Day 16 and 17 – Rypefjord, Øfjord and Ittoqqortoormiit

Henning Thing was the guide for our morning nature walk in Rypefjord. He is a Danish naturalist who has spent much of his life studying and living in Greenland. A wealth of information, he lead us on a walk discussing the plants, rocks, driftwood, and bones we encountered. We learned how to tell a female musk ox skull from a male, and how to determine if the animal died of natural causes if you find an intact leg bone. It turns out that most all the driftwood that appears here originated in Siberia! Many of the rocks on the beach contained garnets. I forget the plant information we got.

As we started out of the Rypefjord, we could see the Eielson Glacier at the end of the fjord, one of the major glaciers in this system producing a number of the icebergs we have been seeing.

Lunch was again on the afterdeck, as our fantastic weather continued another day.

We spent the afternoon cruising east in Øfjord. Milne Land island is now on our right, as we make our way towards the ocean. Our several days in the Scoresbysund fjord system have been great, but it’s time to leave tomorrow and go further north.

Our geologist, Jim Kelley, has been telling us about the various rocks we see on the trip. In Greenland we have seen some of the same basalt that makes up the Faroe Islands and can also be found in Norway, and Devonian Red Sandstone that also makes up many rocks down the east coast of the US.

The next morning we toured the town of Ittoqqortoormiit, which is pronounced just as it is written, or so I was told by Henning. Of course, there is the small matter of knowing how to pronounce the letters in the eastern dialect of the Inuit language.

Less than 500 people live in the town, which was formed in the 1920’s by the Danish who encouraged native people to move here. They get two supply ships in the 8 weeks of summer, and that has to get them through the year. They are subsistence hunters, shooting whales, seals, and polar bears for their meat and blubber, to feed the dogs, and to sell the furs. The number of animals they can take each year is regulated.

Jennifer, who met us onshore, runs the guest house, is the tour guide, and she and her husband raise dogs for dog sledding. Her husband is an Arctic Explorer in his own right, sledding to fjords north of here seldom if ever seen by outsiders, and guides trips to the North Pole. More people visit the North Pole each year than come to Ittoqqortoormiit as tourists. Jennifer is blond and nordic and has lived here for a number of years. She said she went home to visit her parents a couple of years back, but couldn’t take it and came back as fast as she could.

Jennifer fed her dogs while we visited, which involved a lot of excitement and barking. This is a unique breed of Greenland Dog, and the only dog allowed north of the Arctic Circle in Greenland. Bred to sled, that’s all they want to do and can’t wait for the snow and ice to return.

After a visit to the big city, we are now re-entering the Atlantic and heading further north to search for polar bears.

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