Watching an Arctic Iceberg Slowly Disintegrate and Die

Day 63 and 64, 2023 North Atlantic Adventure

Thursday and Friday, July 13-14, 2023; Qaqortoq and Nanortalik, Greenland.

As we wove our way through a field of icebergs off the southwest coast of Greenland on Thursday, I heard a sudden loud crack. The closest iceberg slowly started rolling.

By the time I had switched my iPhone camera to video, the side of the iceberg had broken away. For the next 93 seconds, I recorded its slow demise. One side fell away. Then it split and both halves fell away. Again, it rolled, and more ice split off. In the end, it technically was still an iceberg, but most of it was left in small field of growlers (ice pieces less than three feet high).

We spent so much time sailing slowly through the ice field that we became complacent. Some ice was at least double the size of our tenders – and that was what we could see above the water. They say 90 percent of an iceberg is below water, but it is hard to imagine even when sailing by them.

The icebergs passed by outside the windows during dinner and even into the late evening. The sun doesn’t shine all 24 hours any more, but it was still light enough to see the ice when I went to bed.

In 2019 I visited these small Greenland villages of Qaqortoq and Nanortalik. They didn’t offer much in the way of tours, other than boat rides to see the icebergs up close. As I recall from last time, our boat tour (purchased off the pier) was promoted as a whale watching tour. We didn’t see any whales and this time they were called iceberg tours. No risk of not delivering there.

I pretty much repeated my steps – taking a tender in to shore and walking around the two towns. Qaqortoq is the larger of the two, with colorful houses stretching up the hillsides. Some local teens were swimming in the lake, with just one wearing a wetsuit in the 40-degree weather. I’m sure the water felt warmer.

Some local residents set up small booths just off the pier – what we called the “pier boutique” in African ports. Carvings lined one path above the harbor. We were clueless as to how to pronounce the street names.

Nanortalik mostly just stretches along one street for a few blocks, ending in a well-run museum with displays of indigenous clothing, kayaks and boats as well as a collection of out buildings.

I even stopped to sketch the same scenes from four years ago.  Churches continue to draw my interest, whether they are giant stone cathedrals or small wooden village churches.

These have been the coldest days since Norway in April, with the highs in the 40s, but I still find that layering my fleece hoodie and thin puffer jacket is ample. We are experiencing lots of fog, and it isn’t unusual for the ship’s fog horn to blow every two minutes for hours. Yet in three days, we will be in Corner Brook, in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, with a forecaste high temperature in the 80 degrees F.

It is starting to settle in on me that this cruise will end in a week. I’ve requested that the laundry I am sending out be returned folded instead of on hangers. I’ve started writing short thank-you notes for various crew members who have been especially helpful to me. Holland America automatically charges daily crew appreciation charges to our shipboard accounts, but I will give extra to those I see daily.

When I catch my breath after I’m home, I’ll write a blog about the difference in a “vacation” cruise and living aboard ship for half a year. When I leave on July 22, it will be 199 days since I stepped on the Zuiderdam. My longest previous cruise was 82 days. Meanwhile, I will enjoy the icebergs and the beauty of the Canadian maritime provinces.