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On the look-out for whales in Fortune Bay.                                                © Water-colour by Ole Jacobi 1996
Friday 16 August 1996

It's been raining all night, but this morning it has cleared up. It's 9 degrees Celcius, and the fog is hanging over Lyngmarksfjeld. It's overcast, the sun struggling to come out.

I go shopping at KNI with three trolleys. For one thing, we haven't had any youghurt for the last four days. I think it can be felt in this small society that there are 46 more mouths to feed. On the other hand, there are bananas today, nice big ones at only 3 kroner a piece.

Arne and I look at the accounts, they look fairly good.

Today the "Porsild" is going to Fortune Bay with one team at a time. While I wait for my turn, Jacobi shows me where to find kingutaarnat (bog whortleberry). They are blueberries, but different from those found at home - and not quite ripe. They are good, but Leif says that they lack water.

At 4, we go down to the "Porsild". Today we start from the whale-jaw portal, the "King's Bridge". The two teams back from Fortune Bay claim to have seen whales several times on the way out. We're starting to look forward to it, we are still a small group who have not yet seen any whales. We have invited the school principal, Kim Bach, to go with us on the trip. He would like to see some geology. We all meet down at the harbour and are taken by dinghy to the "Porsild".

For the next hour we sail west, gliding past tall beautiful mountains. Some of them have snow and ice on top, others show broad bands of exciting geological formations. The mountains are made out of floating lava, solidified in stratified basalt formations. The ground is high, but quite flat on top. Large, broad valleys cut into the landscape. Half-way out, we pass the Tuapagsuit river which cuts between the Apostelfjeld and Oqaitsunnguit Qaqqaat. At the mouth of the river there are several hundred metres of beach.

At 6.15 we arrive at Fortune Bay having seen no whales on the way. Fortune Bay is a former Dutch whaling station. We start climbing the mountain. The ground is difficult to walk with steep mountainsides and streams to cross and rocks to climb, through paarnaqutit (crowberries) and piluussat (dwarf willow), and Arne putting questions to the students about geology. Greenland is one of the few places in the world where the geological history of the Earth is open to the eye.

When we reach the 100 metre mark, I believe (and so does my heart) that we have come far enough. Mercifully, Jacobi wants to do a water colour, so here we are, both of us, one painting and the other writing and looking for whales. But they fail us, the way nature does. It offers no guarantees, you cannot count on it which is, I suppose, part of its charm. The others have gone on, but here we have a view of the the small skerries made up of islands and peninsulas. The sun is shining, and on the horizon there is a cloud formation in white and grey. Between the clouds and the rocky islands the icebergs are floating. They shine like glass today with last night's rain, playing in white, grey and blue colours in a great variety of forms. On my left, the stream is gurgling happily, and from behind, up the high mountain, I can hear as well as see a large waterfall, soughing like the wind. Otherwise, all is quiet. The mosquitoes have found us, but they are not too great a nuisance. The sun is so warm that I've taken off my jacket.

Here come the others, and we go down to the bay to wait for the "Porsild".

Home again in Godhavn, Kim Bach asks whether Arne and I would like to see his house. The principal's house is very nice, two floors and plenty of space. The living-room is full of light with a marvellous view over the sea. We are invited to sample a piece of heather-smoked trout. It is absolutely delicious, soft as butter. Kim has bought it from one of the hunters.

Supper tonight is boiled cod with potatoes and mustard sauce.

After supper, we all go out with Arne to see where the town's water supply comes from. It's a beautiful walk, the mountains here on Disko lie like massive mastodons with flat roofs and steep sides. Typical basalt formations. They look very fine, varying their colours through the day with the changes of light.

The spring which supplies the town with water keeps a constant temperature of 2 degrees Celcius all year round. It is one of the so-called hot springs of the area, something specific to Disko. It is important for two reasons. One is that it is connected to hot areas in the underground caused by radioactive processes, a kind of natural nuclear power station. The other is that the porous basalt in this place allows water to collect in the underground. The even temperature of the spring allows a great variety of plants to grow here: pale green peat moss, lady's mantle, horsetail.

In a country bound by permafrost and 8 months of extreme cold every year, running water is a great problem. Rivers freeze, and water pipes have to be heated and insulated, but in this place it is enough to insulate.

Kim Bach tells the students about reindeer hunting in Greenland. An exciting kind of hunt, but only for the strong.

At 11 we're back at the Arctic Station where we have coffee and pear schnapps, offered by Keld. Suddenly, around 11.30, a Greenlander turns up in the living-room, asking if he may sing a song. Everybody is summoned, they are needed for joining in the chorus: "Aja, aja, ja ..."

Next picture: On the way to Skansen.

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