Exercise Midnight Sun - Greenland 2008

Monday 25th August


We awoke to a still but crisp morning, frost lay on the tents and across the ground.  After a breakfast of porridge/muesli mix cooked by Sarah and Ian, we packed up the camp, loaded the boats and paddled into the glass calm waters of the fjord.

The sun shone, and there was not a cloud in the sky, we paddled in awe of our surroundings without a care in the world. 


The VHF radio crackled into life, with the 2 mountaineering groups seeing if they could see each other from neighboring summits.  The temptation to send the message, ‘we are on the water, you can’t miss us, we are the ones in the kayaks !’ was there but we managed to restrain ourselves.  We spared a thought for the mountaineers, (albeit very brief as it was there own silly fault for choosing to do it!) busting up the hill to bag another peak and take advantage of the weather as we gently glided along the glassy surface of the fjord.    


We finally found a lovely sheltered bay and set up camp, Chris, Sarah and Matt headed off to the island opposite us to collect the rations and fuel resup that Anders had left for us earlier that day.  The rest of us set up tents and sat in the sun.


The temptation was too great with such lovely weather, and Steve, Ian and Sarah braved the freezing waters and went for a swim ! well if you can call; a quick dive, 1 stroke, lots of shouting and gasping and then getting out rather swiftly, a swim.  Taking advantage of being wet, they all had a good needed wash, Sarah even shaving her legs ! Bruce and Chris decided that a more reserved approach was more appropriate and settled for just a little wash.


Quite how Chris managed to find his towel is beyond anyone, he seems to be able to have something 1 minute, put it down and then spend the next 10 minutes looking for it again ! It must be his age.


Sunday 24th August


Bright sunshine, no wind, today looked like it was going to be another perfect continuation of yesterday afternoon.  We left the campsite, after Matt and Bruce finally got up, muttering something about a Sunday lye-in !  The fjord was nice and calm so we made a dash for the southern shore, about halfway across the wind gently started to fluff the waves up for us, to keep us entertained !  After a leg stretch on a beach, we filled our water carriers from a stream and continued round to navigate around the many islands which sit at the mouth of the fjord.  When the sun went in, a stark reminder of our location came in the form of an icy breeze. 


We meandered amongst the islands looking for a suitable landfall for the night, but to no avail.  We rounded the last island and headed back into the fjord itself.  At this point a few of the group went a little quiet as the seas were confused and the wind blew with earnest.  The swell grew to around 3-4’ and the icy breeze continued.  We finally found a little beach and with relief we safely got everyone ashore.  The spot was well sheltered from the wind whistling down the fjord so we made camp.


As with everyday, the views are breathtaking, we only have a couple of days paddling left and it will be heartbreaking to leave this fantastic unspoiled wilderness.  We haven’t showered for well over a week and the only washes we have had are in the freezing breeze, but it doesn’t seem to matter.  I haven’t had a beer, or a steak, but that doesn’t seem to matter either, although I know once we leave this beautiful environment and return to Britain, it will be quite high on the list ! 


Saturday 23rd August


23augWe awoke to drizzle and light winds, but we were nestled in a very sheltered bay, following breakfast a walk to the top of the hill overlooking the fjord confirmed a f4 out on the open water with white horses breaking on almost every wave top.  Fresh icebergs flowed on the tide from Glacier Bay.  So frustrated we returned to our tents for potentially another day pinned in by the weather.


At 1100 the sun finally broke through the cloud and the wind seemed to drop a little.  Another trip to the top of the hill confirmed that it was now or never.  We quickly packed the kit and were on the water just as the wind returned.  As we headed out into the fjord the swell was approaching 2’ and we hacked upwind, hugging the northern shore, the cold wind biting through.  Our goal of Iggimasak camp seemed to arrive a little soon and didn’t look overly inviting so we pressed on.  People began to settle into the harsh conditions’ which was a good job as the sides of the fjord were unendingly vertical making landfall impossible.  We finally found a shallow beach and had a long awaited leg stretch. 


As we stretched and relaxed on the rocks the wind suddenly dropped and the sun shone.  Within minutes the fjords choppy waters settled and became picture postcard beautiful.  If after today we paddled no more it didn’t matter, it was the most perfect conditions, still and relatively warm in the afternoon sun.  There was talk amongst the group of paddling until it gets dark (which takes quite a while over here !) we finally found a suitable plot of land in a bay and set up camp. 


Chris and Steve headed straight back out into the bay and caught 3 halibut and 2 cod for our supper.  Meanwhile the rest of the team collected firewood for tonight’s episode of Greenland television.


Friday 22nd August


Location: Bay  South West of Glacier Bay !


Despite our prayers yesterday to awake to bright sunshine and no wind, somehow it didn’t quite pay off.  We were faced with much the same, rattling flysheets and the pitter patter of rain.  Ho hum, onwards and upwards.  The wind was blowing in the wrong direction, making the target of ‘no name bay’ a non starter.  Instead we headed back down the fjord towards Glacier Bay. 


As the wind was blowing in the direction of travel we promptly rafted up and used the emergency shelter as a sail to propel us.  Although we made 4 km/h the wind soon dropped and we were getting rather cold not exercising, so we broke raft and returned to the more traditional paddle power. 


Once at the intersection of the fjord, where Ice Camp Bay, Glacier Bay, The Home Straight and Evighedsfjorden meet, the winds were very confused and the sea became……more challenging ! we then needed to cross the fjord in order to reach our destination.  This passage seemed to take forever, with the distant shore of the fjord remaining almost unreachable.  Eventually the concerned faces of some changed to that of relief as we finally cruised into the bay. 


Reaching the shore, as there was a stream in the bay to provide us with fresh water and some nice, albeit small, flat areas of moss to pitch the tents, it became our home for the night.  Steve and Pete sort ‘bay view’ pitches to escape the snore chorus.  Bruce decided to test the temperature of the bays crystal water as he exited his kayak and promptly fell in ! Faced with only compo rations for evening meal, Steve volunteered to embark on a fishing trip whilst Matt made the shelter for the kitchen.  Everyone else made a beeline for their beds for an afternoon knap.  Steve returned from his hunting expedition with only cold hands to show for it.  Despite catching an ‘ugly fish’ which he put back in the hope of some cod accompanying it, he was grumbling something about fish that weren’t hungry.  Thankfully Matt was sat in his magnificent kitchen he had built with a pan of boiling water to provide a life thawing brew for him. 


Various foot patrols were made in to the surrounding hills by members of the group.  Chris found that the peak overlooking our campsite had another slightly higher one just behind it, which he found had…..another slightly larger one behind it, so decided to give up on the rambling malarkey and returned to being a kayaker and went to bed.  Ian climbed hills on the other side of the bay and took a camera with him for a picture of the site.  He walked so far he looked only a few inches tall by the time he got to the top we only spotted him when the flash of the camera went off, quite what good that did the photo remains to be seen.


So evening meal was compo rations although everyone seemed to find a sachet of ‘chocolate pudding in chocolate sauce’ to lift their spirits on another damp evening, after a hard days paddle.


Thursday 21st August 08


21augPosition: the same as yesterday.  During the night a deep depression descended and the ensuing wind and rain confined us to the tents.   Winds are howling up the fjord force 4 to 5 and gusting force 6 in the numerous squalls.  Pete’s tent nearly lifted off and only the desperate measures of him laid against the windward side kept it from taking off.  Steve took pity on him during a very early morning constitution patrol, by pilling rocks on his flailing guy lines.  Steve was yet again first out of bed, his tent being in a sheltered hollow, hadn’t realized the gusting winds, everyone else was hunkered down, enduring the brunt of the storm.  He realized his mistake but guilt drove him to provide a breakfast in bed service for those not so fortunately situated. 


Chris got on the sat phone to report the weather situation in our corner of the wilderness as being ‘wet & windy’ only to be happily informed that advance base camp at Tassiusaq bay were enduring the same.  The plans to advance up the fjord to ‘no name bay’ will have to be put in the tray marked ‘pending’!


So life in the tents……Pete, Matt and Steve contemplate life itself in their solo existences, willed on by ipod and reading books.  Chris and Bruce were separated in task, Chris working his Olympic training schedule toward the ‘Golden Blanket Award’ for sleep and matters relating.  He occasionally grunted, awoke and looked outside, claiming that he had a feeling a cruise liner was sat in the fjord, whose passengers would take pitty on the British explorers and bear gifts of fresh fruit and vegetables.  Bruce meanwhile endured the snoring walrus next to him and read Hosseini’s ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’, dreaming of warmer pastures.  Which leaves Ian and Sarah, Ian not his usual ‘Juke Box’ self allowed the tent to remain in relative quiet whilst Sarah attempted to take Chris on for the ‘Golden Blanket’.


1600 saw a collection of thoughts and lots of stroking of unshaven chins…minus Sarah ! Looking through the haze, the target of ‘no name bay’ appears to protected by katabatic winds rolling off the glaciers resulting in unsettled waters exceeding our safety remit in this remote environment.  The biggest medical facility for a 100 mile radius being Matt the expedition doctor and a med pack back at our advanced base camp location so we are erring on the side of caution in everything we do.  So it looks like another wander around for driftwood to fuel the Greenland equivalent of ‘television’, our sole entertainment for the evening, bar our tall tales of paddling excess.