Exercise Midnight Sun - Greenland 2008
2008/08/15 Kayakers (Day 10)
The last day dawned for us and the glory of the morning was fitting for our final paddle to base camp at Tassy Bay. Inevitably there were mixed feelings as thoughts of home pushed themselves to the forefront of our minds and combined with the sadness of leaving such a beautiful place and the fantastic friendships we had developed over the last two weeks.
We packed our kayaks for the last time and launched into the water on time for once (something to do with the 10am start time to be fair). The piece of wood Scott had been lovingly carrying around for the last week as our kitchen shelf was left on the beach at the site. We had all become rather attached to it but we couldn’t see it brought into captivity and left it to be wild and free. Paul and Scott held it together and managed to paddle away without looking back.
It was evident on the water that there was a reluctance to return to base camp too early so a very leisurely paddle ensued around the shoreline, everyone trying to drink in every last drop of atmosphere while it lasted. Charlie hugged the rocks looking for places to play, Sarah paddled like a pro in a straight line for once, Kev used every opportunity to throw his tackle over the side whenever he could and Jude was a proper little dynamo, charging as she went. Paul had pretty much exhausted his full repertoire of songs but we revisited a few favourites. Pete was somewhat subdued, we put it down to the realization that he was staying behind on his own and would have to make his own brews until his new staff arrived. Carol still sulking due to the loss of her hat (to add to the earlier sunglasses) declared half way through our formation paddling “this is no fun, I’m not doing it any more!”.
However, as we rounded the point in our well practiced formation paddling, there was group disappointment at the fact there was no-one left at camp to see our prodigal return.
Spirits were kept high as we pitched the tents for the last time and prepared to receive the VIP guests for dinner. Pete and Kev provided the fish, Carol cooked up a fine feast and the evening was truly rounded off in kayakers style with a roaring camp fire, ably provided by Scott’s scouring of the hillside for dead (and about to be dead) firewood.
2008/08/14 Kayakers (Day 9)
Although the previous night’s downpour did much to restock our water supplies, we were still low and felt we would certainly be running out of water in the next 12 hours at the rate we were drinking it and cooking with it. We decided that Kev, Scottie and Charlie would complete replen run to a water source marked on the map. It was hoped that this would be successful this time as a number of previous marked water sources we had visited the day before were in fact dried out due to the lack of snow melt and the previous weeks of hot weather. The rest of the group under the watchful eye of Pete crossed the sound and started to explore the outer islands to the South East of Kangamiut.
The water replen run was successful and after filling every available container the team paddled off to RV with the main group. In the meantime the main group having momentarily gotten temporarily geographically mal-located paddled out to the North side of the islands to regain their bearings. Unbelievably the group were treated to a fantastic sight of a young humpback whale surfacing within 10metres of the kayaks. Sadly by the time they had all finished scrabbling for their cameras the whale had submerged and was lost to the deep, never to be seen again.
Once both groups had RV’d and stories about the whale (which incidentally both increased in size and got closer to the kayaks with each telling!) had been told we all set off to visit Pongo’s Island. Enroute we met Anders and Mark Ward and completed a refuel at sea and managed to successfully transfer two large SIGG bottles of Kero without seeing if they would float first.
On landing at Pongo’s Island after a hard paddle in confusing clapotis (sp?) waves, we soon became cold due to the wind and drizzle. The Group shelter soon encapsulated us all and after a short while we all seemed to glow with a orange inner warmth. It was a reluctant team that had to be evicted from this warm, hibernating inducing fug, to continue the days paddling.
An early finish for the day was taken as we found an amazing campsite with not only a beach but a fantastic kitchen that would most certainly now meet Craol’s unbelievably high expectations. Not only did it have running water but it also boasted what looked like a flat black granite work surface for cooking on. With a tarpaulin erected over it, it was almost perfect. Alas the site chosen for its looks was actually below the High Water mark and resulted in us having to bring the timings of the groups evening meal forward by two hours. Thankfully we managed to serve the last meal before having to evacuate the kitchen to the incoming tide. At one point it looked like a poolside bar complex (as modeled by Paul and Charlie in the group’s sea side café photo-shoots). The water continued to rise until the kitchen had been fully mopped out and indeed submerged (at last a self cleaning worktop solution). We continued our evening with a campfire which was positioned perfectly so that it was eventually three inches from the high tide point
2008/08/13 Kayakers (Day 8)
Today brought us wind, not from the compo but from the weather conditions. This resulted in drizzly rain and a chilly breeze. We continued to head Southwestwards on the South side of Evighedsfjord again hugging the coast and exploring the numerous bays en route.
Our lunch stop was a large sheltered inland bay where we found a mountain stream and were able to restock our depleted water supply. In addition Scottie went mussel hunting, producing a fine crop of large mussels whilst Pete and Kev rekindled their love of fishing and were able to hook a couple of large, a halibut and two rather unattractive fish – ulk. There was a comment to Pete about which end of the line had the most ugly monster on but a vote was taken by the group and we decided to throw back the fish instead. We later learned that the fish has poisonous spines and takes a whole bag of chilli flakes to render it edible.
The rest of the group getting colder by the minute and inundated with flies took shelter under the bright orange shelter refusing not to come out and came to the collective decision that this site was not to be our camp site for this evening.
With the laptop now flat due to previous cloud cover desperate measures were needed to continue to power our tracker and maintain our blogs. Kev, Charlie and Judy decided to head over to ‘Pongo’s island’ (aka latterly as BT island) to try to tap into a power source in order to recharge our communications equipment. The tide and wind combined to make an interesting and very challenging crossing which all three enjoyed after the relative sheltered calm of the fjord. On arrival on BT island we discovered, as inevitably happens, that we were missing one essential cable to complete a recharge (that had been left at base camp) due to space constraints and the highly unlikely event of finding a mains power supply in the fjord or a nearby rock. We tested the call button and after a long delay – possibly whilst Kangamiut BT base camp tried to work out which instrument was ringing or whilst they finished their second shower of the hour – was answered – technology works – woo hoo.
The rest of the group moved along the coastline to search for a suitable campsite which had a fantastic kitchen area to meet Carol’s growing expectations. Kev, Judy and Charlie rejoined the group having failed their mission to recharge the communications equipment however they did manage to liberate a tin of potatoes. The journey back was made more interesting on the crossing due to Charlie spotting the tents from way out, confirmed with his binos. After a kilometer of hard paddling against huge waves and wind it was noted that there were seven orange tents instead of the usual three. Another oddity was the fact that they all were pitched at sea level. On closer inspection the tents became fishing buoys and the real group campsite could be spotted a few kilometers further down the fjord with the correct number of tents visible and a number of individuals who appeared to be practicing their dance routines in preparation for the weekend social. On rejoining the group and setting up camp the clouds darkened and hastily a tarpaulin was erected over the kitchen area. This was a very small area especially when the heavens opened to a major downpour and everyone became cold, wet and not too happy. There were far too many cooks in a very small area with Charlie being ordered out of the area for trying to read his book and Carol becoming miffed at the conditions and seeking solitude in her tent. A satisfying meal incorporating the fish and muscles was created although an early night was inevitable as the tarpaulin was one that self bailed as tested on both Judy and Paul. Kev having relit a serviced cooker rather carelessly discarded his Army windproof match out of the kitchen, where it was blown in the wind right under Charlie’s kayak. Thankfully more dancing practice quickly ensued to ensure that the plastic kayak didn’t end up with an extra hole in it.
Scotty having decided he had upset Carol earlier that afternoon by evicting her from her own kitchen decided to offer her a belated olive branch in the shape of hot water for her hot water bottle. On receipt of this life saving device Oour Carol became Carol “Smillie” once again.
2008/08/12 Kayakers (Day 7)
The group awoke to a bitterly cold and damp morning, so much so in fact that we had to restart the camp fire to get some semblance of warmth and feeling back into our bones before we started our next days paddling. The cold and damp turned into an all enveloping blanket of fog for much of the morning, made more dramatic by the sudden appearance, out of the mist, of numerous icebergs in a myriad sculpture like forms some looking like mystical dragons and beasts from the deep. The loss of a horizon and land reference clearly had a marked impact on Sarah’s paddling. Having been quite capable of holding her spacing and formation in the fine weather her spatial awareness seemed to evaporate as for the rest of the morning all of us were subjected to a bump, biff and bash for two from Sarah’s kayak, at one point we reckoned she peaked at 3.2 collisions per minute! This temporary syndrome was obviously highly contagious as Pete found out latter, when he fell out of his Kayak at the lunch stop.
The group’s journey took them past Tassi Bay inlet where it took us a collective 0.02 seconds to decide not to visit, having had to spend so much time there without kayaks at the start of the expedition.
We eventually decided to have a change from camping on a fjord beach and opted instead for a rather romantic and remote island location….not dissimilar to CraggyIsland itself. Having set up camp and whilst we working out how we were going to share one rather pathetically slim pepperoni salami sausage between eight of us, we heard the un-mistakable sounds of a zodiac. Frantic radio calls ensued and thankfully resulted in Anders and David arriving with the Web Mistress….and our long awaited rations. We got some lame excuse that they had been delayed by bad weather and had been out hunting, whales, Reindeer and Musk ox. Feeling distinctly like the Big Brother Household inmates who had successfully completed a series of challenging tasks in order to gain our food we formed a chain to receive our supplies, which included butter, bacon, and three bags of white powder, which we latterly turned out to be mashed potato, milk powder and porridge! To our horror whilst we were unloading our rations we saw four reindeer hooves sticking out from under the tarpaulin; although we tried to tell Sarah our vegetarian and Christmas-phile, that it was just having a lift down the fjord…there was no consoling her and she is firmly of the belief that Rudolph is in fact dead.
2008/08/11 - Kayakers (Day 6)
Those kayaker’s on waterside front residencies (tents on the beach) were awoken at the ungodly hour of 4am to what could only be described as an early morning cocktail party in full swing. On emerging from their cocoon like sleeping bags they discovered that the clinking of ice cubes was in fact sheet ice forming on the water in No Name Bay. This was in part due to the coldness of the morning and also because the water was less salty as most of it was from the melting glaciers.
We were somewhat dismayed to find that Andres and David (the hunky Viking Zodiac men) had not visited in the night and delivered our oft requested resupply of rations. The girls in the group were obviously disappointed at the non appearance of these Scandinavian pin ups and were seen to be in a collective sulk which was only broken by the promise of more chocolate. Shortly before departing our campsite in No Named Bay we heard the throb of the Zodiac outboard motor. On looking across the bay we were slightly confused to see the Zodiac departing Northwestward up the fjord along with our eagerly awaited rations. Radio comms established however that our rations had been cached at Christmas Bay where it was assumed we were to collect them from. Paul, Kev and Charlie departed early on a mercy mission to collect the rations with Kev going to ensure that Paul and Charlie didn’t eat all the rations, both of whom were looking particularly emaciated from over exposure to pure compo. Thankfully a further communication negated the need for this mercy mission as the rations had only been cached temporarily to allow the Zodiacs to transport the ‘Ramblers’ across the wet stuff.
Carol informed us that back in Scotland prior to setting off on any journey from home she always ensures all her kids have been to the toilet. It was therefore rather surprising that only 5 mins into our journey she informed us that she needed to visit the little girls room. This coincided well with meeting up with the web mistress – Cath Stephens who demanded we produced our blog and therefore Judy could be seen sitting astride her kayak with the laptop clenched between her thighs typing furiously to meet the deadline. With blog delivered we continued on our way hugging the fjord cliff face to avoid the worst of the incoming tide and prevailing wind. After a couple of hours of steady paddling we stopped for lunch at a local café- well, it was a luxury café to us, most of you reading this from the comfort of your sofa would call it a rocky, boulder strewn, gritty moraine covered beach. Lunch took on a two hour Mexican siesta in the sunshine as we waited for the tide to subside. Finally bed sores, or rather numb bottoms from the rocks drove us back onto the water. Sadly whilst the tide had abated somewhat the wind over tide effect had produced a seemingly never ending stream of waves which we battled courageously through for the next couple of hours.
Judy re-energised by her intensive downloads earlier had wired up the laptop to the solar panel on the back of her kayak in order to charge it up. Sadly the angle of the sun in the steep sides of the fjord kept forcing Judy out into the worst of the waves. Her off cried words of “I’m charging……I’m charging” was drowned in the wind and was mistaken for cries of “I’m sinking…..I’m sinking” which only resulted in the rest of the group nearly capsizing through excessive laughter.
On the long journey down the fjord we frequently observed large, darker blue patches of water in stark contrast to the normal turquoise colour of the fjord. It took the group some time to work out that the dark areas were indeed shadows created by the imposing mountains. On our journey we also discovered a rather large scary glacier which appeared a little unstable. This was noted from the almost constant depositing of ice into the fjord as it broke off and the flow of mini bergs that radiated from it. We therefore decided that this was not the opportunity for photo shoots as Judy still hadn’t recovered from her close encounter with the growling glacier the previous day. The campsite seemed such a long way off, Stinky Pete always promised it was around the next corner. The group was only kept motivated by their constant singing which included musicals, Rolf Harris songs, Welsh arias and Scottish dirges.