It seemed no matter what we saw, words weren’t enough to describe the beauty that surrounded us. We were left speechless and the only word that came out constantly was “wow”. That three-letter word seemed to encapsulate everything and nothing at the same time. The pristine beauty was exhilarating. Sailing at the edge of the world became a humbling, life changing experience.
On early September 2016, twelve photographers from all over the world decided to embark on a crazy polar expedition. None of us had met before, but our passion for the Arctic brought us together. We were going to sail through Scoresby Sund, the biggest fjord system in the world. Located in East Greenland way above the Arctic Circle. Our home for the next 10 days was going to be Donna Wood, a gorgeous schooner built in 1918 in Denmark.
Our journey began in Reykjavik, Iceland. We took our flight from Keflavik Airport. A small red plane with big white letters that read “Air Greenland”, was waiting for us. No more internet or cell connection from this point onwards. Truly an exciting start of the trip. The service was just impecable and the views awe inspiring as we reached the coast of gigantic Greenland.
We landed in Constable Point “airport” which was basically a flat dirt landing strip in the middle of nowhere. No security or standard border protection controls. In no time we had our stuff with us and a nice young girl was greeting us with the biggest of smiles and a shotgun attached to her backpack. Her name was Iona and she was going to be our guide, the shotgun was in case of aggressive polar bear encounters. The adventure begins.
We walked about 20 minutes to the “port” were Donna Wood was waiting for us. We jumped on the Zodiac boats and after several trips back and forth, all our stuff was inside the schooner. We photographers definitely don’t travel light!
That first day of all of us together in a tiny space, sharing rooms and bathrooms, was weird for sure. We didn’t know each other as I said but in no time we were laughing and joking around. Life on the boat was great.
The staff was fantastic, five incredible people were in charge of taking care of us. We had a captain, a second captain/guide, a mechanic, our guide and a wonderful chef. They worked so hard so that we could enjoy our time in the remoteness of Greenland.
The first night we sailed to Ittoqqortoormiit, a small village of 400 inhabitants and the last contact with civilization we would have. Greenlanders received us with a nice dinner of musk ox and fish, then back to Donna. Through the clouds we saw the Aurora dancing. That first day I felt somewhat dizzy because of the movement of the water but it wasn’t that bad, and sleeping inside the boat was fantastic with the subtle rocking of the water.
Glaciers, fjords, stunning rocky mountains emerging from the sea and countless icebergs, each one more beautiful than the last. That was our every day on the boat. Constantly photographing the ever changing elements, and enjoying a good time with new friends.
A snowstorm fell upon us and at the distance we saw Opal, the only other boat exploring Scoresby Sound apart from us. It was navigating towards a huge iceberg nearby. This was one of those epic moments when everything falls into place. We were able to photograph the stunning schooner against the huge iceberg as backdrop and with the heavy snowfall completely encapsulating the feeling of the arctic. My hands and face were numb, my camera was soaking wet, but I was happy. We kept on sailing.
After some time on the water, we really wanted to go on land and enjoy a meal outside. Harefjord was the perfect spot for a picnic and party. We watched the sunset and photographed the beautiful blues of twilight reflecting all over the fjord and its icebergs. While we waited for night fall and for a glimpse of Aurora, we ate a fantastic dinner over a fire.
The northern lights were not showing so we began doing our very embarrassing dance for Aurora. We had a blast shouting and laughing while Mike did his best ballet performance to invoke the lights. A couple of minutes later, the sky was green and purple. Aurora was here dancing for us. What a wonderful night under the Greenland skies!
Our route kept taking us deeper and deeper into the fjords of Scoresby Sound. Grundtvigskirken, the famous “Church of the Bay Rock” emerged dramatically from the sea and greeted us as we approached the stunning Bear Islands, our location for the next two days. And what a spot! Beautiful rock formations and great reflections. We hiked along the coast of the Islands to photograph sunrise. The scenery was Middle-earth like, right out of a fantasy novel, untouched, unaltered.
On one of the lasts days of our journey, I went outside on the deck by myself. It was just after dinner, night was falling fast over the fjord and the air was cold and dry. The sound of the ice breaking and gently moving was surreal. The waters were calm and steady, perfect mirrors of the world above the surface. Ethereal images of an undiscovered world.
Stillness reigned over the landscape, it felt timeless, inmortal. Suddenly sadness and desperation took over me cause the beauty I was seeing was not timeless. It is dying faster than we could’ve imagined. All this will be gone in a couple of years.
People constantly ask me why I keep on visiting the Arctic regions of the world. Its because the beauty they contain is absolute and pristine. The Arctic’s extinction is palpable and frightening. With my photographs I try to capture the magic of these polar areas. Transmit it and express the feelings the northern landscapes evoke. So that people can see what we are destroying. Everything is connected. Remote and rugged Greenland is not as far away as we might think. Our plastic washes upon its shores, miles and miles from any civilization. The heat from the world is melting its ice cap faster than ever. Instead of cooling the Earth, in a few years Greenland will start to heat up the earth. Once the ice is gone, the heat of the sun will no longer be reflected on the white but absorbed by the exposed dark rock of the land.
Do not give up, lets defend our nature fearlessly. Lets educate the people around us. Lets become and example and protect the planet that gives us life. Earth is so beautiful and I plan to dedicate my life to photograph it. To transmit that feeling of wonder and encourage people to get out of their comfort zones and explore the beauty that’s all around us.
Luis Solano Pochet
Founding Photographer & Director
“We borrow the earth from our children.”
– Inuit Proverb
Until the next adventure!
This post is dedicated to the fantastic #TeamDonna. This experience will bond us forever. Thanks for all the laughs.
Special thanks to Iceland Photo Tours for organizing such and incredible expedition.