East Greenland Expedition on NERIS Smart Pro (August 2019)

On August 3-21, 2019 the first Ukrainian kayak expedition in East Greenland took place.

Eight Ukrainian travellers from different cities of Ukraine, such as Lviv, Kyiv, Dnipro, Kharkiv, Cherkasy and Mykolaiv, where the participants of the expedition. Ammasalik region in the Eastern part of Greenland was chosen for this trip. The participants got from Ukraine to Kulusuk through Reykjavik, Iceland, bringing their gear and a part of food with them. The water section of the expedition took 9 days and covered around 240 km, and that's without local outings.

For making its plans true, the group has chosen the NERIS flagship model, hybrid kayak Smart Pro, and dry-bag sets for the most efficient placement of kit and food for this 17-days-long expedition. Drysuits (drypants, splash jackets, fleece) have been made by Kyiv company Ordana.

Read more about the expedition below the photos..

Kulusuk is the air gateway of Greenland's region Ammasalik that comprises a few small settlements. The majority of population are Innuits, the aboriginal community of Greenland. Ammasalik features indented coastline with a large number of fiords, waterways, big and small islands. Thus, depending on weather conditions, there's always a place to hide in fiords from storm and ocean waves, or, if the weather is fine, to build a route in the open sea. The latter variant is especially interesting due to a number of huge icebergs and a chance to meet the live sea giants, hump-backed and Greenland whales.

The group's main aim was to get to the tremendous glacier, Kaarale Gletcher, and to see with their own eyes the changes of the last few years and the impact of global warming on it. The glacier is at around 100 km distance from Kulusuk, and the group covered this path in less than three days. Sadly, significant changes happened over the last 3 years. The glacier is melting quickly, going deeper into the mountains and loosing height. Nevertheless, despite the fact that it has gone a few kilometers deeper and lost two-thirds of its height over the last 60 or 70 years, Kaarale Gletcher is still impressively magnificent. Its width is around 4 kilometers and the height equals that of a five-storey building.

The next destination of the expedition was the abandoned military base of U.S. Air Forces, Ikatek Bluie East 2, that was built by the U.S. during World War II and used as a stopover base for refuelling aircraft en route from the USA to Great Britain. The base was abandoned by the army in 1947. The Americans left lots of artifacts: lorries, handling mechanisms, lift cranes, barracks with equipment in them, a dining facility and lots of other interesting things. Now this base is a famous tourist attraction, with tourists being regularly brought here by motor boats. After their visit to the military base, the group went towards Kuummiit settlement. It was time to buy some food, have a look at the Innuits' settlement and drink a can of Danish beer.

The group was really lucky on the way back in Ammassalik fiord. Greenland has treated the paddlers with a few days of encounters with gigantic hump-backed whales that can be as much as 15 meters long and weigh 30 tons on average. A few times kayaks were able to come very close to these colossi and enjoy their beauty and grandeur from a few meters' distance. 

The expedition was planned so as to alternate paddling days and tracking around the staging posts. A typical paddling day comprised breakfast, putting the kit back into the kayaks and paddling itself. The average distance covered to the next staging post was between 25 and 40+ kilometers. The next day was devoted to location survey: mountain-hiking, fishing, cooking fish and rest. Along the whole route, except Kaarale Gletcher, the group had excellent sea fishing for cod and sea salmon, lake fishing for rainbow trout, river and stream fising for arctic char or Atlantic salmon.

Summer is very short in Greenland, around 45 days only, from mid-July to the end of August. That's why August is the best time to arrange an expedition to the country of whales, icebergs and glaciers. All days were sunny, seldom windy. During the day the temperature was as high as 20 degrees Celcius, however, mornings and evenings were quite chilly, 3 - 7 degrees only, and around zero during the night. So, it was nice to have warm sleeping bags, down-padded coats, winter hats and warm boots.

The special equipment proved itself very durable. None of the four SmartPro kayaks suffered any damages during the 17 days spent in Greenland. Dry bags in a variety of sizes (cone-shaped, duffle bags, bun-bags) allowed to conveniently carry a lot of kit and food for a cold northern expedition. Drysuits by Ordana kept everyone warm, dry and comfortable.

NERIS Expeditions team plans to continue its exploration of Greenland in future, as during this expedition it was only possible to see less than one per cent of this amazing island in the Atlantic ocean! Come join us in our paddling adventures in the middle of nowhere in season 2020!

Photo: Michael Hitruk (drone), Max Kovalenko, Yuriy Gordienko, Mykola Berkash.

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