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Greenland’s icebergs are a humbling sight

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Cruising through Greenland’s famous Icefjord allows for sightings of all shapes and sizes of icebergs.






julia dimon for metro toronto


A bit of ice is nothing to these local fisherman, who pursue halibut from their brightly coloured boat.





Imagine skyscraper-sized icebergs drifting into the open sea. Picture cruising through pristine nature, dwarfed by these ancient blocks of floating crystal. If you’re an iceberg chaser, then Ilulissat — a quaint town on Greenland’s west coast — is one place you must visit.


Pumped for a two-hour boat cruise through Greenland’s famous Icefjord, I slipped on my long johns, grabbed my camera and prepped for my first glimpse of nature’s vanishing wonders.


I wasn’t disappointed. Even though these icebergs are monstrous, they are still just pieces, broken off the mother of all icebergs, the most productive glacier in the Northern Hemisphere.


As our boat glided through freezing waters, I learned than icebergs are more than just simple chunks of compressed snow. They are little floating sculptures, chiseled and polished over time by unrelenting winds and chilly arctic waters. Each iceberg is different: Some glowed bright white, while others twinkled with a twinge of blue. Some were tiny, while others rivaled mountain tops.


Our tour guide reminded us that, as the saying goes, we were only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Generally, just one-eighth of the iceberg’s actual size lies above the waterline. The rest lurks beneath the surface.


When it comes to free association, I hear "iceberg" and think "Titanic." Some believe that the iceberg responsible for sinking the Titanic most likely originated from Northern Greenland. Not the type of information you want to hear when you’re on a boat 250 km north of the Arctic Circle and Leonardo DiCaprio is not on board to rescue you.


This feeling of adventure didn’t worry me; it gave me a head rush. Giddy, I peered over the boat’s edge and listened to the sound of cracking ice. In the water below, the ice parted in shards, like a pretty ceramic mosaic. As I dangled over the side trying to get the perfect shot, I couldn’t help but wonder — how long could one last in these freezing waters? Just a few minutes, we were told.


Out of the white wasteland, we spotted a cherry-red ship. Local fisherman dressed in bright overalls, harvesting the catch of the day, occasionally dipped their hands in slushy ice water and detangled halibut from metal hooks. I was thinking: These guys are hardcore. I tightened my scarf and wiggled my frost-bitten toes. Greenland is pretty hardcore, too.


In the face of such rugged nature, a visit to iceberg country is hard to describe without sounding like a Hallmark card, but it truly is an awesome, humbling, magical experience.





Julia Dimon is a Toronto-based writer and editor of The Travel Junkie, an online magazine for young and restless travellers. She can be reached via www.thetraveljunkie.ca


















julia’s tips


  • Starting May 2007, Air Greenland will introduce a new non-stop service from Baltimore to Kangerlussuaq. This is North America’s first route to Greenland. For more information, visit www.airgreenland.com.

  • To learn more about Greenland and what it has to offer, check out www.greenland.com.




 
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