Breaking Ice in Greenland
Drifting ice as far as the eye can see. So cold, but so bright and beautiful. I kept thinking to myself, this must be what Antarctica looks like.
Here I was on a cruise ship in the southeast waters off the coast of Greenland in the middle of an ice belt that seemed to stretch on for eternity. Suddenly our luxury ocean liner had to do double duty as an ice breaker and the crew had to manually manoeuver the ship for hours between massive icebergs and endless drifting ice.
Our ship inched its way forward at a turtle’s pace somewhere around two knots. Sometimes it felt like we had stopped moving entirely, as if the captain and officers were searching around for areas where the ice flow was less intense. From the bow of the ship I watched the officers on the bridge pacing back and forth, checking down the sides of the ship, and scanning the horizon with binoculars. It was exciting to watch them carefully navigate the miles of frozen ice ahead.
Every so often the icebergs would brush up against the bow of the ship and break apart. The scrapes against the hull were audible to everyone on the outside decks. At our snail's pace of two knots the ship broke apart all drift ice in our way, but it was still a nerve-wracking and exhilarating experience (thanks a lot James Cameron!).
For most of the day I stayed on the bow watching the slow progress of our ship wind its way through the ice belt. After a few hours I decided to check out the stern to see if we had left a large trail through the ice field, but surprisingly the ice closed in on us again shortly after being broken apart.
We had the opportunity to see seals in their natural habitat, basking in the sunshine on icebergs. Our ship came pretty close to these animals but they weren't bothered at all, as if they see a massive metal tube pass them by everyday with hundred's of curious tourists flashing their camera lights in their faces.
After several hours of navigating through the ice the end was finally in sight! Finally we broke through the smaller outer pieces of the belt and entered the open ocean. After staring at gleaming white ice for so long it almost felt unnatural to be surrounded by the blue of the water.
I’m not sure if or when I will return to Greenland, but I highly doubt that I will get to experience being caught in a massive ice belt like this again. A true once in a lifetime experience!