The south coast of Greenland surprises us with its impressive landscape and lush vegetation. We sail into the Sonder Skjoldungen Sound, which lies south of Skoldungen Island and find a save anchor spot in Caroline Amalie Harbor – this is reached through a 10-m wide and 5-m deep channel. With currents and winds from the side, it is no small task to manoeuvre through. In the bay we place shore lines and are almost immediately surrounded by swarms of midges and mosquitos. The view, however, compensates for these unwelcome visitors. Next day we explore the fiord on foot or in kayaks and sadly collect, even here where almost no people pass, plastic waste in the swash zone: Plastic sacks, a plastic balloon, trawling nets, ropes etc. This washed up waste seems to get trapped in the Caroline Amalie Harbor: Once it is washed up on land with the current and the wind, it cannot get out of the fiord system and ends up sooner or later on land where birds, foxes and co. mistake it for food. If it gets caught up in seaweed in the water, then seals and marine birds become victims of this plastic as well.
Just how much man has an effect on these deserted places is obvious when one looks at the glaciers, which flow into the fiord system around Skjoldungen. An example of this is the Kong Skjolds Halvo Glacier. On board we have a look at aerial photos of this and other glaciers taken between 1933 and 2013. Pablo, our gifted drone pilot gets everything ready on deck while we head for the glacier. We stop in the middle of the fiord and shortly after we can hear the familiar sound of a hornet swarm in the air. The drone rises to its maximum height of 500 meters and takes photos of the glacier. The photos we then look at are taken from a height of about 400 meters and we do not have exactly the same settings, but it is obvious that the glacier has receded in the past six years - and that even though it is no longer influenced by sea water. Then, as a glacier no longer breaks up in the sea its flow speed normally slows down and actually the melting process as well. With the same procedure, we also take photos of The Thryms Glacier and the Skjoldungen Glaciers in the northwest of Skjoldungen Island. Unfortunately the same process is obvious.
“Tonight there is fish on the menu”, calls out Thomas our ship’s cook over deck so that everyone can hear him. We are at the mouth of a river which is rich in salmon and have anchored there. Thomas is standing ready with his net, pail and pin to try his luck in the river. Five of us go aboard the dingy and search for the nearest landing spot and then walk further up the river. The Dronning Marie Valley impresses us with its picturesque meandering river. There are blue and crowberry bushes and a fantastic view of the glacier and the sound which is sprinkled with ice bergs. The Droneren Glacier, not far off, does full justice to its name. At irregular intervals there is a thunderous sound when a section of ice breaks off und tumbles into the water. Droneren means thunder.
Thomas and Peter observe the surface of the water closely with their experienced fisherman’s eyes and before long they have an eighty cm long fish in the net – a sailbing. A delicacy in European restaurants and we are happy about the fresh catch which is filleted right away and is served for dinner as promised. Not to forget the collected berries which will sweeten our muesli and our home-baked muffins. Our last stop is Graah Fiord or Akorninnarmiit Oqqummut Kangertivat.
The fiord was named after W.A. Graah a Danish marine captain. Imaarsivik Island is at the entrance to the fiord and offers a perfect bay to anchor in – Graahs Harbor. Graah overwintered here 1829-30 on his epic journey on board a umiaq - a Greenlandic open top boat for women – from Qaqortoq to Dannebrog O, 120 sea miles further north, before he was forced to turn back because of the ice. Many islands, fiords, capes and mountains here are named after Graah, who was the first to hiss a Danish flag on Dannebrog O. We continue on through a narrow and shallow sound to a bay where we moor with the help of shore lines – no anchor no anchor watch. We are therefore all able to enjoy a good night’s sleep. In the bay we find the remains of old stone houses and graves, crowberries and again plastic waste. Our collection on board is getting larger. And it is again obvious: Although no one has lived here for a long time, nature is continually influenced by man’s presence.
The next day we sail further into the fiord. The steep slopes channel the onshore winds and with our foresail, we drift silently by ice bergs and floes and small and larger water falls. The sheer water masses make one wonder if these are glacial rivers or springs – sometimes just lovely, often roaring and wild, small or hundreds of meters high. Our supply of drinking water is in any case ensured and we don’t miss out on a shower in the icy waters.
Huge icebergs lie like silent watchmen at the entrance to the fiord. Our anchor falls to 30 meters. We enjoy the last rays of sunlight and during the anchor watch catch a glimpse of northern lights. A hike to the end of the valley holds everything in store for us – climbing tours, mosquitos, ice cold river crossings, breathtaking views of glaciers, lakes, cliffs, mountains, seas of flowers, turquoise blue water and allows us, while taking short breaks, to just take in Greenland’s nature.