In the Uummannaq fjord


12 October 2013

Since late Friday afternoon, after crossing the Baffin Sea without incident, Taranautes are relishing the thousand wonders that make up the beauty of the Uummannaq fjord (Greenland).

In this fjord which opens on the west coast of this icy giant island, on Saturday the scientific team will carry out a long sampling station at the surface, and to a depth of 400 meters.

At the center of this landscape surrounded by high snowy mountains, lies the island of Uummannaq. Covering an area of 12 km2, it is dominated by a rocky peak 1,175 meters high and is named after its shape. Uummannaq means heart in Greenlandic.

This is another one of those places that make you love life and appreciate the chance to “be here”. This is what we wish for people we love who for some reason or other can not travel. A gift of nature which, besides the purely visual pleasure, nourishes your soul.

This is what the 14 aboard felt after traveling the first few miles. There are colors, sculptured icebergs, and snow-capped mountain chains, often with steep cliffs taking on reddish hues at dusk.

This Saturday morning after a good night spent drifting among the icebergs, the scientific team returned to the task in splendid sunshine. This fjord is full of diverse little treasures  which Lars Stemmann, chief scientist, intends to identify. To begin with, the mysterious “brines” * — these very cold surface waters from the previous winter which sink until they meet water of the same density.

Multiple rosette immersions have located them between 100 and 120 meters at temperatures of 0.8° C. The scientific interest is, of course, to find out which micro-organisms live in these “brines”. Are they a particular habitat for plankton? This is one of the main questions for sampling station no. 206.

We will remain at this scientific station in the fjord until tomorrow afternoon, a few miles from Uummannaq. Several hundred wooden houses of all colors are miraculously clinging to the rock. 1,400 Kalaallit** live here along with some Danish immigrants. It’s a paradise for dog sledding, and people say the best Greenland drivers are here in Uummannaq Bay.

At the base of this majestic bay also reigns the Qarajaq, one of the world’s fastest glaciers. It produces most of the icebergs that we’ve been admiring for the past 24 hours.

Vincent Hilaire

* Brines: Salt water with a higher concentration of salt.
** Kalaallit: Inuit inhabitants of Greenland (Kalaallit Nunaat)