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Greenland’s Scoresby Sound
2022 Trip Report

I saw Greenland for the first time many years ago from the cockpit of a 747 jetliner on a flight between Europe and my home in Calgary, Alberta. From 35,000 feet the ice below, us stretched to the horizon in every direction. Most of Greenland, the world’s largest island, is buried under an immense icecap that in places is over a mile and a half thick. Since that first sighting of Greenland from the air I have been there several times, and in 2004 I was a co-leader on an early Van Os photo tour to Scoresby Sound on the eastern coast. I was very happy to be going back.


Scoresby Sound is one of the largest fiord systems in the world and this magical location was our destination for this most recent photo adventure. We began the tour with a two-hour private flight from Iceland to Constable Point, the only landing strip along the entire 1500-mile eastern coastline of the country. For some it was their first experience landing on a gravel runway and a tangible reminder of the remoteness of our destination. We even found a fresh set of polar bear tracks in the mud next to the end of the strip.

After a short walk from the airport, we boarded the three-masted schooner, the Rembrandt van Rijn which was to be our home for the next nine days as we cruised through some of the most stunning Arctic scenery imaginable. Normally, the ship can accommodate 33 passengers but with the registration limited to 20 participants, most people had their own cabin with lots of room for camera gear and winter clothing.

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The crystalline beauty of the region’s legendary Icebergs were the main photo focus for the tour, and they did not disappoint. In recent decades, the Greenland icecap has been slowly shrinking and most of its glaciers are now disgorging more icebergs than ever before. The waters in the fiord system are extremely deep so many of the countless icebergs we saw were free floating and the only way to safely explore them photographically was from the safety of our ship. In shallower waters where the icebergs were grounded and unlikely to roll, we launched the ship’s two zodiacs and were able to get closer to capture the artistry of the ice. Although we saw some tabular icebergs, such as the ones you see commonly in Antarctica, most icebergs in the Arctic are irregular in shape, many with photogenic arches, turrets and spires.


A welcome surprise for me on this tour was the autumn splendour of the tundra vegetation. Our timing could not have been better. The dwarf birches were a vibrant orange, the willows a bright lemon yellow, and the bearberries a breathtaking crimson. All were in their autumn finery. Many times the icebergs, no matter how splendid, were easily matched by the vibrancy of the autumn tundra.

Although we used the ship’s engines during most of the tour the crew hoisted the sails for us one day so we could photograph our photogenic ship set against the snow-capped coastal mountains and enjoy for a time the feel of being conveyed by the power of the wind.

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On one of our final days, we made a short stop at the Inuit village of Ittoqqortoormiit (formerly Scoresbysund) which means “big house dwellers”. The tiny hamlet of 345 residents is described as one of the most remote settlements on earth. Its inhabitants are primarily subsistence hunters living off of narwhals, belugas, walrus, seals, muskoxen and polar bears, which they hunt in winter.

As I relax in my cabin writing this log and reviewing the photos I have taken in the previous nine days I’m reminded once again how fortune I am to witness such a pristine landscape and to share the experience with like-minded souls. For all of us, the tour was a treasured glimpse into the profound beauty of our natural world.