Monday, July 06, 2015

Last Stop - Greenland Ice Cap and the Russell Glacier

Our last stop on this amazing trip was to Greenland where we enjoyed a hike and lunch in front of a glacier. It was one of those typical jet set days - breakfast in Iceland, lunch in Greenland, and dinner in Boston, USA. But the views of the ice cap in Greenland were superb and the lunch menu included musk ox. Read on.

We approached Greenland from the east and soon were treated to fantastic views of the fjords and glaciers in this very remote landscape. It looks like thin sea ice with a few icebergs in the water.

Glacial flour seems to be coloring the water in this fjord. The mountains look very rugged.

It took us nearly an hour to fly over the huge and featureless ice cap. Then its western edge came into view with a few "inselbergs" poking out above the ice cap.

One of the benefits of private jet travel is that some airports allow us to go right from the jet to our ground transport. Here at the Kangerlusuuaq Airport, our polar busses were positioned right at the bottom of the gangway.

Then we were on our way on the longest road in Greenland - 40 kilometers long up towards the Russell Glacier. Here we are passing what used to be called the Watson River, a huge drainage off of the western part of the Greenland ice cap. The river now goes by its native name, Akuliarusiarsuup Kuua. Note the extensive width of the floodplain, covered with fluvial and eolian sand. This part of the island is considered arid, receiving only about 9 inches of rain per annum.

Higher up we came to a beautiful pro-glacial lake - if you look closely you can see two tongues of the Russell Glacier in the far distance.

Here from the same vantage using the 300 mm lens

As we got closer we began to observe many of the glacial features that can be seen in this part of the world - crevasses, seracs, moraines, and outwash plains.

You can witness how much the Russell Glacier has "deflated" recently, perhaps in just last 100 years. Presumably, the ice edge once extended to top of the terminal moraine located on the left. The glacier is said to be advancing however, at about 80 feet per year, although evidence on the ground shows that melting of the edge must be occurring a bit faster, causing the ice edge to recede.

I love looking at some of the oldest rocks in the world and we were not disappointed at Russell Glacier. Although these gneisses are a mere 3 billion years old, some 700 million years younger than Greenland's oldest rocks, they were still quite beautiful. And I was amazed and gratified at how many people on this trip noticed them beneath our feet.

On the hike, we got to view an impressive waterfall originating from the ice edge around the corner

A closer view

The headwaters of a sub-glacial stream, headed to the Watson River

What a huge and interesting landscape!

The bend in the river actually cuts into the glacier front and while we were here, we saw and heard a large calving of the glacier. It sounded like a gun going off.

It is a TCS jet trip so it is time for lunch while viewing the glacier! On the menu today is locally harvested musk ox (outstanding - tender and flavorful) and reindeer sausages. Along with wine or beer, a full bar, pasta salad, and chocolate brownies for desert.

It was a fantastic ending, our last lunch on the trip in front of an active glacier.

Leaving Kangeralusuuaq, we then had views of the west coast of Greenland. Note how the ice cap extends farther out to the coast here than at Kangeralusuuaq.

Greenland deserves a closer look

Some statistics from this trip:

We flew a total of 16,319 miles on the private jet from Seattle, Washington to Boston, Massachusetts (the long way around). I personally had another 1,225 miles to get from Flagstaff to Seattle and 2,419 returning home from Boston. My total air miles for this trip equals 19,963 - almost 20,000 miles in 23 days.

We were in the air one day and 10 hours and 26 minutes on the private jet. Counting my pre-trip and post-trip hours, I was in the air one day and 20 hours - almost 2 days in the air.

We crossed 24 time zones in 23 days. It was an epic trip!

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