Sailing in Greenland on board the »Ocean Nova«

Sailing in Greenland on board the »Ocean Nova«

Anette Tscherning
By 
Anette Tscherning
Verified Expert

Sailing in Greenland on board the »Ocean Nova«

It had been a really rough day at work. The problems were standing in line that day and there was no end to it, so I was dead tired when I finally got home.  

The telephone was ringing as I walked into the apartment and perhaps it was due to my fatigue, but I didn’t hear who was on the line. I did, however, grasp that the person congratulated me, 
because I had won the competition in greenland today, a trip for two people to Greenland with Albatros Travel.

Telephone prank, I thought! But slowly I realized that I had been very lucky. Suddenly it was a wonderful day and my fatigue disappeared like magic.  

Just three weeks later my sister and I sat together in an aircraft on the way to Greenland.

Sailing in Greenland on board the »Ocean Nova«Ocean Nova

A bus trip to the fells had been arranged for us when we arrived at the airport in Kangerlussuaq. The impressive view of the inland ice was even more special because everywhere the sparse vegetation was clad in the extravagant colours of autumn.   

On the drive back we stopped next to the dog pens outside town before continuing to our ship Ocean Nova which was anchored in the harbour 12 kilometres west of the airport. A large Zodiac rubber dinghy with room for 16 people took us out to the ship and everyone was assigned a cabin.

We enjoyed the trip out through the 100-kilometre-long, unbelievably beautiful fjord from the panorama lounge on the 5th deck. Later on, an information meeting was held here with a presentation of the ship’s officers and our two guides Axel and Søren. 

Afterwards there was a demonstration of the survival suits before the evening continued with a delicious four-course meal. 

Sailing in Greenland on board the »Ocean Nova«Sisimiut, the second largest city in Greenland

During the night we arrived in Sisimiut. We arrived at the town as the sun came up and I enjoyed this beautiful sight from the panorama lounge together with other early risers. 

After a well-assorted breakfast buffet, there was a briefing about the programme for the day that included a group walk, a visit to a museum and a surprise. There were also suggestions 
for those who preferred to go by themselves.

The layout of the museum resembles the Frilandsmuseum (a museum of rural buildings in Denmark TN) with a collection of original houses, household effects, boats and hunting tools. Local women sold knitwear of musk-ox wool. I have never felt softer scarves, gloves and knitted caps, so although the prices weren’t the cheapest, I had to have a knitted cap.

We returned to the ship for lunch and to get our surprise. It was the Greenlandic kayak champion who gave us a demonstration of his skills in the harbour right next to Ocean Nova.

My sister and I spent the afternoon looking at the charming town with its multicoloured houses. We drove round with the town busses, getting off now and again and visiting a couple of handicraft workshops before it was time to get back to the ship.

After departure we enjoyed a glass of wine during a briefing about the next day’s programme and later there was a film about the effects of climate changes on the environment in Disko Bay. 

Sailing in Greenland on board the »Ocean Nova«Disko Island in western Greenland

Our approach to the main town of Qeqertarsuaq or Godhavn was again accompanied by the sunrise and it was stunningly beautiful. It boded well for the day’s programme which included a visit to the town’s rather special church, a kaffemik (coffee party) in a private home and a picnic trip in the fells. 

At breakfast we all made ourselves a packed lunch before we set off towards this charming little town. Personally, I went mad with the camera, because the good shots were simply standing in line.

Because of its special building style, the church has been given the very poetic nickname »Our Lord’s Inkwell«. We met up there, sang a hymn and were told about the history of the town. Afterwards we were spit up into groups and we each followed our own Greenlandic hostess home. 


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We went home with Martine. She was a cheerful woman who had baked cakes for us and before long there was a lively conversation. Martine brought out her beautiful national costume so we could admire the workmanship.

Late in the morning the picnic tour set off from the town’s tourist office. We had a great excursion. The autumn colours were beautiful, the open spaces were enormous and walking there was an enthralling experience. Our destination was a waterfall and we sat there to eat the food we had brought with us. 

Afterwards, most of us set off for the ship, while a small group went on. We saw the Lyngmark Glacier, had a wonderful view of the Disko Bay, saw gigantic icebergs and whale spouts. This walk still shines bright in my memory.

After departure there was a lecture in the panorama lounge about Greenland’s history accompanied by local snacks, e.g. narwhal blubber, dried cod and dried minke whale served with a dram.

Sailing in Greenland on board the »Ocean Nova«Santa’s summer cottage in Greenland

We arrived at Uummannaq, our northernmost destination, at around eight and we went ashore right away. Again I was enthralled by the approach, where the colourful, scattered buildings at the foot of the enormous, heart-shaped mountain made such a pretty picture that lively use was made of the camera. 

Our tour of the town started in Greenland’s largest stone church, built of local granite. We saw the museum with copies of the mummies’ apparel, hunting tools, kayaks and an umiaq. We continued to the library and then on to an elevated point from which there was a spectacular view.

Sailing in Greenland on board the »Ocean Nova«We left after lunch and sailed for just a half an hour, round the promontory to Spragle Bay. This is the inlet at the foot of the heart-shaped mountain where Santa has his summer cottage. We were taken ashore in two Zodiacs, which sailed a shuttle service between shore and ship. 

The last stop of the day was in the tiny settlement of Niaqornat, where 65-70 people live with ten times as many sled dogs. There was absolutely no doubt at all that was a hunting community, there were drying racks everywhere with fish and seal meat hanging to dry. 

Children in national costume met us at the beach and accompanied us to the school where we were served home baked cake, fresh seal soup and delicacies such as seal blubber and raw liver. The boiled seal meat had an excellent taste. 

We saw the service house which housed the settlement’s washing machines and bathing facilities. It was an exciting place to visit, with incredibly warm hospitality and lots of good photos. There was a touching farewell, when the settlement’s inhabitants stood on the beach and sang for us.

Sailing in Greenland on board the »Ocean Nova«The whale ball at Ilulissat in Greenland

We were not due to call into another port until late in the day, so this was a different kind of day with relaxation, coffee-drinking, good books and being sociable. Whale spotting was also a favourite pastime.

The calving glacier, Eqip Sermia, was the main attraction of the day. The glacier’s five-kilometre wide, enormously high vertical face is an impressive sight and the wonderful play of colours in the inland ice makes this a unique experience. 

The day brought a real surprise. Because the weather again was sunny, the crew had decided to serve lunch on the aft deck. We had a barbecue in the sunshine with the most beautiful glacier in the background. It doesn’t get any better than this.

After a few hours at Eqip Sermia we sailed to Ilulissat and were scheduled to arrive late in the afternoon. However, we were well and truly delayed by a playful humpback whale that almost danced ballet right under our noses. We saw the head and the tail, the latter so many times that the photo freaks started to get choosy. After an experience like this, you have to ask yourself whether the whale or the glacier was the main attraction of the day. I personally wouldn’t want to sacrifice one for the other. 

It turned out that this was the day of surprises, because after diner a drum dance had been arranged in the dining room with a local dancer and it was highly entertaining. Yet another experience to put into the suitcase!

Our perfect day ended after a short, exploratory tour of the town with yet another surprise. In Sion’s Church there was a choir dressed in national costumes and they sang so beautifully for us.

Sailing in Greenland on board the »Ocean Nova«The ice fjord at Ilulissat in Greenland

My sister and I were ready to leave already at seven o’clock. I wanted to share with her my greatest experience from a visit 10 years earlier, when I spent six days in Ilulissat and had walked along the ice fjord three times. The most beautiful walk is the long one, where you start out at the quarry and end up out by the power station and this is the walk we were going to take.

The way up through the quarry is hard, but well worth the effort because nature here is magnificent and before long you can see the ice fjord. I got a shock! Ten years ago there was nothing but massive ice in the innermost part of the fjord. Now there is ice and water; much too much water! 

We enjoyed the view, the quietude and nature while we walked at a good pace. The signs are much better now than they were ten years ago. We walked round Holmen’s Hill, saw Sermermiut and ate the food we had brought near Kællinge Gorge at one of the numerous benches that had been set up. 

Ten years ago I just sat on a rock and listened to the ice and now I felt something fundamental had been lost. Just think. If things keep going in this direction, the world’s indisputably most beautiful walking trip will have disappeared in 20 years. What a tragedy.

To give us time to take our walk, we were booked on the latest departure at 14.30 hrs for the boat trip to the ice fjord. Although I have been on the same boat trip, the icebergs are so divinely beautiful that nature humbles you. It’s like being in a fantasy world and I took at least 100 photos.

Unfortunately we left Ilulissat the same evening. 

Sailing in Greenland on board the »Ocean Nova«The settlement of Itilleq in Greenland

Early in the day Axel gave us a lecture about mission work in Greenland and afterwards, one of the four school teachers from Itilleq told us about the small community. 80 people live here, half of them children. 

After Sunday lunch we set off for the settlement in the Zodiacs. Everything was well-organized here. There was a playground for the children, there were waste baskets and street lighting and the dogs lived outside the settlement. As usual, the church was the gathering point and after a song, coffee was served outside in the sun.

Afterwards we walked around and took a look at the settlement, the school, the library and the shop. Down in the harbour there were three newly-slaughtered seals. This is a perfectly normal sight for a Greenlander, but it’s enough to widen the eyes of a tourist.

Back on board the Ocean Nova, the rest of the day was spent on a little relaxation or packing before the big farewell dinner. We had eaten excellent food the entire voyage and this evening was no exception. Afterwards we had a great time in the panorama lounge.

Sailing in Greenland on board the »Ocean Nova«Musk-oxen in Kangerlussuaq

Since the baggage had to be placed outside our cabin by 07.00 hrs, we had finished packing before breakfast. The weather had been calm and sunny during the entire cruise, but this morning it had changed. It was very windy and overcast, so we were warned we could get wet sailing ashore with the Zodiac. But things turned out much better than we feared.  

We were driven 40 kilometres in 4WD busses on Greenland’s longest road which goes to the inland ice. The first part of the road was built by the Americans as an access road to the radar installation and the last part was built by the Germans, who used the inland ice to test drive cars until 2000. 

We crawled along, but there was so much to see that it didn’t matter. Beautiful landscapes, two impressive glaciers, reindeer and lots of musk-oxen, with one in particular that posed for the cameras. 

The huge expanses in Greenland, together with the magnificent nature were the greatest experiences. It was also possible to go out onto the inland ice and I think most of us made the attempt, with greater or lesser success.

After a really great tour, we arrived at the airport. Our baggage was checked in and then an old bus drove us over to the museum where we had and hour and a half to look at the impressive collection of aircraft from the war. 

The absolute last stop of the tour was at a pavilion at Albatros´ building, where there was a barbecue with things like patties made of musk-ox meat. We ended the tour by spending a little time together and then there was just a short walk to the departure hall.

I took a little jaunt to Santa’s letter box with a big wish to come back to Greenland!