Natural Wonders of Prince Christian Sound
BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.
I rolled over in my warm bed and saw it was 5:45am. Not an ideal time to wake up when you're on vacation. When I’m at home slogging away at my full-time job getting up at this time usually involves hitting the snooze button several times and dragging myself out of bed. But had I known how magnificent Prince Christian Sound would be I would have woken up even earlier to catch the sunrise. If there's one place to be a morning person it's Prince Christian Sound!
Let me backtrack a little.
The Voyage of the Vikings cruise I was on this summer brought me to countries in northern Europe. During preparation and planning, I was always most looking forward to visiting Greenland and Iceland because these two countries are still relatively unexplored by the masses (Greenland in particular), although they are becoming more popular among avid travelers and travel bloggers.
While I was researching the trip online several reviews mentioned one incredible place: Prince Christian Sound, a complex network of narrow fjords and channels in southern Greenland, which total over 450km in length.
This summer I was fortunate enough to sail through this area twice – both times in excellent weather conditions!
Fast forward to waking up at 5:45am.
After hastily getting ready and still half asleep I headed outside onto the deck dressed in my warmest clothing, camera in hand, ready for Prince Christian Sound.
As soon as I stepped onto the deck and into the chilly clear air I had to mentally pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. By this time, around 6am, our ship had just entered one of the fjords. Narrow sharp peaks, some still dappled white with snow, were visible on either sides of the vessel.
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine Greenland having such high mountains! Throughout Prince Christian Sound the mountains can range upwards to 1700 meters. Steep cliffs plunge into the fjord on either side.
I couldn't help thinking about how unpolluted and pure this area of the world still is. During the summer months a few cruise ships will sail through the Sound, but that's about as much traffic as the area gets.
I was in awe of the natural patterns and colors in the rock face. Lines like paint dripping down from the mountain and huge cracks splitting rock in half were common sights.
Most curious of all to me were the natural "stairs" that appeared on a mountain in the middle of Prince Christian Sound. They reminded me of the dangerous winding stairs which lead to Cirith Ungol in The Lord of the Rings. What do you think? Any similarities?
Update: Thank you to kind readers Gisele and Herbert for noting that the "stairs" are most likely a dolerite dyke which has been intruded into the rock formation.
I spy with my little eye two faces. Do you?
About halfway through Prince Christian Sound we slowly floated by the only village in this remote area of the world, Aappilattoq. Roughly 100 people live here in the brightly colored Nordic style houses.
The village can only be accessed by boat during the summer months, and only by helicopter in the winter. However, both these options are heavily dependent on the wind and weather. The community relies on sealing as their primary economy.
Although we were traveling through Prince Christian Sound in the middle of the summer, the weather was cool - around 6 C/42 F. I was bundled up in my winter jacket, plus toque, gloves, and a scarf. I can't imagine what it must be like to live here during winter time!
Floating around our ship were numerous icebergs, and not the kind of tiny icebergs you see during an Alaska cruise – gigantic pieces of ice as large as ships! The further we traveled into the fjord, the larger and more numerous the icebergs became.
The color of the icebergs varied from bright blue to vibrant white to muted grey and came in all shapes and sizes. It was an exhilarating experience to see the ice up close.
Icebergs are mostly white because the ice is full of tiny air bubbles. The bubbles reflect white light giving the iceberg an overall white appearance. Ice that is bubble-free has a blue tint which is due to the same light phenomenon that makes the sky appear blue.
Finally, we arrived at the source of many of the drifting icebergs. Prince Christian Sound is home to several unnamed glaciers that drop off straight into the water.
Icebergs are formed when ice breaks off from a glacier into smaller floating chunks in a process called calving.
The Greenland ice sheet covers 80% of the country and is the second largest in the world, after the Antarctic ice sheet. This current ice sheet contains ice that is roughly 100,000 years old!
Many of the glaciers we passed by are clearly receding. Unfortunately the Greenland Ice Sheet is especially vulnerable to climate change due to the Arctic climate rapidly warming.
To be surrounded by such astounding natural forces was just breathtaking. The colors and jagged contours of the ice offset with the rough mountains - unreal! I've said it before and I'll say it again, it's hard to beat being immersed in nature!
I could have spent days floating around in Prince Christian Sound, filling up memory card after memory card with photographs, being inspired by the natural wonders of this place. But in what felt like no time at all we had to leave beautiful southern Greenland and head back out onto the open ocean to continue our voyage.