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Baffin Island and West Greenland

Kim Irish

  • Kim and the Greenland Ice Sheet
    Kim and the Greenland Ice Sheet

Expedition Ship
RCGS Resolute

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Baffin Island and West Greenland

Kim Irish

My anticipation built as I boarded the flight from Ottawa to Iqaluit [the capital of the Canadian territory of Nunavut] and indescribable emotion swelled in my chest as I peered out of the plane’s window, flying over a vast wilderness of tundra and ice.

Frobisher Bay

My excitement only increased as we landed in Iqaluit and embarked the gorgeous RCGS Resolute, our home for the next 10 days. Small icebergs—referred to as “bergy bits” and “growlers”—floated by as we sailed north along Baffin Island’s coast, hinting at the promise of more ice and the geological wonders to come.

Kim takes the photo of an iceberg

Our guides and special guests laid the foundation for an unforgettable journey as they shared their knowledge and stories of the land, wildlife, history, and rich culture in this region. Their deep connection and appreciation of nature was especially evident as we visited Pangnirtung, an Inuit community on Baffin Island. As a hub for the arts, the story of Pang’s people and land is often told through tapestries.

After exploring the town, we were privileged to participate in a community event that included Inuit throat singing (or katajjaq), muktuk (a traditional meal of frozen whale skin and blubber), and a demonstration of traditional Inuit games.

Inuit residents of Pangnirtung welcome guests with demonstrations

Upon arrival at Cape Mercy on Baffin Island, we prepared for a scheduled afternoon hike. As we ate lunch, I was startled by a squeal from a nearby table and intense finger pointing. The moment I had waited for finally arrived. I looked out at the tundra and there she was in all her glory: a beautiful polar bear! My eyes welled with tears as I watched her stride along the hill down to the water’s edge and swim out of sight. Our schedule was retooled to ensure that we didn’t have any land encounters with our ice bear and the resulting Zodiac ride exceeded all expectations. We spent hours watching the same bear swim from floe to floe!

A polar bear peeks out of the water

The first stop in Greenland brought us to Qeqertarsuaq, the only settlement on Disko Island. This destination is truly a geological marvel. The landscapes appear ethereal, from the striking red flattop mountains to the basalt columns rising out of the water. The views are a stark contrast from the rest of the Arctic’s landscape due to Qeqertarsuaq’s volcanic past—the truest definition of where fire meets ice.

Basalt columns on Disko Island

We continued our journey west to Ilulissat, a place I had long fantasized of visiting as it is home to one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. The Ilulissat Icefjord is filled with icebergs that calve from Sermeq Kujalleq, the fastest moving glacier in the world. The reality of this day overshadowed my dreams in all aspects.

As we headed to the trail for our morning excursion, we were met by hordes of sled dog pups eager to please new visitors. The hike along the icefjord proved to be as magical as I imagined. Time seemed to slow as I stared out at ice sculptures of all shapes and sizes.

Hikers gaze upon the Ilulissat Icefjord

The afternoon in Ilulissat proved to be just as enchanted as our morning. We loaded into the Zodiacs and cruised along the icefjord. Just as we settled in, we heard over the radio that humpback whales had been spotted. We made our way over and discovered a group of 12 humpbacks! The Zodiacs came to a stop as we immersed ourselves in the sights and sounds of the whale’s vocalizations reverberating off the icebergs.

A humpback whale tail in an icefjord

The final day of our journey came much too soon as we left the comfort of our Arctic home aboard the Resolute. Thankfully, we had one last date with ice in Kangerlussuaq before the conclusion of our unforgettable expedition.

My adventure to the Russell Glacier began in a tundra coach, designed to travel the rocky terrain standing between us and this striking wall of ice. We hiked along the glacier’s edge, enjoying the pristine surroundings and landscapes. A fitting end for our time in Greenland.

Russell Glacier

The last night onboard the Resolute was one I’ll never forget. As a solo traveler, I had formed so many connections with fellow passengers and guides that I couldn’t help but feel disappointed our time together was coming to an end. We celebrated in Canadian Arctic style as Johnny Issaluk, our RCGS explorer-in-residence, guided us in Inuit drum dancing. I’ll never forget how it felt to hold the qilaut and strike the edge of the rim while trying to keep rhythm. It was the perfect end to our time onboard.

As I left the Arctic, I was flooded with emotion. This trip was a transformative experience. I reconnected with nature and established a greater sense of purpose about how our actions impact these incredible destinations. As the plane left Kangerlussuaq, I felt peace of mind knowing this wasn’t ‘goodbye’ but rather ‘see you later.’ I hope to return for another Arctic adventure.

Kim in sunglasses on the ship

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