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Sailing around the Icebergs in Greenland

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The first time you meet an iceberg is like the first kiss, the first love, the first time you wake up hangover, it’s an emotion and a moment you’ll never forget. My first rendezvous with the Iced Giants was last July 2017. I remember how excited I was when I jumped from the shore into the orange boat, sitting on the cold plastic bench with my camera bag between my legs. I didn’t know what to expect and the first thing I thought was, “Did I took the right lenses with me?” I feared not to have made the right choice and miss the shot, the moment, the light, the details. Anyway it was too late, the boat was leaving Tasiilaaq town directed to the open sea.

The first time you sail in Greenland is also a memorable moment because of how ridiculous you look. In summer Greenland is quite warm, temperatures are around 10-15 degrees and if it’s not windy, the sun is really hot and you’ll probably be wearing only a thin t-shirt. Exactly the opposite that most of the people who never travelled there think (including me). However, as soon as you’re on the open sea, temperatures change, first of all because it’s colder outside than on land, ans also because usually it’s more windy and the boats sail quite fast. You feel then the cold freezing air that travels down from the glaciers and slaloms in the middle of the icebergs before hitting your face and body penetrating through your clothes. So, locals usually tell you to wear warmer clothes when you are on a boat and sometimes people, like me, their first time tend to wear too much at the point that Viggo, the captain of our boat asked me that day, if I was going to an expedition to the moon.

However, over dressed and super excited there I was, in front of my first Iceberg. dazed, and a little bit nervous, I then realised then how little I was in front of nature, how unpredictable icebergs are, the biggest they are the most unstable they become, they can crack at any moment, and when you hear the deep, resonant roar of the ice breaking and falling into the sea, you know that you are just a spectator out there without any power on it. Inuits would never sail too close to an Iceberg, and it’s forbidden to climb on them, even if it’s really tempting, but they know how beautiful and dangerous they are. The only thing I could do completely mesmerised and hypnotised by that view was shooting, as much as I could, to be sure that I had a souvenir of that day that would last forever.

We were slaloming between all those big ice mountains peaceful floating all around us when suddenly we were stuck in the ice. Viggo, our expert sail-man who knew the fjords per heart stopped the boat stood up and looked around, without saying anything. I tried to follow his look, but except of a wide white frozen sea, I could not distinguish anything else. Bu he did and with a smile painted on his face as he could feel my questioning, “What the hell is he looking for?” he chose a direction, gently pushed some white frozen pieces that embed themselves like a puzzle in front of the boat here and there, speeded up gently and a few minutes after we were free again, sailing in the iced air where the small parts of my uncovered face were chilling letting me feeling so alive.

Was that everything for that day? Not really the most surprising iceberg was about to appear in front of my eyes. Like a child when he sees Santa Claus for the first time, I stood up in the boat my mouth opened, I rubbed my eyes, pointed my finger, and asked “What is that?” The other people that were not looking suddenly turned their head over and Viggo slowed the boat, looked at me and smiling he answered : “ It’ an Iceberg ” like, why are you asking me that? And I continued “ But it’s Blue ” and he laughed, “Blue Ice” he replied. Blue ice? What ? I always imagined icebergs being white, like snow, not blue or turquoise as summer popsicles. There were more colours of Icebergs? Apparently yes, and they were in front of me, in an infinite multitude of shapes sculpted by water and wind, white, blue, turquoise, gray while reflecting sun gold sparkles in the sea just before clouds covered the sky making them popping over in the landscape, a complete festival of colours and sparkles, all around us, it was a magic World on Earth. I started shooting again, feeling the adrenaline passing through my fingers and my eyes becoming my lens, I was all one with my camera, trying to impress those landscapes on my SD card.

All of the sudden the boat stopped again, I lowered my camera and when I thought that I had seen everything, Viggo “parked” the boat against a large Icefloe and with his hand he signed me to go out of the boat. Was he kidding? Was that a joke? I looked at him incredulous, he smiled me back and just said: “Go” I trusted him, put a foot on the ice which cracked under my shoes as when I walk on the snow, I could feel the ice and the boat slightly dancing on the water, but stable, I put my other foot down, grab my camera and walk my first steps. They were really cautious, as my first time on ice skates, when you are ready to fall every second at each movement you do, I could feel Viggo pleasantly laughing at me at my back, and I smiled, I was excited, I could hear my heart beats going faster, my body and my mind were still not reassured to be there walking on an Ice floe in the middle of extremely cold waters were if you fall in them, you only have 3 minutes to get outside before you are in hypothermia, but how awesome that was! I turned over and I saw that the other people of the boat were joining me as scared as I was and Viggo was smiling at us from the orange boat. For the first time that day, for a moment, I forgot my camera, I was standing there looking around me, filling myself with that panorama and all the emotions it was offering to me. once back in the boat I’ve learned that ice floes at the contrary of Icebergs, are quite safe because they are flat and often used by hunters to clean the caught seals, and also that probably inuits have a little bit of fun to see how tourists reacts the first time they have to walk on them.

That evening sitting on my desk I realised that I was so scared to miss the shot that day that I had shot more than one thousand photos, I laughed, and I knew that that my first sailing day around the icebergs would have stayed in my memories forever even if I had not a single picture in my camera.

Icebergs Watching in Greenland
Icebergs Watching in Greenland

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The author

Lucia Gaggero

Lucia Gaggero

My name is Lucia, I am a photographer from Italy who loves telling and sharing stories, adventure, legends and the great North.

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