Plan A Point Five
Before we began, Gaddi and Jon spread out maps and reviewed our plan for the expedition. Gaddi pointed out the stops along the way, discussed the progression of kayaking difficulty and our rest times to recover – all in an aim to reach the Knud Rasmussen glacier on our final day.
One thing he made clear though, in that the several times he has been leading this trip: “We’ve never successfully done it all according to plan.”
Weather and the accumulation of icebergs to clog a path could stymie our journey and have done so to others in the recent past. What we didn’t expect was to have that happen as early as day two.
We were spoiled in our first few hours on the water. Our sunset paddle after finally leaving Kulusuk was calm, relaxing, and those first 8 kilometres breezed by in just over a couple of hours.
Our late departure meant dinner after 10pm, but still by daylight. Late summer near the Arctic Circle ensured a luminous presence through all hours.
Day two picked up where day one left off – the water was calm and welcoming.
“WHALES!” I yelled out to the group. Soon we were all silent, eyes fixed, and a whole pod became visible in the distance, intermittently breaching the surface and shooting water out of their blowholes. We waited for them to glide our way, trying to gauge their breed and distance in between, but they were headed in the opposite direction. Soon their sounds had faded.
It wasn’t long after that in which our luck changed. The wind picked up suddenly – Gaddi said he had been expecting it, but not so soon. Waves pushed us forward as a chill cut across the exposed back of my neck. We obeyed instructions and collectively moved our kayaks closer together, and continued forward quietly and determined.
We pulled around into a lagoon with a fine white sand beach spread out before us, our home for the night and 2.5 kms short of our intended destination. No longer Plan A, but what we now referred to as Plan A.5.
The wind calmed somewhat overnight, but still had the teeth to bite as we groggily emerged from our tent. Fog had rolled in though, and the peaks that were visible across the fjord when we’d arrived were now out of sight as heavy clouds blanketed them.
We only half packed up our site before breakfast as the resumption of our journey was unsure. Waves could still be seen breaking on the water and the fog showed no signs of lifting. Gaddi and Jon climbed a small rocky peak between us and the water, elevating their wind gauge to assist in making their verdict. On their return, a group meeting was called on the beach.
We were to be stranded.
Wind was sometimes breaking acceptable limits and in an area fraught with bergs, the fog was also a factor. And with the following day expected to be worse, it was likely we would have to call a boat to move us up to our day five position, eliminating some of the paddling but not any of the scenery.
We joked of building coconut phones to call for rescue and playing beach volleyball, but this was not quite that kind of stranded stay. Instead, we braved the wind and went searching for turning icebergs near shore, and climbed small hills for elevated views of the remote and desolate landscape.
Truth was that while I was slightly disappointed at the prospect of losing some time in the kayak, I could not be discouraged for long.
I mean, look at where we were….
We were trapped ashore between a bubbling creek on one side of us, jagged granite all around, a pinkish sand beach and an alley of icebergs caught up in the current that delivered them to a narrow bay. I sat in silence with those bergs, just listening. Constant dripping, gurgling of water into new holes, melted pieces cracking and cascading, noisily bouncing off of others on the way down.
If we had to be stranded, this would do nicely.
Our involuntary captivity in this idyllic arctic location was not to last beyond that one day – the anticipated downturn in weather did not happen and the rescue boat was cancelled. At once I was disappointed to be leaving our playground, but I was also eager to be back on the water. We had some ground to make up.
Our skirmish with wind, rain and fog was not over, but it would be the last time it kept us from our mission. We would routinely bear cold fingers and noses, and often found ourselves stuffing wet things into dry bags. We even once had to pull the kayaks inland in a panic to avoid losing them to a large wave caused by the splitting of an iceberg right before our eyes. As one guide accurately reflected following the journey, the forces of nature we faced provided for “medium toughness” on this particular trip, but thankfully only minimal diversions from Plan A.
That was Mother Nature’s will. This was Greenland. And it was all a part of the challenge.