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Igor's arctic adventure

August 16, 2017

Reykjavik, Iceland 

On the 22nd July the COBA 2 team and Igor, the marine drone, met up again with Thomas and his steel sailing boat 'Le Paladin' in Iceland. 'Le Paladin' was to be our home for the next three weeks during our exploration of Greenland. 

 

Glorious sunshine greeted us in Reykjavík that evening, allowing Igor to be re-assembled and put to work in the local marina. Running autonomously, Igor was able to map the depth of the marina in 30 minutes, producing the following chart: 

 

 You can see that the depth in the marina was consistent, varying only between 5.25 metres to 6 metres:

                                                                    Igor on the pontoon in Reykjavik 

 

Setting sail for Greenland 

With the first test complete, the following day we set off for Greenland. Throughout the 450 nm trip which took 3 1/2 days to complete, we passed some very large icebergs!

Tasilaaq

Our first point of call was Tasilaaq, the most populous community on the eastern coast, and the seventh-largest town in Greenland. Having had to navigate through a very large amount of pack ice to get there, we were glad to be back on land and able to moor up in the harbour; as there were some very large icebergs floating nearby, quite a hazard for a boat at anchor! 

 

 Le Paladin and another visiting boat waiting to enter the harbour, Tasilaaq

 

in Tasilaaq, we took depth readings in the centre of the bay, just to the right of the Iceberg shown in the photograph. The results were dramatic; ranging from a mere 12 metres to 72 metres at the deepest point!

 

 

Qagssidlik 

After a few days rest in Tasilaaq, the ice in the fjord had melted considerably making it much easier for us to head to our next destination, Qagssidlik (61.15 N, 42.47 W).  This was an extremely remote, idyllic anchorage surrounded by towering mountains:

 

 Photo taken of le Paladin by Igor's remotely controlled camera

 

On arrival we ran aground, as this remote part of Greenland hasn't had the depth charted. We had to put all the crew into the inflatable dinghy to allow Thomas to motor out of the mud and set the boat free! On our second attempt at approaching the anchorage, we sent Igor ahead of us to take live data readings of the depth, allowing us to anchor in a safe 10 metres at low water. 

 

This is the chart Igor produced in Qagssidlik, showing that the depth ranged from a mere 1.6 metres to just over 11 metres : 

 

 

 

 On the same day we set off on a long hike up the closet mountain, and had to wade half way out to the boat on our return through some very chilly water! 

 

 Florian and Julien at the top of the mountain, Qagssidlik  

 

Prince Christian Sound - Falaise 

We then had an overnight trip, setting off further south to pass through Prince Christian Sound, which separates the mainland from the islands of the Cape Farewell Archipelago. Just 500 metres at its narrowest point and 60 miles long, it is a marvellous fjord surrounded by steep mountains. Many glaciers line the sound and dive straight into the water; even this far south we frequently came across icebergs. 

 

Our first point of call in the sound was an anchorage called Falaise (60.05.59N, 044.06.48W). Due to its oval shape the anchorage was well protected from the wind; the water was extremely still and clear here. You can see from the chart that there is a good 16 metres of water at low tide until you get right up close to the shore: 

 

 Falaise, eastern side of Prince Christian Sound

 

 

Aappilattoq 

Our final stop out of the sound was at a very small village called Aappilattoq, the only settlement in the Sound. There were lots of children playing late into the night, and we saw quite a few people hunting for seals. it felt an extremely remote village with the mountains towering above it on either side! It was quite tricky to get into the anchorage as there were lots of rocks (we hit one or two) and not much water. We had to double up our lines as it we had 30 knots of wind that night. 

 

 

Radio station, Aapilattoq

 

Southern Greenland - Narsaq

On leaving Aapilattoq, we were able to unfurl our sails and speed out of the Sound with a good 25 knots of wind. Our next point of arrival was to be Narsaq. Norse ruins can be found in this town in southern Greenland, where people have lived on and off for thousands of years.

 

A natural deep water harbour made trading possible for the local fishermen, who would swap seal blubber and skin for continental goods such as coffee, sugar, bread and buckwheat. When we visited there weren't many people around, but a good number of boats lined the small harbour which has a depth of 11 metres alongside the pontoon:

 

 Narsaq, southern Greenland

 

 The natural harbour at Narsaq

 

 Taken at high water 

 

Southern Greenland, Nanortalik 

Having not seen many people in Narsaq, it was nice to arrive in Nanortalik to be greeted by some friendly locals. Nanortalik is the 10th largest town in the country; in Greenlandish it is called "the place of the bears", but we didn't meet any! 

 

Nanortalik is a very pleasant place to visit and well supplied. We were able to take a shower and wash our clothes in the nearby hotel, fill up the boat with fuel and water, and pick up a few goodies - mainly danish pastries - from the local supermarket. Wi-fi can be accessed at the tourist office. 

 

11 metres alongside the pontoon allowed us to moor up easily alongside another visiting yacht - an American couple, who were heading for Canada. 

 

 Qaq

After two days rest in Nanortalik, we set sail again in thick fog, and decided to pull in at this beautiful anchorage in Qaq rather than going all the way to Narsaq. Motoring bravely through a narrow gap brings to you to a surprisingly large, calm basin, surrounded by silent hills; it looks a bit like Scotland here! Qaq is marked by the black circle in the photo below. The depth here ranges from 9 to 0.6 metres:

 

 

 

 Qaq

 

 Qaq, a very quiet anchorage 

 Rowing out to Le Paladin 

 

Southern Greenland, Narsaq

After a gentle hike around the hills, we spent a night here before heading on to our final destination, Narsaq. Marking  the end of our Greenland expedition on the 13th August, Lizzy and Julien flew back to Europe while Florian and Thomas prepared for the next trip to the Azores, where Igor's capabilities of collecting marine debris will be tested. 

 

On the 15th of August Florian and Thomas set sail, and have been making steady progress throughout the trip. They have reported being hit by 40 knots on two occasions, and the sea has been incredibly rough with the boat rolling around a lot. Thankfully the weather has eased off and for the past few days they have been motoring in light winds wearing t-shirts and flip flops. E.T.A. for the Azores is tuesday! 

 

 

 Florian, Thomas and Julien, leaving Tasilaaq

 

 

 

 

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