Sailing in Scoresby Sound
Having returned recently from sailing through the largest fjord system in the world in East Greenland, I find myself at a loss for words. I recall clearly the intense sights: majestic peaks climbing thousands of feet out of a deep blue sea. Towering icebergs formed into bizarre alien shapes, impossible to imagine. Northern lights streaking across the sky in vibrant multicolor. All on a scale so immense that one feels small and insignificant yet very much a part of the landscape. I recall breathing in the clean, unpolluted Greenland air that somehow felt very different, as if it filled my lungs much more than usual. But how to explain this without sounding completely crazy? How to capture the grandeur of this magnificence with mere words?
For more than thirty years I’ve traveled and photographed around the world, usually alone or occasionally with one or two companions. Participating in a multi-day workshop with twelve photographers was completely foreign to me, even somewhat intimidating at first, yet it was one of the most enriching experiences of my life. Some of this can be attributed to the group dynamic. We all got on very well passing many hours together in a fairly small space though never feeling confined. The food was excellent, we ate and drank often, and conversation was light and lively as we got to know each other a little more each day. By the end of the journey I believe we all felt a certain connectedness, as new friends who had just experienced something truly special. Sailing through majestic fjords on a 100-year old schooner can do that, providing unique opportunities to quickly bond with like-minded adventurers from all over the world. And I can’t imagine any better way to photograph the fjords of East Greenland than from the water.
Suspended twenty meters above deck off the mast of the Donna Wood, the surrounding view is astounding, otherworldly. Icebergs as far as the eye can see, immense glaciers winding their way downward before calving into the ocean, snow-capped mountains in all directions. The boat lists from side to side, the movement intensified by my elevated position, but I’m able to time my shots accordingly with the swell, photographing between rigging lines as the ship circles a spectacular, pyramidal-shaped iceberg just fifteen meters off the starboard side. From above I see well it’s shape below the surface, the vibrant turquoise hues surrounding the ice helping to define the depths. More than eighty percent rests underwater, leaving around thirty meters of ice jutting into the sky. For now at least. Each day this iceberg will continue to melt and then eventually roll over, generating powerful and ominous sounds as nature changes its shape again and again.
A cold breeze from the southwest adds to the intensity of my position above, and I pause often to take in the 360° panorama. We’re now in Ofjord near the Bear Islands, without question one of the highlights of the voyage, and I don’t doubt that this well-organized voyage was designed with this in mind, like an orchestral crescendo. Granite spires including the dramatic Grundtvigskirken rise nearly two thousand meters straight up on both sides, reminiscent of the spectacular Baltoro Glacier in northern Pakistan. Yet these peaks climb right out of the sea, and most have never been touched by human hands. Greenland is a timeless place, a journey back in time where the sounds we hear most often are the sounds of nature – ice creaking, avalanches crashing, wind and snow and water. Where even silence has it’s own sound. The landscape continually speaks to us from the first day, and we instantly feel reconnected. And by journey’s end, replenished.