Too Much of a Good Thing?

We’re now in Ittoqqortoormiit. Well, we’re in the small cove above which the colorfully painted wood houses that constitute Ittoqqortoormiit are perched. They cling to this rocky land that the world forgot. Third World? Forget it; we’re talkin’ 10th World. We are off the map here, for sure. Actually, there was cell-phone coverage in the bay so maybe it’s not so 10th World after all. But why anyone would live out here is beyond me…and I love far-out places. But this is on-the-edge living in a good year; a particularly long winter must be brutal.

We made our way in this morning, weaving for a couple of hours through ice floes of all imaginable sizes and shapes. Only a few big, proper ice bergs — and they were on the outer edge, out near the open water of Scoresby Sund — but there were plenty of boat-killing pieces of ice. Slow going, with hand signals relayed from the bow to the helmsman at the wheel.

Once in open water close to the village, we had an open-air lunch in the cockpit. The sun shone brightly from a bright, clear, blue sky, with the only clouds down over the land south of the fjord, and it was, in all seriousness, comfortably warm enough, despite the presence of ice all around us.

Following lunch, Boy Wonder, Marlies and the two guests went ashore in the dinghy for a bit of exploration. Boogie and I were going to go after they returned but while the landing party was ashore, the tide and a light breeze started moving the pack of ice into the little cove. Boogie had to keep Polar Bear moving around the western edge of the bay to keep the boat clear and the shore party were summoned back.

They returned and now we’re headed back out to Scoresby Sund. Slowly. The ice has indeed funneled into the bay that links Ittoqqortoormiit’s cove with the fjord, so Boy Wonder was hoisted into the spreaders, from which he can get the bigger picture of leads in the ice and relay directions to the helm via radio.

The ice continues to be the amazing factor in our recent experiences. The varied shapes they adopt — shapes that change based on the light, our position in relationship to the ice, the ice’s position in the water — are every bit a driver for the imagination as a sky full of puffy white clouds. One large berg recently evolved from a schnauzer puppy in a shoe to a castle out of Sleeping Beauty to a horse to a whale’s diving tail…all in the space of a few minutes.

And the underwater shapes of the ice floes, now visible with the sun shining high overhead, has been equally fascinating — but with the sinister overtones of what that below-the-waterline ice can do to unwary ships (think: Titanic). An innocuous flat pan of white ice can sport a jagged, knife-edged underwater blade that extends well out from its above-water perimeter. An unsuspecting boat might pass too near the floe and into peril, but with the overhead sun the cold-blue protrusion glows and winks as a natural work of art visible to the boat steering just out of the danger zone.

Not that we were in any real danger. Polar Bear’s steel hull can handle most of the ice in this bay. Even the really serious underwater lances would likely just bounce and groan and push Polar Bear in opposition of the force exerted by the boat’s motion. But there are a handful of major-league icebergs that we would have had to give wide berth to — as did the 125-foot steel tourist cruise ship that left shortly after we arrived in Ittoqqortoormiit, leaving as the tide ushered the thickening ice back in behind it.

It’s not like we would have gotten stuck in that thickening ice if we hadn’t left a little while ago…at least not for too long. But better safe than sorry. And we have no idea what’s going on ice- and weather-wise one fjord over to the west, the fjord where the Constable Pynt airport and our rendezvous with our final set of guests for the season will take place tomorrow.

We’ll be losing our two current guests — the friends of Boogie and Marlies who’ve been wonderful this trip, cooking magnificent meals (often) and being generally very cool. Here’s hoping the 10 who take their places are equally as cool.

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