Our passage to Greenland took overnight and some of the following day. There was never much downtime, however. If we weren'ttaking in the magnificent scenery or watching for wildlife (or eating!), chances are there was an informative and entertaining lecture by the expedition staff.

The first place we visited in Greenland was Nansen Fjord on the east coast. It is named for the great Fridtjof Nansen, scientist, polar explorer, humanitarian, diplomat and recipient of the 1922 Nobel Peace Prize.

Polar bear

One of the marine mammals that we had been told not to expect in Greenland was the polar bear. In this one fjord we saw about a dozen including a mom and her two cubs! Even though you couldn't prove it by us, the polar bear population is declining due to environmental pollution and loss of critical sea ice habitat due to warming sea temperatures.

This was our first sighting. Polar bears are well adapted to swim moderate distances, but decreased ice cover in the polar regions are forcing many to long distance trips (the longest recorded is 426 miles in 9 days without stopping), but such trips are devastating to the bears that survive them.


Not far from the swimming bear above we saw this seal tucked away in an ice floe. I don't know if the seal knew about the bear, but if the bear had known about the seal I'm pretty sure he would have made an effort (probably futile) to capture it. The seal certainly laid low for all the time that I watched it.

Nansen Fjord

After leaving the bear in peace we proceeded farther into Nansen Fjord.

The icebergs large & small had calved off the many glaciers that reached down to the water's edge. Our goal was to find a place to land and explore.

Our weather luck continued. We were told that on this particular day storms were reported both north and south of us, but we had sunny skies.

Melting glacier

In many places the glaciers no longer reached the water. This one is a mere shadow of its former self.

The melting of landbound ice not only contributes to sea level rise, but it changes the salinity of seawater, which has an effect on marine life.

Polar bears

We did eventually get out into the Zodiacs, but landing was out of the question because of numerous polar bear sightings ashore. There are two bears that may be seen in this picture although they are quite small and don't look much different from the rocks, only whiter.

My photo editing skills are unfortunately not up to adding pointers to the bears. One is above the green band of foliage and the other can be seen if you follow the green band down to the right and over a bit.

The ship had enough Zodiacs that all of the passengers could be embarked for exploration. We didn't have to take turns.

The bear

Just to prove that I wasn't lying, this image shows a more recognizable bear to the left of the large reddish boulder.

These were not the only two bears hanging out on this rocky beach. There were at least two others that I saw and some folks identified more with their binoculars.

Since they were singles we figured that they were all males and there was much speculation what might happen if they ran across each other, but they never did. Although polar bears are solitary animals, males may hang out near each other while waiting for the sea ice to return.

Polar Bear and cubs, Nansen Fjord, Greenland

We got a call from the ship that a mama bear and cubs had been spotted on the opposite side of the fjord, so we high-tailed it over there.

We watched these bears for quite a while as they prowled around the rocks. There is nothing for them to eat here, but polar bears have evolved to endure long periods of fasting. Click to find out more about polar bear dining habits and needs. As the sea ice decreases, however, the bears' reproductive success declines.

This mama and cubs did not really look thriving.


We eventually left the bears to their own devices and spent some time exploring the face of the glacier. It is important not to get too close, because large segments can calve off unexpectedly at any time. These large glaciers, which are always moving, albeit slowly, are usually groaning more or less loudly.

Glacier arch, Nansen Fjord, Greenland

This arch could tempt an unwary boater into danger. It looks enticing, but as we cruised by, we could hear splashing behind the archway indicating that the glacier was calving.

During the trip, our expedition leaders thanked all of us for not being importunate about getting closer to the glaciers and bergs. The bergs themselves could split or turn turtle without warning.

Early in the trip we were "treated" to a video of a boat almost being swamped by a calving glacier. That probably helped to minimize unreasonable "up close & personal" requests!

Zodiac and icebergs

Clearly most of the icebergs dwarfed our Zodiacs. Some were even larger than the ship.

Nansen Fjord, Greenland

Nansen Fjord was a majestic introduction to Greenland.

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