Travels with Lois and Jason

Fire and Ice:  Iceland and Greenland

July 2010

 


 

This was our first trans-Atlantic cruise from New York to Dover, England, and we visited places we had never been, including Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, as well as countries we had visited before including Scotland and Norway.   But it was the visits to Iceland and Greenland which motivated the trip, so here are some of our impressions of these two North Atlantic islands.  Our ship was the Ocean Princess.


Greenland is a country that isn't green, and Iceland seems to have more volcanoes than ice.  We learned that the names for these islands were the result of a very successful marketing campaign.  The Norse explorers who found what we now call Greenland wanted to lure people to a very inhospitable place so they gave it a very appealing name:  Greenland.  We were greeted upon our arrival by huge icebergs in the harbor.  (Remember that 90% of an iceberg is below water!!!)  While these icebergs had blocked the harbor the day before, when we arrived they had moved and were just lovely to view.  

iceberg

iceberg

iceberg


Iceland, on the other hand, was very similar to the Norse lands the explorers left.  We were told that to discourage migration they called the island Iceland.  We didn't see much ice, but large grazing and agricultural areas and lots of mountains which were in fact shield and cinder cone volcanoes.

cattle

farming

ponies

Some Greenland Notes

We visited two villages in Greenland: Quqortoq (population 3200) and Nanortalik (population 1400).   Quqortoq is the largest town in its province and is snuggled into the mountainside with very colorful houses built on steep slopes.   On our walk we saw people climbing the steep hills to reach their homes and children swimming in an ice laden lake.

town from
                  ship

houses

family

townhill


stairs

iceberg

Note steep stairs leading to houses
Observe ice around edge of lake


Our second port of call in Greenland was the native village of Nanortalik.  Tourism is a primary business now and they were prepared with a dance concert, a choir performance, and demonstration of their boating skills which provided both entertainment and education about the local customs.  The men demonstrated rolling their kayaks over in the ice filled waters.  The housing we saw in Greenland today is very colorful western style with slanted roofs as opposed to the sod house we saw which was last used as a residence in 1978.  The houses were all painted in very bright reds, blues and greens.  The people dress in modern western clothes, but for hunting and kayaking, traditional seal skin clothes are used.  There was a very warm seal skin tent for us to see.  

dance

dance


seal kayak
sodhouse sodhouse

Everywhere we walked in town we shaw huge boulders which are part of the moraine left by the glaciers which carved the landscape and a beautiful ice sculpture that looked like a swan.

boulder

iceberg

nano mt

nano mt

A definite highlight of Greenland was the scenerary.   Spectacular vistas of glacier shaped mountains were common from our ship as we cruised the coast.

scenery

screnery

scrnery


Some Iceland Notes

The highlight of our visit to Iceland was to visit the Mid-Atlantic Ridge which cuts right thought the middle of Iceland.  The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is the place where two tectonic plates, the Eurasian Plate and North American Plate are separating at about 1 inch per year.  In Iceland, that means that the island is growing wider at about eight feet every 100 years, pretty fast in geologic terms. 

rift

We saw the ridge from two perspectives:  one in a geothermally active area where sulfur pits and cauldrons of boiling mud created a barren landscape.  The ridge formed a clear demarcation line:  to the right is Europe and to the left North America. 


The second area of clearly seen ridge was in an area where there was no (current) geothermal activity and thus the area was covered with grasses.  In this case the ridge was running parallel to the road (the deep depression in the grass).   The road we were on was on the Eurasian side of the ridge while the cinder cone volcano in the background is on the North American side of the ridge.

rift

Ridge going up hill

 Ridge parallel to road

Iceland is a volcanic island (like the Hawaiian Islands) .  In every direction there are volcanic mountains, shield or cinder cone or plug volcanoes.  Some of the mountains had glaciers. 

volcano

falls

falls


falls
volcano

volcano



Black lava rocks dominate t
his hard landscape and created some nice surprises for us.  We visited Godafoss, a very impressive waterfall and canyon.   (Note the poeple standing at top of falls in middle picture.) 

falls


falls

falls

We saw some really exotic rock formations along the coasts created by wind, waves and time. 

coast

falls

coast

bridge

rocks

rocks

falls

falls

bathing
                  suits

On one of our excursions to a remote island we took a beautiful hike.  On the way back from the hike the group stopped at the only house on the island for tea and cake which was prearranged. As you can see in our picture, the locals were enjoying the sunshine in bathing suits while we were all in our overcoats and hats!!!

bathing
                  suits




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June 21, 2013