zodiak for a spin and crawled up to one of the icebergs and then headed back to Aurora. Or did we?

Smari has a different version of the story to tell. Over to you Smari: “Nevertheless, Smari, always the heroic one, one who thrives on challenges and danger didn´t take no for an answer. “We will not surrender”, he said, “if the polar bear is out there we will confront him and kill him” Armed with only few stones and the utmost willpower he strolled into the wilderness, leaving Geiri and Runar amazed by his courage, if not clear death wish. Geiri and Runar took the Zodiac back to Aurora while watching Smari stroll over the hill shouting “come on you bastard, give me your best shot.” When we came back to the boat we informed captain Siggi what had happened and he was strucked by Smari´s actions “Is he a madman or is he a true hero, a viking?”, the captain kept asking himself. Siggi had meatsoup ready and we ate it in silence, still shocked by what had happened. Will we ever see him again, is he dead by now were among the questions we asked ourselves. When we were finishing the soup, we heard something approaching the boat. At first we thought it might be another boat but that was highly unlikely, we went out on deck and saw an eerie white figure which left trail of blood in its wake. At first we thought it was the polar bear but as the figure kept approaching it became clear it was not Teddy. Pale with fear the crew gathered all the emergency flares and Siggi ordered Runar to fire the first flare, fortunately he missed by a feet or so. The resulting screams from the water at first were mistaken for the booming sound of an enraged animal but were in fact the commanding voice of Smari ordering us to stop shooting and fix him a stiff whiskey. Smari´s extraordinary hunting skills had shone through as he caught the bear by surprise whilst clearing out the B:/ drive, so to speak, and strangled it. Afterwards he had flayed the animal using only his “bear” hands and teeth and worn the pelt while swimming back to the boat”. Good story Smari but maybe you´d had too much whiskey before you wrote this story!

But we did have the meat soup leftovers when we came back. Reheated meat soup is considered better than after the first cooking. It´s hard to beat beer, meat soup and Lynyrd Skynyrd in the stereo anchored in a remote fjord in Greenland.

The morning after was bright and shiny. It was time to head back to Isafjordur. The ice didn´t look as thick as when we came in to the fjord, so we decided to spend some time shooting pictures. We unloaded the Zodiak and Runar went out with the cameras. After about two hours motoring from the coast, we spotted thin layer of fog. Going between the icebergs in the fog can be a bit tricky but we just took our time and everything went well. When the night settled and the wind picked up, we were tempted to used the sails. Going 8-9 miles with the wind blowing 15-20 knots from the SW in the fog and dusk, became too much when we saw a big field of icebergs approaching on the Radar screen. So we took down the sails and slowed our speed. That was more or less the last icebergs we saw on the trip and the rest of the trip was nice sailing all the way to the Isafjardardjup Bay. A great but short trip to Greenland was over. Next summer will be even more exciting when we´ll go on a 12 day expedition to the East coast of Greenland doing sea kayaking and hiking in the mountains. Hope to see you there.