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Fog THUMB

This post has been long underway. We just needed to get to the other side of this rather unpleasant experience. Here, more than a month after coming back, things have settled and we can write about the trip.

We were actually supposed to have this trip in May but because of many challenges with especially the shipyard, this was not possible. We sailed Porsild to the shipyard in Aasiaat already in October last year and with us we had a list of things that needed to be fixed over the winter. Unfortunately, the shipyard failed once again, making one excuse after the other and only recently (June) did we get Porsild back. There has been many excuses and possible explanation but nothing can excuse such a bad handling and extensive delay!

But, finally was it possible to do this years first trip around Disko island. Martin has been waiting long for this trip, in-patiently, as it is an important part of the monitoring program. It is quite important that these trips are taken the same time every year - but unfortunately this was not possible this year. We settled in on Porsild really well and felt like a nice trip was waiting for us. The first day, the weather was really nice. Disko island was covered in dense fog but the ocean was calm and spirits were high. We quickly finished the first collecting stations and then reached the highlight of the day when we visited a small bird colony. Quietly we sailed to the small rocky island with our dinghy. When we approached hundreds of gull took air, yelling at us as they circulated the island. We managed to find a spot to go on land and on the sticky covered rocks. Gently we moved around - watching small neat nests. Some filled with beautiful blue eggs and others with cute small fluffy chicks. The majority of the island was taken by gulls but in one end there was a small cormorant colony. here another kind of cuteness prevailed. Their nests were neatly build on tall towers of bird poop and twigs. It was clear that the cormorant dropping was toxic as no living thing could be seen on the ground here. Cormorant chicks is very different from gull chicks. The can best e described as small naked dragons lying in their nests all black with long necks. But they were still very fascinating to see. We did not stay long as we did not want to disturb to much. The adult birds should also quickly return to take care of nests and chicks and so they did when we slowly sailed away from the island again. That night we laid for anchor in Nordfjord, visiting an old hunters house before going to bed.

Chick THUMB

The following days were actually pretty boring. Even though the ocean was calm and nice, everything was covered in dense fog and we could not see anything. We just sailed, using our instruments and taking the samples needed but everything was good and cosy on board.

On the third day, we decided to stop in the larger town of Ilulissat to do some grocery shopping and eating out on a restaurant. We arrived in the afternoon and arranged an early departure the next day at 03:00. This way we could finish the last stations and our Captain would make it in time home for his grandchild to be baptised. We are not that keen on these kind of early morning but on the contrary we wanted to help. Martin also made it very clear that this meant no alcohol or parties in town due to the early start with dense fog and an ocean packed with icebergs. Everyone agreed clearly to this and we went into town. We had some nice thai food and then went early to bed. At around 22:00 an alarm on Porsild woke us up. The constant and very loud "biiping" meant that we of course could not get any more sleep. We tried to call the captain but no reply. In the end we managed to get one of the sailor on the phone instead. He sounded a bit drunk but promised to come by and help with the alarm. After 45 minutes of waiting and no one showing up we tried to call him again. This time he sounded even more drunk and it was impossible to communicate with him. Thus, all we could do was to go into town and find them. This proofed easy as they were quickly found on the local bar, Naleraq. Here, Martin found the captain and tried to talk to him about the alarm and the agreement. It was now 01:00 in the night and they still aimed at sailing at 03:00! However, this was not accepted by Martin - sailing in fog and icebergs in their condition was just not an option. Instead he tried to arrange for us to leave at 07:00 instead if they then came back to the ship now and also helped with the alarm. This only made the captain very angry, saying the are off duty and free to do what they want - otherwise we could just find another captain. This was all very unpleasant and we ended up going back to the ship to collect our stuff and go to a hotel to get some sleep - writing the crew we will meet at 09:00 on the ship instead. Next day at 09:00 we meet with the crew and kind of expected an apology or some kind of regret from their side. But quite opposite they acted really hostile and repeatedly mentioned that we could just find another captain if we were unsatisfied. The captain was also under the impression that he had no choice but to follow the sailors in their drinking!?! They all look very tired and clearly still not sober. This meeting was very unpleasant and all things considered, we decide to take the first commercial ferry home. We did not want to sail through foggy waters filled with icebergs with this crew. Instead the crew needed to stay in Ilulissat and await the next decision. However, this was not to their likings and quickly thereafter we saw them sailing home. A really sad ending for an otherwise nice trip.

The following days back at Arctic Station should also turn out to be rather unpleasant. Especially for Martin as I tried to stay away from it all. Meetings were arranged which also included the station manager who is in charge of the crew and employments. Martin came home from one of these meetings very choked. Apparently the station manager had been backing up the crew and blaming us for all the trouble. On top of that they all were now blaming us for lying about the alarm on board Porsild - saying there never was any alarm. The captain even left after 10 minutes saying he only wanted to talk about positive things. In all this, all the support Martin could gain was over the phone with the chairman sitting back in Denmark. There was of course more meetings also including the chairman and we quickly learned that paradox of the station manager and the crew being very good friends - hence the station manager was not able to act properly. Further, the captain is an important person in town and therefore it is not good to go against him apparently. We were deeply choked about this whole arrangement and how quickly everything could turn against us.

Things settled some and after a few days the captain finally gave an apology. However, this experience really put things in perspective and was a very sad ending. We felt really disappointed about the people we had been working with for years.

After this, July has just been very busy and taking the focus away from the trip. Now we just need to try and get the best out of the last period before moving back to Denmark.

/ B


 

In Denmark, we were very aware of living sustainable and environmental friendly, as much as possible and without being fanatic. When we moved to Disko Island in Greenland, we also knew that living up here came with a completely other approach to sustainability and environment. In Greenland, we can’t recycle, however there is a place for used glass and we can return beer bottles and soda bottles. The rest goes to the dump, where it is burnt approximately once a week if the wind direction comes from the east and blows towards Canada. All toilet waste is put directly into the ocean and you have to bear that in mind as well. The small things really matters up here! Below is a short list with things that we do and think about here in the Arctic.

  • Instead of using plastics and aluminium foil we use bee wax paper and Concept Zero Lids. We like the brand called abeego, it is easy to use for sandwiches or to use as lid for different dishes. Our newest investment is smart silicone lids from Concept Zero. It has never been easier to put lid on round bowls, dishes, half avocados, pineapples or what ever you can fit these round lids around.
  • All waste from the kitchen sink goes directly outside the house and we have therefore chosen to use a biodegradable dish soap. It’s without chemistry and plastic. Ours is from bio – D. The same goes for the washing machine, where all the waste water also goes directly out in the nature. Therefore we also use an environmental friendly washing soap.
  • Our dish brush is made from coconut. It works really well and the hairs are stiff and clean for a very long time. Unfortunately, the last few brushes of this type broke after a short time where the coconut brush head falls of the wooden handle. Next time I think we’ll buy the one without handle to avoid this problem with the brush head falling of. The one we have is from LoofCo.
  • There is no way to compost organic waste, but instead of throwing out coffee grounds we grow mushrooms (at least we’re trying). Besides that our plants are well filled up with coffee grounds and the rest goes into the soil in our garden.
  • We use glass bowls or similar instead of plastic bags that are only used once and then thrown out.
  • We never buy shopping bags in the store, but always bring our own tote bag.
  • Furthermore, we use crochet fruit and vegetables bags when we go shopping in the store. Then we avoid using the single use plastic bags that the store provides.
  • We have deselected cottons swabs in plastic and choose the ones made from wood. Actually, now we have reusable swabs. There are both some for ears and makeup correction. The ones we have are from LastSwab. I admit that you have to get used to using them and cleaning them but then they work really great.
  • We use rechargeable batteries
  • We walk or bike instead of using the car except for in really bad weather.
  • We use reusable straws made of metal instead of plastics.

We have used the web shop suztain many times for all those above mentioned purchases. They have a selection of many things and you can always be inspired to do new sustainable and environmental friendly choices. Besides that they are very fast with delivery (that is in Denmark, not here). In general we just try to make our own little effort for protecting the environment.


 

Blmuslinger THUMB

One of the very good things about living here at Disko Island is the opportunities for collecting our own food. Not only is it possible to catch our own fresh fish, we can also collect our own mussels! This we did the other day and we even collected a lot more than we could eat which meant we also had for lunch the following day. All that was needed was a boat, low tide and cold hands!

Here you can find the recipe that we used for our very own hand collected Greenlandic mussels.


 

Hveder 1 THUMB

Wheats or "hveder" in Danish is this bun with cardamom which by tradition is eaten once a year. The story is that because of this big holiday all the bakeries used to be closed on that day. The bakers therefore invented a bun that would last longer and still taste good after a day when roasted, and then they could sell these before day before the holiday. Thereby, people could still enjoy bakery buns on the holiday and wheats came to be.

As the title indicate we really like wheats and we also have them several times a year. However, often we buy them at a bakery but Disko do not have any bakeries. This year we therefore decided to make our own. So we did and we had enough for several days and even for the freezer. Actually we were so pleased with the result that we have now made another large portion and they came out just as good as the other ones. The idea is also to bring them on board Porsild when we are soon to sail around Disko. Especially because they still taste amazing even when de-frozen.

Our version is made from both sourdough and sponge, and are highly recommendable. You can find the recipe here.


 

Arctic Station 1 Nik THUMB 

Just like the rest of world, we are also affected by the corona virus. Arctic station is part of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and therefore the station needs to follow the rules regulations of the university. At the same time we also need to follow the rules and regulations in Greenland. Therefore, as the University in Denmark closed down so did we at Arctic station. We were asked to work from home and only strictly necessary work could be carried out (such as making sure the station was heated and plants were watered). Any meeting between colleges and I were carried out by phone or with good distance. Work is slowly getting back to normal and we can start to use the station again, and especially field work is more or less unaffected. However, the outbreak of corona virus has also meant that all visits from researchers has been cancelled and we still do not know when researchers can again visit the station. Because of this, I can feel an increased interest in my help for performing the work that these researches should otherwise have carried out. It will be interesting to see how busy I will be in the coming period where a lot of researchers normally would come to stay at Arctic station.

At the same time Greenland also shot down and it has not been possible to travel to of from our island. Luckily, transport of goods and food has been going on the entire time. We do not know when this will change and people can again travel within Greenland.

All in all a strange and worrying time.

/ Martin


 

Gone fishing 1 THUMB

After the sea ice broke up, we started seeing the open sea and that it was again possible to start fishing from the coast. Last week, we sorted out all our fishing gear, cleaned it and prepared it for the coming fishing season. Birgitte also bought a new fishing rod since she broke her new fishing rod (that she received from Martin as a birthday present) last year. There are too many icebergs close to shore by the cliffs in front of our house and we cannot fish from here. All the icebergs originates from the Ice fiord in Ilulissat that really started to "produce" icebergs into Disko Bay.  Instead, we drove behind our house, passing the sledge dogs and continuing further out towards Englishman Harbour. Here is a beautiful secluded place and we fished from the ice foot. The ice foot is a few meters high so we were very careful not going to close to the edge. Birgitte caught two sculpins, the biggest weighed 0.6 kg and it was the biggest catch of the day. Martin also caught two sculpins, however they were small. Even tough we only caught four sculpins it felt so good to start fishing and coming out there!

Birgitte sculpin 2 THUMB

/ Martin & Birgitte


 

Arctic lab 1 THUMB

The latest post about my PhD project was filled with good vibes and energy! Oh, how I wish that this was still the case.

Unfortunately, since then a lot has happened and my winter warming event experiment is postponed until next winter. According to the plan, my supervisor was supposed to come in early April and help out with the experiment. The experiment includes removal of snow and many different measurement to be taken continuously throughout the period of warming and the time after. When Greenland (and Denmark) closed down because of the coronavirus, I released that the experiment that I prepared for for about one year, was not going to happen with only me. As much as I hated to cancel and postpone it until next winter, it was also a relief when we decided to do so because I kept thinking about how I would be able to do it by myself. Honestly, I was also starting to loose energy to do anything on this particular project because of all this.

I still have my ups and down (like everybody else I guess), but Martin is handling this very well and I will try to start focus on another project/article which also part of my PhD to get back into "normal". Regarding the winter warming event experiment, I try to see the positive in postponing it and make an even better plan for next year's winter.

/ B


 

We really thought and deeply hoped that we would see narwhales when living up here. However, it turned out to be somehow difficult to get access to this experience. It was not really possible to spot them from the coast so both of us asked the local people, if we could join a hunt for narwhales, knowing this would be an ambivalent experience because of killing a whale! It is also our belief that the Greenlandic people have some rights in hunting whales because of cultural reasons (even-tough we don't like it)! Also knowing that there are quotas that regulates how many the hunters are allowed to hunt every year, which should protect the numbers of whales. The locals never returned to us and then we started asking if it would be possible to just see a narwhale before they cut it open and share the meat amongst the hunters. We always got the same wavering answers and it just never happened. To us it seemed like they shoot narwhals everyday, however we also found out that most likely the hunters butcher the narwhales out at sea on the ice so that it is difficult to count the number of killed whales and us, being scientists with cameras, was the kind of people that they keep away. We feel so sad about all off this but also annoyed by the fact that because they butcher them at sea, they also waste meat from the head and bones that they once fed to the dogs or used for dried meat.

/ Birgitte and Martin


 

Today, we woke up to a view much different from what we have had for the last many months. For months the sea has been covered in ice and it was difficult to tell when land stopped and ocean started. This morning, however, the sea ice was broken up and the ocean was clearly visible again.

Seaice 3

Scientist are often very reluctant to draw direct conclusion with climate change. As such, we cannot say that the sea ice here in Disko Bay breaks up every more early because of climate change. However, much indicate that the sea ice is becoming ever more unpredictable (the locals say the same). A break up in late March, as seen this year, would be early compared to other years. But as seen on the below graph over the sea ice coverage here at Arctic Station it is very different from year to year. Year 2020 is still young and depending on the temperature and wind, the sea ice may still come back (so we can go ice fishing which we have only dreamed about so far).

Sea ice

With no sea ice the chances of spotting bowhead whales are now even bigger!

/ M


 

As mentioned in an earlier post, we are also affected by the coronavirus. However, we did not think that it would have an effect on us up here far north. We were wrong! In a week or so, we were supposed to have our first private guests to come visit and share our arctic adventures. Now all our private guests cannot come and we feel devastated. We still don't really believe it because we've been planing and talking about these visits for such a long time. Suddenly over the coarse of two days everything was cancelled. Hopefully, they can come visit us another time during the summer - even tough we'll be busy. We just really want to share Disko Island with people we know.

Yesterday, we simply had to get away from home and the constantly news-stream about coronavirus! We made a lunchpack, hot coffee and snacks and went for a snow scooter trip along with Emil from Hotel Disko Island. It felt so good to get away from everything and clearing our minds. The snow was perfect to drive, we were almost the first out, and we climbed mountain after mountain hunting beautiful views and smiles that we were in need of. It is hard to describe the feeling when you climb up the glacier and get a better and better view as we go up. We always stop on top of the glacier Lyngmarksbræen which gives us the feeling that we are on top of the world. Sometimes, we find it hard to grasp that we actually live here and call this home.

Birgitte ptarmigan

Also, Birgitte shot her first and second ptarmigan, using only two shots in total. We've been out hunting many times before, looking for ptarmigan for her, however never with any luck until now. Martin on the other hand has been lucky to encounter them many times. Martin is very happy that now he can go out hunting for ptarmigan again (as we made a deal that he was not allowed to until Birgitte shot one as well). 

Nipisat

We continued our trip to Nipisat, an old military station situated on a peninsula in Disko Fjord. Weird place! Huge silos, empty houses with broken windows, old cars and scary vibes. All in all a perfect get-a-way day.

/ Martin & Birgitte