Moving on to Ilulissat

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15 October 2013

Tuesday morning after leaving our anchorage at Disko Island’s Fortune Bay, we headed for Ilulissat (Greenland) . The scientific team is preparing to make a final sampling station before the new stopover and renewal of part of the team. The weather conditions are still optimal with plenty of sunshine and slightly positive temperatures. The west coast of Greenland has provided not only scientific riches but also aesthetic ones.
Exiting the Uummannaq fjord was a bit hectic with a strong headwind of 50 knots in some gales. The air reflected blue and green hued sea-spray. On each side of the fjord, snow-capped mountains appeared to play a guardian role in this angry paradise.

On watch at the helm was Loïc Vallette, our captain until Ilulissat. Loïc was particularly focussed in this passage where, between the wind and the icebergs, an engine breakdown would have quickly compromised our situation. To make things worse, the lack of very detailed charts for this area obliged our captain to stay on his guard.
This concentration paid off because at some point, one of the depth sensors* suddenly indicated an abrupt rise in the seabed from over 100 to 10 meters. High land.

Loïc quickly took over from the autopilot while starting the second engine to change course. An iceberg about 50 meters away was clearly stranded there, confirming the “info from the sonar*.” A brief moment of stress while the whole crew continued having a carefree lunch in the dining room. After this somewhat challenging exit from the Uummannaq fjord, we’re now on our way to Ilulissat. We’ve spent the past 2 nights at anchor in extraordinary fjords, to avoid navigating at night through fields of icebergs.
This morning we were able to enjoy a bit more of Fortune Bay’s beauty before sailing on to Ilulissat. It is the third largest city of Greenland – this frozen island covered by a sheet of ice. The inhabitants tallied 4,621 last year. Ilulissat is a major tourist destination because of the famous Sermeq Kujalleq glacier that flows directly into the sea at a rate of 20-35 meters per day. This generates annually 20 billion tons of ice, or the equivalent of the amount of fresh water consumed in France per year. This fjord is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2004.
Vincent Hilaire

*Sonar device measuring depth under the ship