Missing the musk ox

First up, apologies for the scarcity of blogs of late but it turns out the satellite reception here on the remote east coast of Greenland is somewhat occluded by the towering peaks and icecaps that surround us. Nether-the-less we have been busy exploring the region …. In the water, along the coast and inland!

Once settled into the picturesque anchorage of Ittoqqortoormiit we quickly donned the dry suits and plunged into the water which our dive computers quickly pointed out was somewhere in the range of 0-3°C! Despite the slight ice-cream headache experienced upon slipping into the clear waters the life here is far more varied and colourful than we have seen elsewhere in the Arctic. Here we started seeing larger fish in amidst the waving fronds of kelp and an array of shrimps, brittle stars, nudibranchs, ascidians and other life to provide distraction from the cold. There is also an interesting array of bottles, bullet clips, china and other refuse lining the underwater landscape to stand as testimony to the almost 100 years of human occupation in this remote outpost.

Once dried out we headed further into Scoresbysund, the largest fjord system in the world, and ultimately anchored in the deep ford named Hurry Inlet by Scoresby. The aim here was to find the elusive musk oxen that roam these hills. After twenty kilometres of stumbling over varied terrain that included  sandy desert, arctic tundra, rocky scree, swampy moorland and jagged boulder fields we had found plenty of signs of the beasts, such as prints, errant tufts of hair, droppings and the odd skull left by a more successful tracker than us … but still no ox! Regardless of this failure we had perhaps one of the most pleasant walks of the trip thus far.

Our stroll included some fantastic wildlife sightings such as a pair of bright white arctic hares bounding over the rock fields, small pippits playfully dogging our footsteps and the Greenlandic white morph of the gyrfalcon circling overhead. After Leonie expressed her doubts about any polar bears possibly heading this far into the fjord we also stumbled over a long line of fresh polar bear prints ambling along the shoreline! The vegetation also caught our eye. Colourful flowers still nodded on the slopes of the hill; however the fields of dwarf birch and other vegetation displayed hues of red and orange to flag the rapidly approaching end of summer. Clearly the season here is drawing to a close and it is time for us to head south in the wake of the many flights of geese winging overhead … next stop Iceland!

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