Day Three – Epic Odyssey
Today the North Atlantic crossing begins! Everyone is up early, anxiously anticipating the journey ahead. The first leg takes us from Montreal to Goose Bay, Canada, where we refuel, pick up our survival gear, including rafts and immersion suits, and then enjoy a good laugh. Parked on the tarmac is a twin turbine, en route from Germany to Brazil, sporting the tail number D-ILDO. The ferry crew operating the plane did not know the back story, but we all were entertained – and got some photos, too! We then continue onto the second leg – and the first over water portion of the journey – departing Goose Bay for Narsarsuaq Airport (BGBW) in southern Greenland.
As we leave the comforting site of land behind us, we feel a slight sense of apprehension, pondering the frigid ocean below. Two hours later, we site land and breathe a sigh of relief, enjoying spectacular views of Greenland’s stark mountains, sapphire blue water and countless icebergs. Greenland is total misnomer. It is an icy, barren, snow-covered island that isn’t much warmer than Antarctica. The approach into Narsarsuaq’s 6,000-foot runway is considered one of the most dangerous in the world, especially in weather. It requires that you fly up Tunulliarfik Fjord, where you run the risk of potential turbulence and wind shear, not to mention the possibility of a surprise layer below minimums for the NDB approach. The Narsarsuaq airstrip is the only flat surface amidst a wild, mountainous landscape that we will never forget. Our camera crew is able to capture each plane’s approach and landing, fortunately made all the easier by the incredibly calm weather. We picked the right day to fly to Greenland – as you would not want to be here on the wrong day.
As we refueled the planes, we encountered our first destination that does not offer premixed prist, (common at many airstrips outside of the US). However, we brought our own supply, even though we didn’t need it at this particular fuel stop. While the bus took our luggage, we opt to walk the easy half-mile into town, stopping at the town’s charming museum, which recounts Greenland’s interesting history, including the US War Department’s selection of Narsarsuaq during WWII for the construction of a strategic defensive airbase and military hospital.
The population of Narsarsuaq is about 120 people, so with our arrival, we bump those numbers by about 20%! Even though the hotel is quite small and modest, they have prepared a beautiful dinner for all 26 of us. The table is set with candles and the menu is handwritten on little slips of paper for the servers to remember how to pronounce the English words. Our dinner is surprisingly delicious with white asparagus soup, prime rib, and vegetables. In fact, we are astonished at how much effort they put into making our evening special. Doug thoughtfully serves the group wine from his Royal Flight winery, which is enjoyed immensely and consumed entirely. We also brought some along to complement our evening iceberg tour, as we head to the boats. Because Greenland is so far north, there is almost no darkness in the summer. “Night time” feels more like perpetual twilight and gives the air a magical quality. It’s almost as though the sun is on the brink of setting all evening long.
It might have been Doug’s excellent wine, but the dramatic scenery transfixes everyone, with the towering blue icebergs amplifying the surreal beauty. The boat captains are very capable and help us scoop up a small “iceberg” so we can taste the ancient ice for ourselves! Then, despite suggestions to the contrary, we climb onto one of the larger glaciers to experience them first hand — and of course, take some pictures. After cruising for two hours, we head back to the harbor and hotel. At that point, perhaps we should have called it a night, but ended up instead back in the bar, enjoying live music from a talented Greenland band, named Inuk (even bought their CD!), accompanied on the guitar by our very own Jean-Marie.