Palo’s Wedding

Palo’s Wedding is a classic film by Knud Rasmussen, who was born in Iulissat, on the west coast of Greenland, on 7th June 1879, the son of a Danish missionary.  He was the first European to dog sledge the whole length of the North West Passage, one of the numerous expeditions that he undertook between 1902 and 1933.  A number of geographical features are named after him, including the Knud Rasmussen Glacier in the far north west of Greenland and the Knud Rasmussen Range of mountains on the west coast of Greenland.
In addition he was honoured by the Royal Geographical Society, the Royal Danish Geographical Society and the American Geographical Society as a consequence of his explorations in the Arctic.
Whilst making the film Rasmussen developed food poisoning, supposedly from eating kiviaq, which developed into pneumonia and he sadly died on the 21st December 1933 at the age of 54.
There are some short sections of the film available online but if possible it is well worth obtaining a full copy of the DVD.  Palo’s Wedding makes for an interesting winters evening viewing for a kayak club.

Palo's Wedding
Two memorials to Knud Rasmussen. The o abovene in front of his place of birth and the one below looking north over the ice filled Disko Bay.

Palo's Wedding

Palo's Wedding
The house in Ilulissat where Knud Rasmussen was born in 1879. His father was a Danish missionary living in the town.
Palo's Wedding
An umiak in front of the museum.
Palo's Wedding
Kamp Absalonsen, he was the vice-president of Qaannat Kattuffiat and chief Greenland kayaking competition judge, sitting in the earth house at the museum at Ilulissat. His love for all things Greenlandic is inspirational.
Palo's Wedding
The DVD “Palo’s Wedding” is a fitting memorial to one of the finest Arctic explorer’s of all time.
Of the Inuit he said:
“Their culture is a witness in itself to the strength and endurance and wild beauty of human life.”

Ilulissat – the final day

It was all so straightforward.  Paddle out of Pakitsoq, camp on the slabs at Anoritoq, have an evening meal in Oqaatsut and been in Ilulissat in time for lunch.  It just about went to plan apart from the evening meal bit.

Leaving the inner part of Pakitsoq. It was pretty important to make sure that we left around slack water.

There was no rush in the morning as our calculations indicated that the best time to pass through the narrows was at around 10.30, on this particular morning high water at Ilulissat was at 09.38.  It turned out that our calculations were pretty accurate and although we needed to do a bit of ferry gliding we escaped into the outer part of the fjord with very little effort.

There were a few intermediate size icebergs around but very little in the way of small ice, which might impede our paddling.
This large arch caused some concern as it looked pretty unstable.
Collapsed arch
Although there had been a few indications that the arch was unstable it still came as a complete shock when it collapsed. There is no doubt that if you had been paddling underneath it you would have been killed. Total proof that those pictures where you see kayaker’s sitting underneath an arch are completely foolhardy.

Our campsite for the evening was close to the slabs at Anoritoq, which is probably my favourite place to stay along this section of coast.  An easy landing, plenty of flat space for tents, a great stream and a never ending range of glacial features to explore.

Sheltering from the wind whilst preparing food. eventually we had to move as the wind increased significantly in speed.
Solar chargers
One of the significant developments in recent years has been the use of more electrical equipment whilst out on trips but the current range of solar chargers means that keeping things topped up is pretty simple. All you need is sunshine.

The following morning the wind was blowing offshore and packing up was put on a temporary hold.  A temporary hold, which stretched in 22 hours.  Bit by bit the wind increased in strength until it was blowing offshore at about 50 mph.  There was clearly no way we were paddling in those conditions.
The consequence was that we had to miss out on our stop in Oqaatsut, and were still quite concerned about the possibility of strong winds but when we got up at 05.00 the storm of the day before had abated, so in perfectly calm conditions we headed south for the 13 miles back to Ilulissat.

Heading to Ilulissat
On the final day of our 19 day trip we woke to calm conditions and limited ice so we made quick progress towards our final destination, Ilulissat.

Landing just after 11.00, we unloaded our kayaks for the final time, we had been out for 19 days.  At times strong winds created challenging conditions but our journey through northern Disko Bay had been truly memorable.

Disko Bay – Day 17 – Ilulissat

Your final day on a long trip is always a time of conflicting emotions.  We had taken part in a really memorable paddle through some stunning scenery.  There was far more ice around than I had experienced on my 5 previous trips in Greenland, which at times had presented a significant challenge and even up until the last we weren’t sure how things were going to go.  The French paddlers we had seen a few days earlier had taken 2 days to get out of Ilulissat because of the ice, if we took two days to get in then we would miss our flights home.
There was quite a special feeling, this was the conclusion of a project which had started over 2 years earlier.  At the Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium in 2013 we came under some pressure to run another event in Jersey in 2014.  It was eventually agreed that we would go ahead with the event but the aim was to raise enough funds to be able to buy a number of sea kayaks to place in Greenland, which would be available for the participants at the event to use.  Effectively we were aiming to re-invest in the sport.
2015 was the first year that the kayaks were available and they were used for 40 days, which was a successful year from the Jersey Canoe Club’s perspective.  We already have bookings for 2016 as well as tentative inquiries for 2017.  A successful legacy from the Jersey Sea Kayak Symposium, which will hopefully allow more paddlers to experience the memorable kayaking off the west coast of Greenland.
The final morning.  We had lifted the kayaks up quite a distance the night before as there were a number of large bergs just offshore and we didn’t want to risk losing the kayaks on the final night.
Eric heading south through the ice towards Ilulissat.
Our first glimpse of Ilulissat.  We were still concerned about whether we would be able to reach the town.  There was a significant amount of ice, the only indicator which gave us hope were the number of small boats going past.  They had clearly been able to force their way out of the harbour.
 The last few hundred metres and there was a hint of open water between the ice floes.
 The final slabs on which we pulled the kayaks.  At this point we knew that in 36 hours time we would be on the flights home.