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Sermermiut and Jakobshavn Ice Fiord                                                                                         © Water-colour by Ole Jacobi 1996

Wednesday 21 August 1996

Breakfast at "Naleraq" at 8.30. Jacob Lindbo has put out a buffet. "It was the same at the Ionospheric Station", says Trine in her comment!

Elsebeth has returned home this morning. The matter of her ticket was settled, and we are now 43 persons left.

We start for the Ice Fiord at 10 with Jacobi as guide. We walk out of town and cross a tract of moorland. The boys are wearing shorts, and I've left out my stockings. (It's really due to my getting a wet sock a moment ago, as we were passing a small stream - and the Gore-Tex boots have been left behind at the Youth Hostel).

We reach a broad gorge at Sermermiut. Jacobi tells us about this important Eskimo settlement which has now been excavated and examined. The sea had eaten away at a hillside and laid bare a kitchen midden. Here it's possible to read the 4000 year old history of Greenland from bottom to top, layer by layer. The Saqqaq culture, the Dorset culture and the Thule culture.

Jacobi says that if anyone feels like it, they can go all the way out to the Old Women's Ravine. It's a narrow, deep ravine which cuts into the cliffside. Years ago, old people plunged to their death here, when life had become unsupportable - sometimes helped on the way by children and grandchildren.

We go on, ascending now. Then, at about 11.30, we reach the pinnacle of natural scenery in the Ilulissat area: the Ice Fiord with its enormous masses of ice.

The large, very active glacier 40 kms into the fiord calves regularly, producing great icebergs which are slowly carried towards the mouth of the fiord, out into the Bay of Disko. The glacier moves 22 metres a day. The icebergs fill up the fiord totally to a depth of 1500 metres. They are packed together owing to the moraine barrier at the mouth of the fiord which is difficult to negotiate at a depth of only 200 metres.

A vista of unbelievable beauty. Not least on a day like this with sun, blue skies and an endless view. The fiord is packed with ice in a jumble of glittering icebergs which are pushed towards the mouth by the pressure from behind. From the moment the ice breaks off the edge of the glacier until it reaches the mouth of the fiord as much as two years can pass! It's impressive to watch all this heaving and tumbling of ice in the fiord, and, of course, Jacobi has to do a water-colour of it.

Here we eat our lunch. Suddenly we hear the dogs howling, it's 12 o'clock and the siren in the town is sounding off. A fantastic concert is starting: 6000 dogs howling in unison. What is the world coming to?

So much ice - and the size of the icebergs! Whole continents are lying here, waiting for passage. I cannot help thinking: Greenland - the green land? Perhaps Erik the Red had some sort of public relations exercise in mind when he named the large, uninhabited land he found west of Iceland in the 900s. You could ask yourself whether the name is justified or unreasonable. If the land was to be named today, you would never choose the name Greenland. Rather Iceland - if that was not already in use!

Then we're back in town. Jacobi shows us his childhood home which is now an art museum. A lovely, red timber building with blue edges around the windows. We sit here for a long time while Jacobi's telling us stories about the place.

Mikkel and I make a detour around the town hall where some of Hans Jacobi's paintings are hung (Jacobi's father). I also visit the NUNA bank and ask for a Greenlandic school timetable for my daughter, Emilie. I'm sure she will appreciate it. The rest of the afternoon is spent basking in the sun or strolling around the town.

For supper we have roasted Greenland halibut with rice, tomato sauce and green peppers. It's very good.

In the evening we enjoy ourselves with Irish Coffee and other strong drinks at the Youth Hostel. No use carting half-empty bottles back with us!

Next picture:The old Jakobshavn 
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