The wild beauty of Greenland
PUBLISHED: 11:50 14 December 2018 | UPDATED: 11:52 14 December 2018
Nigel Pickover cruises past verdant icy landscapes, whales, glaciers and magnificent mountains on the trip of a lifetime
Minke whales were frolicking in the orange-tinged light of dawn, their spouts fusing into a magical mist which drifted across the rolling sea.
Ten miles from the coast of Greenland, the good ship Boudicca ploughed ever onward, having crossed nearly 1,000 miles south and west from Iceland.
Snow-capped mountains appeared to starboard, and icebergs, one the shape of a large white ship, emerged ahead, their passage driven by a pulsing tide and current.
It was an entrancing scene and I raced around Boudicca’s upper viewing deck, giddy as a child presented with a feast of wonders.
Little was I to know that one of the greatest sightseeing days of my life was only just beginning.
Soon the sea narrowed into a channel and with mountains looming either side it resembled the fjord landscape seen in Norway on the other side of North Atlantic.
We were entering one of the world’s most spectacular sea passages, Prins Christian Sund, and were lucky to be doing so in a fabulous vessel and on a day of blue skies and wispy clouds glancing the mountain tops.
I felt I was in a fairytale and thought of C.S. Lewis’s Voyage of The Dawn Treader and the scenery of the dangerous sea quest made by King Caspian, Lucy, Edmund and Eustace.
Despite a near gale-force headwind - and a late summer temperature of just 5C - ours was a chilly, but not perilous, journey.
When sightseeing on deck I was protected by a thick pullover and fleece but many more were watching the incredible sights from the warmth of the observatory lounge, through its large, plate-glass, windows.
Every so often I joined them, quickly drinking a steaming cup of hot chocolate, before returning to the crystal clear air outside to take more photographs.
I took dozens of images, a glacier here, a waterfall hundreds of feet in length, there.
One of my favourite sights was of a glacier bursting into the water, icebergs ‘calving’ or being born, every few minutes.
A sund, or sound, differs from a fjord in that there is an entrance and exit - not just a dead end - and awe-inspiring Prins Christian Sund is loved by adventurers and sightseers alike.
The joy of a ship like Fred. Olsen’s Boudicca (900 passengers, 320 crew) is that it can comfortably sail into smaller waterways and the more isolated ports.
I felt like a king of all I surveyed when on deck and alone with just the mountains and icebergs for company.
Prins Christian Sund, connecting the Labrador and Irminger seas, is 60 miles long and just 1,600 feet wide at its narrowest and we enjoyed a fine weather spectacular throughout four hours of sailing.
The highest of the mountains towered over us at over 7,000 feet - what a vantage point we had in this paradise, kept open from ice blockage by fierce tides and winds.
One moment, forever etched in my memory, was a gigantic iceberg drifting by a tiny fishing village - and utterly dwarfing it. No-one came out from the brightly-painted houses to watch, it was simply routine. To me it was simply sensational.
Greenland is a vast, sparsely-populated island, mostly above the Arctic Circle, and dominated by snow and ice apart from coastal fringes in the south.
Our visit to this autonomous territory of the Danish kingdom included visits to three small ports, the first of which was Nanortalik.
Highlight here was a visit to a tiny, wooden, community church where an Innuit choir sang in traditional dress - and beautiful harmony.
Next day Boudicca had a berth in tiny Narsarsuaq which has a population of less than 200 in winter, many more in summer when the tourists arrive for walking and climbing.
A major US air base, Bluie West One, was built here in 1941. It was a stepping stone for pilots and planes heading for the European battle zones of the Second World War and as a hospital site for US casualties.
We enjoyed a boat ride into a bay of icebergs, where we were allowed drifting, silent, moments in a world of blue and white coloured giants of all shapes and sizes.
Last port was Qaqortoq (three Q’s, no u’s) where a walking tour was followed by a traditional meal in the town’s plush hotel. This meat and fish fest included both shark and whale, which I didn’t take up!
Our 17-night trip ended with three days of cruising back to UK, including a day in Scrabster, nearest port for the pleasant town of Thurso.
This finale allowed more ‘at sea’ enjoyment of Boudicca’s facilities, three restaurants serving gourmet food, a spa and two swimming pools, a fitness suite, lounges, a card room and library.
The Neptune lounge witnessed twice nightly shows of West End standard, we enjoyed a visit and nightcap there every night.
Our trip had been to both Iceland and Greenland and we returned to Dover by a North Sea route.
In total we sailed an incredible 4,253 miles, Boudicca and her ever-smiling staff, behaving impeccably.
The trip was both a joy and a triumph and stylishly fulfilled a lifetime’s ambition of sailing to both these faraway Northern locations.