Timmiarmiut, (ocean) realm of the polar bears in East Greenland

Pantaenius client Jørgen Sommer has sent us this account of his journey.

“Slow down, slow down! There’s a polar bear swimming right astern, only one-and-a-half metres away!” Those were the words shouted by the euphoric crew of four, aboard our Aquador 25 C. This was our fourth encounter with polar bears in the space of two days in this ice-ridden area. The ice is partly perennial salt-water sea ice flowing from the North Pole region down past the coast of East Greenland, and partly enormous freshwater icebergs, produced by the numerous glaciers from the Greenland Ice Sheet in the area that calve directly into the sea.

We are at latitude 62°38’N, having sailed more than 600 km south from our home port of Tasiilaq, latitude 65°37’N, formerly the Ammassalik area. The original goal of the journey was to reach Skjoldungen, a settlement abandoned in the 1950s. Close to this area are amazing and undisturbed rivers packed with giant trout. Within a day or so, you can easily fill up your trout stores with enough fish to enable many families to make it through the impending winter. This was the main objective of the journey. Every three or four years, you might also be fortunate enough to be able to sail through the field ice a further 100 km south to Timmiarmiut, a former weather station which is now abandoned.

We sailed in three boats, and the crews all had personal associations with many of the abandoned settlements that we passed on our way, which for those of us who had ‘only’ been in Greenland for close on three years (nurse/visiting nurse), it added quite a unique dimension to the journey, filled with stories and personal memories. One of the crew had grown up near the weather station and had many memories, not least because the very dry and freezing Greenland climate prevents wooden houses and other structures from rotting. Life back then was tough and extremely isolated.

The polar bears, seals and arctic foxes here were more curious than shy, and it was obvious that they have very little contact with human beings. For us, this meant fantastic pictures of polar bears and ample supplies of seal meat for dinner! We headed north again for Skjoldungen and fished solidly for a day and a half. The trout was cleaned and packed in blue plastic barrels mixed with ice, which was available in abundance, of course. The bay around Skjoldungen has its own dramatic scenery with glaciers calving at a height of 700-800 m, crashing steeply and thunderously into the water and causing the air to be filled with particles of splintered ice, almost like snow. After about 15 minutes, everything calms down, the blue sky dominating once again with a visibility of more than 100 km!

Having caught our trout, all that remained for us was to head north and sail back home as quickly as possible. This went smoothly until the last approx. 150 km, when a belt blew in the engine of one of the boats and it had to be towed the final stretch. This demonstrated how important it is never to embark on a trip like this alone and without being accompanied by people who know the area and the conditions. After all, we are talking about sailing through an area full of field ice and icebergs, which in itself is a recipe for many problems (and experiences), but when you add the big North Atlantic swell to the mix, you have the makings of a very dangerous cocktail. Our boat, an Aquador 25 C with a 230 HP Volvo Penta inboard engine with engine leg, performed admirably as there are no supply opportunities on the way. Today, only around 3,500 people inhabit the length of the East Greenland coast, which says something about the living conditions and how unspoiled the nature is here. It is an amazing experience.