Searching for the Vikings

Friday, September 1 - Day 31: Cruising Prins Christian Sund

I woke again to the sound of Mr. Foghorn (trademark, JK Enterprises). Yes, it’s very foggy outside. Donnie’s favorite TV channel which displays all kinds of useful information, like the time, the current latitude and longitude, our current heading and speed, the prevailing wind, the number of nautical miles we have sailed so far, the barometric pressure, and a map that shows our location at several different magnifications also told us that it is 37 degrees outside. Well, it is September.

Today we are going back through the Prins Christian Sund (Danish for Prince Christian Sound) again!

We are supposed to enter the Sound about 9:00 this morning, a very narrow, twisty, iceberg filled body of water, with no visibility at all. Perfectly safe, nothing to worry about. Help!

(… it’s a little bit later. Not enough later to warrant some cute, pithy thing about time passing…)

A Miracle! The sun is out in force. The fog is gone. The sky is blue. There are no clouds visible. The nine Gin & Tonics that I sacrificed last night to the Greenlandic god of fog, QfoggieQ, must have appeased him. They definitely appeased me.

Imagine the biggest KABOOM imaginable. Also imagine a giant mushroom-shaped cloud rising a mile into the atmosphere. Remember what I said before about my brain exploding. That was nothing. Tiny. Infinitesimal. The brain explosion this time is one thousand times bigger. We are seeing icebergs, and then icebergs, and then ICEBERGS, and then ICEBERGS. Even some iceBerGs. Then as we enter the Sound, we are seeing glaciers, high craggy mountains, waterfalls, more glaciers, more mountains, more icebergs, more ICEBERGS. I think I have probably taken a thousand iceberg pictures, not to mention the IcebErG pictures. Yet another experience that I would never have imagined happening to little old me in a million years. Oh, did I mention, this all is happening with the SUN OUT! KABOOM!

This morning, when it all started, we dressed in multiple layers, four to be exact (five, if you include underwear). Hats, hoods, gloves. We went out to our now semi-secret overlook at the forward part of deck six. It was very windy. It was very, very cold. It was very, very, very magnificent. We took a few thousand pictures there, and then wandered all over the ship looking for better or different viewpoints. At one point we were on the so-called “Sports Deck” which is the topmost deck and is mostly open to the outside. We, and a whole bunch of other people were bundled up because of the wind and cold. Then we ran into Henry. He’s the off-the-wall guy we met at dinner the other night. You remember, Pince-nez, chopsticks, big camera with tripod to take selfies, lying down next to big dogs. He was running around the outside of the sports deck, wearing shorts, ignoring the magnificent scenery. Later I saw him inside going down a stairway wearing a velvet skull-cap. I’m starting to think that Henry likes to be noticed.

As time passed, and as we entered the Sound proper, the ship was protected from the wind by the very steep, very high, very close sheer rock walls that surrounded us, so it got warmer. It got so warm that when we went out to the open area on the aft called The Retreat, there were people sunbathing. There was a family in the hot tub, later to be replaced by a woman in a bikini. Glaciers on the port side, woman in bikini in the aft. (Not to worry, she wasn’t one of the Calendarically Endowed. She was probably in her late 30’s).

Just after the Eastern entry to the Sound there is a very small set of buildings which are a weather station. Barbara, who was narrating the trip through the Sound over the PA said that the original weather station was blown away by the gale force winds, so this one is anchored to the rock by cables. Just after we passed the weather station, a helicopter flew over. They use helicopters a lot on Greenland. It’s about the only form of transportation to some of the places. This one was probably associated with the weather station. It flew by, and then it circled the ship fairly low and close, twice. I think the pilot was posing for pictures. Donnie saw him wave.

At one point, the Sound got a little wider, just slightly wider than the length of the ship, so Captain Eric pirouetted the ship 360 degrees to give everyone on board a view of a big glacier, and an intensely close view of the rocks. This ship, like many modern cruise ships, doesn’t have propellers in the rear, but it has what they call thrusters, which are pods under the ship that can turn in any direction, so the ship can rotate around a point without moving forward or backward. It can even go sideways. Then a little while later, near another wide-ish point and another glacier he did two 360 degree turns in a row. After the scary docking maneuver in Isafjordur the other day, and these show-off spins today, I am convinced that Captain Eric is a crazy-ass nautical stunt driver. At one point, he had to steer the ship a certain way to avoid a couple of icebergs the size of small apartment buildings. In order to do that, he had to get very close to a much smaller iceberg. It was only the size of an SUV. It hit the ship on the side with a great big BANG! Twice. Good news. We’re still floating.

It got to be time for lunch, so we had some “New York Pizza” outside in The Retreat. Pizza-by-the-glacier, yet another not-to-be-missed experience.

Now we had a tough choice. Should we continue to stay outside and watch the unsurpassed beautiful scenery, or should we go in to attend two lectures that were scheduled. For some strange reason, maybe beautiful scenery overload, we chose the lectures.

The first lecture, another one by Bill Bendel was called “Mars: Past and Present”. Tomorrow he’s doing one on future missions to Mars. A lecture about Mars is very appropriate today, because, except for the water, that’s what it looks like outside. You don’t have to worry. I know you aren’t interested in all the facts about Mars he gave us. I won’t bore you any more than I have in the past. Oh, yes, he did break the news that in 2050 Holland America will have an itinerary that includes Mars. He suggested we sign up now and get a fifteen percent discount.

The second lecture, by a new lecturer, Tim Calvert, was about “Great Ocean Liners of the Past”. It was interesting, even though he wasn’t a great speaker, because he had a lot of old pictures of the old ships. He even had a painting of the first Rotterdam, which sailed from 1873 to 1883. The one we are on is number six, I think. Number five is a floating museum in the city of … Rotterdam. It sailed until 1997. Some of the crew on this ship sailed on it. His next lecture is about Lighthouses. The lectures on this ship are very good. On one of our previous cruises, the only “lecturer” played short clips of his favorite Hollywood movies.

(… cosmologically speaking, the entropy of the universe increased by a small amount, i.e. it’s later than it was before …)

A very strange thing is happening. We exited the Prince Christian Sound a few hours ago, and were in open water. Now we seem to be in some fjord, which is ok, except the ship is moving extremely slowly, barely crawling. It’s about 8:00 pm and the sun is setting soon so this isn’t some scenic cruising. I looked out and didn’t see any icebergs or other obstructions, so we don’t have any clue as to why the ship is going so slow. Maybe the crew forgot to wind up the humongous rubber band that drives the engines.

The sun is setting and now I have figured out why we are here and why we are going so slow: Captain Eric is a romantic. We have a view of a breathtaking sunset with the mountains and rocks of the fjord silhouetted against it. Now the moon rose above the mountains. Thank you, Captain Eric.

Oh, and I forgot to mention one other significant piece of information. The sun stayed out ALL DAY!

Click HERE to see the best pictures.