Travels in the North

Musings on arctic holidays

Tag Archives: Ilulissat Glacier

Dog Sledding Ilulissat style

Having had my previous two day trips in Greenland cancelled due to a lack of numbers, I’m fairly chuffed to find out both my planned trips for today are going ahead.

Dog Sledding

Dog Sledding

First up in the morning it’s dog sledding. I did this once before on a trip to Tromsø in Northern Norway, but felt like I couldn’t really come to Greenland and not go sledding. Especially in Ilulissat, where there are dog kennels all around the town. The dogs used to have the run of town, but it was decided about twenty years ago that all dogs over six months old need to be chained up when not out sledding. The chains are long and they have a decent space to run around, but understandably when chained up for the first time at six months old wail for days, poor things. But then as I learnt in Norway, these aren’t pets, they are work dogs, almost half way between wolves and domestic pets I guess.

Dog Sledding Ilulissat

Dog Sledding

It’s just me and the sled owner Jens. I don’t think he spoke much English so we didn’t chat much, but I was happy sitting on the back of the sled with him sat on the front shouting at the dogs occasionally. The dogs were amazingly responsive to his calls, turning left or right or just hurrying up, the calls were along the lines of “yip yip yip” and “yo yo yo” rather than the stereotypical “mush”, not sure where this came from.

Dog Sledding Ilulissat

Dog Sledding

There was one particularly steep hill where the dogs where struggling to make it up, Jens got off and was pushing the sled. I offered to get up but he told me to stay put, but felt a bit useless as the dogs and Jens strained up the hill whilst I sat back relaxing.

Dog Sledding Ilulissat

Dog Sledding

It was a slightly different set up to the sledding I did in Norway. The Norwegian dogs were arranged in 4 sets of pairs, with the strongest two dogs being the lead dogs in front. The Greenlandic system seems a bit more basic, where each dog is just attached on a rope to the sled, and they’re all free to move around as they please (left, right, front, back etc). It seems to work well enough, although did require Jens to untangle the ropes every time we stopped.

Dog Sledding Ilulissat

Dog Sledding Ilulissat

I was slightly disappointed not to have a go at driving a sled as I had done in Norway, but it was a fantastic feeling to be sat on a sled travelling through the wilderness and taking in the scenery.

Naleraq Ilulissat Lunch

Lunch in Naleraq

After the sleding I had lunch in Naleraq, which is a bar/restaurant. I can’t remember the Danish (or indeed Greenlandic) name for the lunch I had but I think it transalted as fish plate and was five different types of fish, apparently a traditional dish. Washed down with a Danish lager which seems to be equally as traditional.

Boat trip Disko Bay

Boarding the boat for our trip out into Disko Bay

My second trip of the day was a small boat trip out into the Disko bay to view the icebergs and Ilulissat Glacier. As the ship was quite a bit smaller than the AUL ferry I’d been on a few days before we were able to get really close to the icebergs, which was absolutely incredible, I must’ve taken about 200 photos but none of them could really do it justice. The conditions were absolutely perfect too, the sea was so calm it looked like marble, and the sun was beginning to set.

Boat trip in Disko Bay

Boat trip in Disko Bay

Boat trip in Disko Bay

Boat trip in Disko Bay

Boat trip in Disko Bay

Boat trip in Disko Bay

Boat trip in Disko Bay

Boat trip in Disko Bay

Boat trip in Disko Bay

Boat trip in Disko Bay

Boat trip in Disko Bay

Boat trip in Disko Bay

Boat trip in Disko Bay

Boat trip in Disko Bay

Boat trip in Disko Bay

Boat trip in Disko Bay

Boat trip in Disko Bay

Boat trip in Disko Bay

Chilling Out by the Icebergs

It’s a bit windy here in Ilulissat today, which unlike Nuuk is unusual here I’m told. It’s warmed up a bit though, must be close to 0 degrees today.

Hotel Avannaa Ilulissat

My hotel, the excellent Hotel Avannaa

My planned boat trip to the old settlement at Oqaatsut was cancelled due to lack of numbers. I was looking forward to it, but knew when I booked it there was a strong chance this would happen. It’s almost May but it’s still very much winter here, and therefore still “off season”. It did give me the chance to look around town and walk down to the Ice Fjord (the Ilulissat ice fjord is about 20 minutes walk from town, and is fed by the most productive glacier outside of Antarctica, so is a must for iceberg fans) There was a group of Greenlandic people down there on a guided walk, but once I got past them it was very quiet, eerily so. It suddenly crossed my mind that now would not be a good time to encounter a polar bear, although I’m not sure they come this far South (despite being at 69° North!)

Ilulissat Icefjord

Ilulissat Icefjord

I walk back into town past some of the vast number of sled dog kennels that are littered around the outskirts of town. My presence starts a wave of barking which you’d think would drive the locals mad, but apparently they’re used to it! I also achieve a first for my trip in that I successfully buy alcohol from a Greenlandic supermarket. Managed to get in before the ridiculous late afternoon curfew.

Ilulissat Icefjord

Ilulissat Icefjord

Also back in town I looked round the Ilulissat museum which is dedicated to the polar explorer Knud Rasmussen who is from here. It’s a fairly small place but very interesting to learn about Rasmussen and a little about the history of Ilulissat.

Icefjord Hike Ilulissat

Hiking back from the Icefjord

I had back to the hotel for a couple of hours and am again horrified at the incredibly expensive internet. In Nuuk I paid 200 Danish Krone for 24 hours wireless access at the Seaman’s Hotel, here it’s 50 Krone for just one hour, although at least this time it doesn’t have to all be used in one go.

Sun over Ilulissat Icefjord

The sun trying to break through the cloud above Ilulissat Icefjord

In the evening I had a beer at the hotel arctic which is the most upmarket hotel in the town. It advertises conference facilities and I was told they have political conferences here as despite the cost of getting everyone here, it works out cheaper than having them in Denmark as the security costs are drastically reduced, such is the isolation up here! Like most hotel bars it’s a bit souless, there are some quite nice views over the Disco Bay but the whole place looks a bit tired, they don’t really make the most of it. It didn’t really feel like a 4* hotel, but then we are miles from anywhere and 69° North I suppose.

Ilulissat Houses

Houses in Ilulisssat

Back at the hotel I watched a bit of Greenlandic TV – there is one national Greenlandic channel (KNR), one Greenlandic “local” channel which only seems to show adverts (Arctic TV up here in Ilulissat, there was a Nuuk equivalent NuukTV) and 3 Danish DR channels. There are a load of other (foreign) satellite channels but either access is blocked or the reception is good enough to receive them.