Qaqortoq (pronounced kwa-kor-tuk).
The morning was a little cloudy and overcast, but that went away pretty early, and we ended up with a beautiful and sunny day – cool enough for jackets, but very comfortable. From the ship, we could see that Qaqortoq is a charming port. The seawater is a deep aqua blue and very calm. There was one iceberg visible from the ship, but we were never close enough to it to experience it. The blue, red, green, purple, pink, and yellow houses and buildings of the town are arranged at every angle and every place where a flat enough space can be found to build them. They go from the shore up the sides of the mountains almost to the top. On such a beautiful day, the town makes an attractive scene. Given the variety of colors, I suspect that it would be striking on a snowy day as well. The parts of the mountains that we can see from the ship are just big brown rocks with greenery filling the cracks and fissures. This is a tender port, so we anchored out in the bay and had a 10-minute ride into the small, but cute harbor, which had several fishing boats and a crane busily moving shipping containers from one place to another.
We left the tender in what seemed to be the middle of town and started walking along the main road. Cars kept whizzing by, but I wouldn’t say it was anything like “traffic.” We found the town fountain, which was situated in the middle of a paved area, although we couldn’t call it a plaza really because there weren’t any buildings to frame it. Actually, all of the buildings just seemed to be randomly placed in relation to each other, some fronting on a street, but many not. There seemed to be no attempt at landscaping anywhere, either around the homes or around the public buildings. However, everywhere we walked, we couldn’t get over the abundance of wildflowers. We found a grocery store and went inside to see what Greenlanders eat. It was just like every other grocery store, except that they offered whale in the meat department. We didn’t look at prices but understand that everything here is very expensive.
We returned to the tender dock and kept walking towards the other end of town. We passed another grocery store and an old folks’ home and found a helipad at the end of the street. The helicopter is what connects Qaqortoq with the rest of the world. On our return to the town center, we stopped at a roadside bench and ate our lunch (cheese sandwiches from the ship) and sat for a while trying to realize that we were in Greenland. At one point, an old, toothless, indigenous man joined us on the bench, and we exchanged comments about how nice the day was. That was a challenge since we didn’t speak each other’s language. After he left, we returned to the ship. We really didn’t know what to expect of Greenland, but we have been impressed. The cars are mostly old and battered (mostly Toyotas, some Suzukis), but the native people we saw seemed to be friendly and not poor. Buildings and homes seem to be well maintained. I thought it was interesting that the local artisans were offering souvenirs made mostly of rock (jewelry, carved figures). They’re making good use of their most abundant resource.
Cruising Prince Christian Sound.
The next day started sunny and bright; cold enough for jackets but not windy or unpleasant. It was to be a day of cruising Prince Christian Sound, which is the waterway between mainland Greenland and its southern islands. From the forward decks we watched as the ship proceeded between islands and the mainland, through a maze of channels and fjords and an azure sea. The mountains here are sharply pointed and very tall – I think about 4,000 feet or so above the level of the sea. They are mostly grey and brown, with greenery attached to everything that’s not bare rock. We saw ice fields and glaciers frequently, usually with waterfalls cascading from them down to the sea. We passed a number of icebergs, some close enough so that we could see the submerged parts, which had bubbles rising from them to the surface. We saw seals lounging on the icebergs, and later in the morning we watched as a couple of whales surfaced, spouted, swam along for a while, then dove again, leaving us with the familiar image of their tails as the last visible token of their presence.
As the unusually beautiful day progressed, we were told by several people in the know that our weather was most unusual. Normally, there is fog, rain, and cold, so we were really lucky. In the crystal air, we could appreciate the different kinds of mountains; not all were pointy; some were rounded over and looked like huge bumpy pillows. We continued to see icebergs all day, but most of them were small. In a couple of spots, the glaciers came right down to the water’s edge and looked like they were going to start calving at any moment. Today’s sights are some of the most beautiful we have ever seen. As soon as we left the sound and moved into the open ocean, the sky became overcast and we entered fog again, in stark contrast to the rest of the day.