Prins Christian Sund is a 55-mile channel at the southern end of Greenland. After leaving the energy and color of Reykjavik yesterday, today will bring new vistas of a totally different type and we don't want to miss a minute of it.
The Captain told us due to unstable and volatile weather cruise ships only make this itinerary once a year and even then are not always able to navigate the Sund. Sometimes it’s the fog, other times ice and icebergs blocking the passage, that prevent traversing the entire channel.
Today we were lucky. The weather gods smiled on us. As we entered the beginning of the channel, it was overcast, cold, and a little breezy. We're Florida folks, not well-versed in arctic weather gear, but we did our research well. We are equipped with layers beginning with silk long johns (Land's End and a great cold weather investment)sweats, all topped off with Goretex jackets and warm woolen hats.
As we moved deeper into the Sund, we were breathless with wonder. On each side of the fjord rugged rock cliffs plunge hundreds of feet straight down into the icy waters. Greenland? There is no green in sight. Huge glaciers from the Greenland Ice Cap cover many cliffs. Waterfalls are frozen ribbons running down the crevices of the rock. The landscape is "beautifully forbodding."
Progress is slow as the Captain navigates the maze of icebergs ranging in size from small car-sized to large house-sized. As we rounded on the many sharp turns in the channel,we realized we had been shielded from brunt of the elements by the cliffs. Forty-five mph winds and blowing icy rain hit us full force, almost taking us off our feet, and forcing us to retreat indoors. Time for a cup of hot coffee…did I mention Irish coffee?
Crew members told us there are over 10,000 icebergs calved by glaciers in this area yearly. They were as enthralled by the views as we were. A few times we feel the ship shudder slightly as we brush against small bergs. Can’t help but think Titanic!
Around midday we passed a small settlement of a dozen or so buildings perched precariously on the edge of the Sund at the foot of the cliffs. When the Sund is ice-bound, it can only be reached by helicopter (weather permitting). These are hardy people living in such isolation and harsh conditions.
By late afternoon we exit Prins Christian Sund and find that we not be making our port call in Qaqortog, Greeland. Apparently Hurricane Gustav is headed our way. Yikes! It’s hurricane season at home in Florida, but we never dreamed one would track us down way up here.
An abrupt about-course takes us back east trying to outrun the worst of the weather. For the next two days we were in thirty foot seas. As the bow of the ship hit an oncoming wave, it sounded like a bomb going off. Waves hitting the bow of the ship and would wash across the entire ship. It looked like something from a movie (ie: The Great Storm). Needless to say after getting a few great photos of this, the deck was closed down and passengers retained inside. In the dining room, the windows would occasionally dip below the water as we rocked and rolled our way through the fringes of the storm. One night we had to hold on to avoid being thrown from our bed.
Fortunately we do not suffer from seasickness. Luckily our table mates were equally hardy. Through it all none of us missed a meal... or our evening cocktail hour. It was quite an adventure!
On the third day, bad boy Gustav moved on and we continued our voyage toward New York City. Friends shuddered when we reported our adventure. Were we alarmed? Not really. The ship weathered the raging seas well and the crew kept us informed and confident that we were in no danger.
The only disappointment was missing our stop in Greenland. At least we experienced Greenland from the Sund and there’s always another trip!