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Tāterāt Glacier, Greenland - September 9, 2005

Night fell as the ship effortlessly steamed down the smooth waters of the Kangerlussuaq with the ebbing tide. As we entered the Davis Strait around midnight, the 30 knot winds threatened to make life more uncomfortable, but the following sea merely helped us move more quickly along and rocked us all into a comfortable sleep.

Satellite Image of Taterat Anchorage

Up on deck before dawn, I discovered we had anchored in the Kangerdlugssuatsiaq (Evighedsfjord) near the Tāterāt and Avangnardliup glaciers. Before breakfast we took to the Zodiacs for an exploration of the steep cliffs of the 1813 meter Tāterāt peak and the face of the glacier.

As we made our way along the edge of the cliffs, these beautiful five meter high rock formations came into view. They appear to be Granitic Gneiss, a metamorphic rock transformed by heat and pressure into layers which flowed into these swirling patterns several billion years ago.

Chunks of glacier ice floating in the water take on a beautiful blue colour.

Kittiwake nests

High above the water’s edge, hundreds of Kittiwake and Murre and Guillemot nests perch on the numerous ledges carved in the vertical rock. The birds have left their nests for the season, but we saw many flying near the ship as we headed down these fjords.

Far above us we could see splashes of rust coloured lichen below tiny ledges which marked the nests of falcons. Naturalists counting populations from helicopters use the visible lichen as a marker. The lichen growth is accelerated by the nutrients and chemicals in the guano leached from the nests.

Ice Sculpture Our Zodiac continued along the rocky shore as we passed numerous fragments of ice carved from the glacier into shapes which could easily have been abstract centerpieces for a fancy dining table. This “dog” catches the first rays of the morning sun.

The chunks of “bergy bits” crackle and pop as the ancient air, compressed by tons of glacier, escapes into the atmosphere as the sun warms the floating ice.

Finally, we round the last bend and the enormous face of the glacier rises before us, dwarfing our zodiacs. The glacier is fed directly from the Sukkertoppen (Sugar Loaf) ice pack which is an extension of the central ice cap.

Zodiacs approach Tāterāt Glacier

Greenland’s ice cap contains 2.5 million cubic km of ice, in places over 3 km thick. The weight of the ice has depressed the center of Greenland so that if the ice were to melt, Greenland would appear as a ring of mountains surrounding a new sea and the global sea level would rise by 6 to 7 meters.

The ice of Greenland has been accumulating for 3 million years. Drilling cores in the ice reveals the history of ancient climates and changes in the earth’s atmosphere.

Before breakfast, we have breathed in the clear air of past millenia, touched ice formed before the last ice age, and felt the cold breeze descend from the majestic Tāterāt Glacier. Life does not get much better than this.

The sun is getting higher, and as the day begins to warm we return to the shelter of the M/S Explorer.

Zodiacs return to M/S Explorer

Continue to Day 2 - Kangamiut

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© Copyright 2005 Peter Jennings. All rights reserved.