Arrival at Disko

From Ilulissat, we boarded the Disko Line ferry bright (sort of) and early at 6:30 am yesterday (30th) morning before setting off at 7. The route took 4 and a half hours and, while it was chilly, we were really rather fortunate with the weather and we even got a sunny interval or two! We, unlike most of our fellow passengers, managed to remain on deck for the vast majority of the journey. There was of course good reason for this; we were amongst an iceberg dominated landscape across Disko Bay before approaching the island where mountains began to tower ahead.

We arrived into the harbour at Disko Island (known as Qeqertarsuaq in Greenlandic) at 11:30 and were picked up by Ole, the logistics manager at the University of Copenhagen’s Arktisk Station, where we shall be staying until the 9th August (except when we’re camping out in the field). The station is about a kilometre from the harbour and just outside the small town. Ole took us for tea in the library where we remained for some time and chatted about the station, the research project, and many other things.

After tea, we joined everyone for an amazing seafood buffet prepared for some very special visitors to the station. It was here that we were able to meet many of the other postgraduate researchers currently staying at the station. A short walk into town (via the puppies!) followed lunch and we bought some provisions for the days ahead. On returning to the station, we were shown our room by Arktisk Station’s manager, Akaaraq. The room is superb and has fantastic views out into Disko Bay where the icebergs slowly float by our window. In the evening, we went on a short walk around the town before returning station for some rest.

Today (the 31st), we have remained in the station where, after a small lie-in, we have spent much time preparing for the fieldwork and camping ahead. It’s just as well that our fieldwork is not starting today because the weather is somewhat wet and gloomy! Let’s hope that it improves for the days ahead.

Joe & Mark.

Looking back towards some icebergs just after leaving the port at Ilulissat A picture of me and Mark on the boat, taken by some American researchers who we met on the journey The approach to Disko Island (Qeqertarsuaq) A view of Arktisk Station from the beach. The town here on the island; the research station is on the far side from where this picture was taken, about a kilometre away.

Journey to Disko Island

In April 2013, with a group of EU Interact funded researchers, Suzanne McGowan, Emma Pearson and Erika Hogan, I was part of a team that collected sediment cores from three ice covered lakes on Disko Island to reconstruct past climate and carbon cycling over the Holocene (~10,700 years).  Now, with Joseph Bailey, a graduate student also at the University of Nottingham we set out to revisit Disko Island.  This has been made possible by a travel grant from NERC, provided through an application to my university’s doctoral training centre travel award committee.  Our intention is to collect samples of soils and plants from the same lakes, which should help to calibrate the lipid and pigment analyses proposed to be completed on the sediment cores.  Visiting the lakes during the ice-free summer will also make geomorphology and vegetation surveys possible.

The journey to Disko Island, West Greenland is long and complex.  We both set out on Friday from Nottingham accompanied by many heavy bags full of our equipment and camping food!  From Manchester we flew to Copenhagen, had a day of sightseeing and then took an early morning flight to Kangerlussuaq, which is an ex-air base and is now the main transit point for international flights between Denmark and Greenland.  After a couple of hours wait, we flew by a Dash 8 turboprop to Ilulissat where we are now waiting for the twice weekly, summer only ‘Diskoline’ ferry to Qeqertarsuaq.  Today, during our wait for the ferry we have been admiring the beauty of the stunning Ilulissat Ice Fjord, known as Kangia in Greenlandic, which was made a UNESCO world heritage site in 2004.  The Ilulissat Ice stream (Sermeq Kujalleq), which feeds the fjord, is the most active in West Greenland.  As we traversed the granite and quartz across the undulating, rugged, rocky terrain, we caught glimpses through an awe inspiring fog of ice bergs floating down the fjord bound for the Disko Bay.  Tomorrow we will take a Disko line ferry from the northern at Ilulissat for the four hour crossing to Qeqertarsuaq and Arktisk Station, part of the University of Copenhagen, which will be our base for the next 9 days.

Mark and Joe

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100_4008Photos of the Ilulissat Ice Fjord, a UNESCO world heritage site which we visited while waiting for the Diskoline ferry to Disko Island