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Greenland and Iceland

Getting ready to go!

Oh, my Darwin!

Julia and I are so excited about our up and coming trip to the frozen lands of Greenland and Iceland. All our plans are in place for our Greenland Scoresby Sound sailing adventure and thanks to our friend Cindy, all our plans and accommodation are set, for our Iceland hinterland tour too.

Greenland is located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans and east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though geographically it is a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for more than a thousand years. Thanks to the Vikings Greenland is specifically controlled by Norway and Denmark, as well as the nearby island of Iceland. However, most of its residents are Inuit, whose ancestors began migrating from the Canadian mainland in the 13th century, gradually settling across the island.

Greenland is the world's largest island. Australia, although larger, is generally considered to be a continental landmass rather than an island. Three-quarters of Greenland is covered by the only permanent ice sheet outside Antarctica. With a population of about 56,480 (as of 2013), it is the least densely populated country in the world. The Arctic Umiaq Line ferry acts as a lifeline for western Greenland, connecting the various cities and settlements. But, our Greenland Scoresby Sound sailing adventure takes us to the northeastern side of this frozen island to some of the remotest locations on the planet.

The animals we might see include: Polar bears, musk oxen, caribou, arctic foxes, hares, eagles, ptarmigan, lemmings and the rare Arctic wolf. Arctic wolves are found only in the most northern areas so there is not much hope of us seeing one of these wonderful creatures, but who knows.

Arctic wolf

All along the west coast, as well as, in large parts of the east coast there are herds of reindeer, which each year migrate long distances between the interior and the coast in search of food, and to reach summer calving grounds near the ice cap.

reindeer

In the interface between land and sea is the home of the polar bear, this Greenlandic white coated bear is especially common in Northern and Eastern Greenland, where it hunts from the sea ice. In Southern Greenland, it comes ashore after drifting on the sea ice from the East Coast. The Greenland polar bear hunts seals and birds and often during summer will go on shore to consume vegetation. The bears usually do not hibernate during winter.

The hen-like ptarmigan changes color between summer and winter and is always camouflaged regardless of the season, yet it can never be sure of fast-moving threats from above. The white-tailed eagle and the Greenland falcons are its formidable predators.

ptarmigan

The birds in Greenland are as varied as their names are unique. From small buntings, siskin and sparrows to guillemots, puffins, auks, terns, kittiwakes, gulls, ravens, owls, the great northern diver, the fulmar, the cormorant, the goose, the eider duck, the merganser, the sandpiper, sand runs, Turnstone, and the Arctic skua among many others.

Greenland falcons

Whales tend to steal the limelight when it comes to marine animals in Greenland, and perhaps not without reason, because they are easy to spot and are so magnificent.

Jumping humpback whales, killer whales on hunting sprees, and fast narwhals that zip in between cracks in the sea ice are just some of the whales in this remote wonderland. Other whales we might see include mink whales, beluga whales, blue whales, sperm whales, fin whales and, of course the Greenland whale.

Greenland whale

But the sea also has many seal species of which the harbor seal, the hooded seal, the bearded seal, the Greenland seal, and the polar bear's favorite food, the ringed seal, are among the most common.

Greenland seal

The walrus is the big boy in the marine class in Greenland. It can weigh up to a ton. With tusks that are up to 50 centimeters long, it's hard to miss this beast. When it is resting on an ice flow it can seem somewhat on the slow and heavy side, but in the water the walrus is an agile swimmer, mostly feeding on snails and clams.

In addition, there is a wide variety of fish and shellfish to be found in Greenland, some of the most important are cod, shrimp, crab, halibut, redfish, lumpfish, salmon and the Arctic char, coveted by anglers. They are all part of the vast Greenland food chain, which also includes human beings. I just hope, it doesn't include this human being.


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