Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Arctic Highlights - Part One

I have just returned from an amazing three week trip to the Arctic, two of which were in my role as Photographer in Residence with G Adventures on their Arctic Highlights" tour. This is the final tour of the season beginning with three days exploring Svalbard, before heading east to Greenland. The remainder of the tour centers around the fjords of east Greenland before heading south, another two day journey and finishing up in Reykjavik, Iceland."

This is my third season in the Arctic, but my first time on this particular tour and I have to say, it totally blew my mind! Greenland, the largest island on the planet did not disappoint, providing us with jaw dropping scenery, amazing wildlife sightings and two aurora borealis displays!

Although the majority of the tour explores uninhabited areas, we did however visit the remote Inuit community of Ittoqqortoormiit, which I found to be both fascinating and somewhat sad. Climate change is having an impact on their livelihood, particularly hunting, which is an essential part of life in this harsh, unforgiving land. The day we were there is was raining and we heard this seems to be a far more common occurrence.

Ittoqqortoormiit is the remotest inhabited community in the western hemisphere, home to
approximately 450 inhabitants. It lies south of the Northeast Greenland national park and north of Scoresby Sund, the largest national park and fjord on earth! Although the Inuit have inhabited this part of the world for centuries, the colony was only established in 1924 by the Dane, Ejnar Mikkelsen, as a means to ensure the Danish flag would be flying before the Norwegians, who had already secured Spitsbergen in 1920 and were showing an interest in northeast Greenland.

Prior to landing, I had heard from members of the expedition staff that a highlight of the visit is to see and play with the east Greenland husky puppies which wander the town. They are intentionally allowed to do this, but once they become "working" dogs, they are chained up and we were understandably not allowed to go near them. I subsequently learned that this is because they become territorial and can potentially bite. If someone is bitten, they are then shot...not fair to either the dog, or to its owner.

Yet how I loved seeing the puppies as they eagerly sought our attention and even though we were all soaking wet, it was an experience I will treasure.

Stay tuned as I share more about this incredible part of the world, from the stunning color and beauty of the Arctic tundra; massive, blue icebergs and a surprising seven polar bear sightings!