In the Footsteps of the Polar Explorers

Nicola in SisimutNicola here, reporting on a recent trip to Greenland and Northern Canada in which we cruised part of the North West Passage in the footsteps (or sails!) of early explorers. We flew to Iceland and from there to Greenland, where we joined our ship, the SH Vega at the port of Kangerlussuaq on the west coast. This was an "expedition cruise" but frankly from the first it was clear that we were in for a very different experience from some earlier sailors, who had run out of food and been obliged to eat their own shoes and wear the same clothes for months on end! Our ship was warm, very comfortable and with wonderful food! In addition we were blessed with fine weather for almost all the trip so there was no threat of sea-sickness, thank goodness. 

Greenland is a beautiful place; it reminded me of a bigger, colder version of Highland Scotland. With 80% of the country covered in ice, the population lives Coloured houses on the coastal fringe. When Eric the Red colonised the island in 985AD, the Vikings found it hard to establish their traditional farming lifestyle because only the edges were fertile land. One legend is that he named it Greenland as propaganda to attract settlers! The ancestors of the Inuit peoples who had lived in the area for thousands of years survived largely by hunting and fishing. Their lifestyle was better suited to the conditions than the western new arrivals and although the Vikings hung on there for several hundred years, eventually they left. The modern Greenland is a place of brightly-painted buildings and fascinating history which we explored at the museum in Sisimiut.

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