Read Peregrine expedition leader David "Woody" Wood's fascinating account of his recent Svalbard, East Greenland and Iceland voyage:
Sailing across to East Greenland we had calm seas and light winds - an auspicious start to the second stanza of our voyage.
A calm sea provided great whale spotting opportunities, and our bridge watch could see many whale blows ahead and to the side of the ship. We interrupted our educational presentations with the excited announcement, and gathered to watch from the decks. We were rewarded with many minke whales, some of which breached to mark our passing. Humpbacks aplenty were seen fluking and some vigorous pectoral fin slapping was also seen. We also saw fin whales, the second largest whale species. Needless to say we were all abuzz.
Inside the maze
We could see ice on the horizon, a shimmering white line which we drew nearer to. The ice along the east coast of Greenland was shifting down and it blocked our path. But we skirted its edge and eventually made our way in. The ice gleamed and shone but soon the trap was shut on us by fog, making navigation ever more challenging as we searched for a way through.
Eventually the fog lifted and the ice band was revealed. We were now within a large field with no obvious exit. As we made our way to dinner the question was how to get out or through the ice and how long it would take.
Realm of the bear
But these calculations were all incidental when a young polar bear on a kill was sighted on a bloody floe. Dinner was abandoned as the ship was skillfully positioned to view this icon of the north. We had arrived in the icy realm of the bear and we were incredibly fortunate to witness one at his high table. After his dining was complete and the bear moved away to rest we started looking for a path through the ice to the west.
Our bridge watch scanned all ice for any life and soon a black nose rose above some hummocked sea ice on a large floe off on the starboard side. "Polar bear starboard!" was the excited call, and the officer and helmsman shifted course and slowed the ship. As we gently eased closer there was the mother bear and two juvenile noses peeking over the ice to gaze at our ship. We stopped and the current drew us nearer as the mother and cubs played and eventually came to rest.
After such success, now we needed to simply get through the ice. Still sixty nautical miles from the entrance to Scorsebysund and with only four days to spend there, for the expedition team it was a cause for a little concern. We were sailing at 11/2 knots through 7-9/10 ice cover and it was almost midnight. But soon the ice started to loosen and it began clearing.
We entered Scoresbysund and a revised plan was formulated. On the northern side of the Fjord we entered Hurry Inlet planning a walk.
Friends in high places
As we sailed down the Fjord, we heard a familiar and strong Australian voice hailing the ship: "Vavilov Vavilov Dutch!" In serendipitous fashion we had met a friend and colleague on his own private expedition in a "Livingstone I presume moment" in the Arctic! We met on the beach and Dutch (or some know him as David Willmott) told us his kayaking expedition was going well. We headed off on our walk and he and his expedition kayaked away.
What an astonishing few days we had shared. Whales, bears, an icy maze and trap which we entered and passed respectfully and then meeting a friend from Melbourne in the largest fjord complex in the world. Incredible!
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