Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Don's Blog Greenland VIII Brattahlid

Brattahlid was Erik the Red's estate in the Eastern Settlement Viking colony in south western Greenland beginning in 985. These Vikings came from Iceland settling about 60 miles from the ocean at the head of a fjord (Eriksfjord) where they were sheltered from ocean storms. Because of its location, protected from the cold foggy weather and the arctic waters of the outer coast, Brattahlid still has some of the best farmland in Greenland.  Erik and his descendants lived there for almost 500 years.

Our visit was on a cool sunny day with a wet landing on a rocky shore.

In late July there were still ice bergs (below) on the opposite shores of Eriksfjord.

The valley of Bratthlid had reconstructed houses and fields of buttercups filled with stone formations 
archeologically indicative of previous activity.

Below is a reconstruction of a Norse Longhouse.

Below is one of the few original structures.

Here is a small red stone from the beach of Erik the Red which somehow has found its way to my rock garden.

Don's Blog GREENLAND XI Linblad-Nat.Geo. and Dan, my travel buddy

The Linblad-National Geographic Expedition to Greenland was exciting for me in many domains. In addition to the spectacular geography and the exceptional ship I had not been with such an exciting and focused  group of travelers. Amazing and refreshing to me was that people did not discuss their illnesses and failing bodies. Seldom were vocations discussed. The three main topics of daily discussion were where we are, where we have been, and where we are going next. This was fascinating to a newcomer to the Linblad experience. Although everyone was welcoming there were times that I felt that I was not quite a Member of the Club. As someone who has traveled extensively and participated in many Canadian Arctic Canoe Expeditions I found this feeling of sometimes being an outsider was interesting.

On the other hand I could not have had a better travel buddy than Dan West. I have known Dan and his family for over 30 years. He is a professional traveler - try over 40 trips to China. I was forever learning travel tips from Dan. Foremost however was his ability to get along with humor in all situations
and usually not quietly. Dan is a man of action - one evening after dinner as I walked by the men's room outside the dining room I saw water flooding out from under the door. I found a crew member who immediately called a plumber. Dan walked by a little later and saw the water now flooding the floor. He opened the door and pressed some button on the wall and the toilet stopped overflowing immediately. There is nothing like traveling with an engineer.

Always with a mischievous smile. His camera was always at the ready.

Below Dan is purchasing a sea urchin from two children after a tough bargain.

Hoping that the car is stuck.

On the trail in a field of buttercups. 

Above all Dan was interesting. Dan has been a Fire Fighter nut since college. Currently he has been elected to our 
local Fire Board. When we got to the capital city of Nuut, Dan disappeared. He walked 45 minutes to the Fire Station and made friends 
with the Assistant Chief. When it was time to leave Dan asked, "Do you have a shirt?" (Fire Nuts exchange shirts with other staff when 
they travel). The Assistant Chief said, " No but you can have this," and proceeded to take off his Fire Jacket complete with the Nuut Emblem,
and give it to Dan. Then he gave Dan a ride back to the dock in his official car. 

As a bonus when I got home Dan sent me a CERTIFICATE OF AWARD indicating that I was now a FULL MEMBER OF THE CLUB and that FULL PRIVILEGES ARE NOW AVAILABLE.

Flower for the Day Dahlias 9-30

The dahlias are flourishing and continue to climb the stakes to above my head.




Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Don's Blog Greenland VII Community 2

In the summer the natives of Greenland spend as much time outside as possible hanging out and placing a variety of objects on fences, tables and decks.

The images below reminded me very much of my visits to Nome and Kotzebue in Alaska in the late sixties.

I am not sure what kind of bear skull (below) this is.

This is the cemetery at Qaqortaq, with fields of lupine growing freely between the crosses.

We spent some time examining the decorations and remembrances on the individual burial sites. Many had framed photographs of the deceased as well as personal and religious momentos. I was abruptly moved when I recognized a disintegrating teething ring on a babies grave. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Flower for the Day Zinnia 9-28

 The zinnias are still coming up like crazy.  This one was found near the dahlias by Jan's sister Peg.
 Can any botanist out there explain this?


Don's Blog Greenland VII Community 1

The communities of Greenland appear to have one thing in common. Living in relatively flat chromatic natural surroundings:  gray rock, green grass, blue water, and white ice and snow, Greenlanders  thrive on a variety of colors. This is well represented by the colors of the hillside homes of Qaqortag, south Greenland's largest town.

These seaside towns have sheltered harbors that are surrounded by stunning mountains. Below is Nanortalik on a crisp summer day.

 Nanortalik has water, electricity, street lights, paved roads, cars and trucks, and in-line rollerskating.

Slightly larger Qaqortoq (below), in addition to private homes, has Government housing. Each unit has its own color. 

 Greenlanders have an artistic and playful sensitivity.

Note the artist in the parka spraying green paint in this piece of graffiti.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Don's Blog Greenland VI The People

The history of Greenland's people is rich and fascinating. The current population of the country is  about 55,00. Greenland is independent but still closely related to Denmark. Inuit refers to a culturally similar people living in the Arctic regions of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. Inupiat are Alaskan Native people living between Norton Sound on the Bering Sea to the Canadian border on the east. Coastal natives of Northern Canada and Greenland are Inuit.  

Greenland Inuit are descendants of migrations from the Aleutians and across Canada. The Saqqaq, the earliest known archeological culture, inhabited southern Greenland (2500 BCE- 800 BCE). DNA evidence shows that they were related to native inhabitants of northeastern Siberia. The major Pre-Inuit Culture in North America were the two Dorset Cultures (500 BCE-1500CE).  Legends recount the Dorset people driving away  mythical  "First Inhabitants". Reportedly the Dorset Culture was extinct by 1500 due to difficulties in adapting to the weather of the Medieval Warm Period (aka climate change). The Dorset Cultures were replaced by the Thule People. The Thule are the ancestors of all modern Inuit developing in coastal Alaska by 1000 AD expanding east across Canada and reaching Greenland by the 13th century and living on the west, south and east coast of Greenland by 1500.

On our expedition we were able to meet Greenlanders of many stripes. They speak Greenlandic, Danish, and English. They are uniformly welcoming and friendly. We visited uninhabited hamlets, small and  large villages, and the capital city of Nuuk. People of all ages were genuinely interested in our being there. Here are a few of many people visits from the trip.

These children live in Nanortalik which is Greenland's most southerly town. They are playing carefully with an injured bird on a field of buttercups.

In the capital city of Nuuk,this wonderful lady invited about 8 of our Tour Group for a Home Visit. It was afternoon tea in the dining room of her home. It included tea and pastries. She talked to us about her life and even sang for us. The photos on the wall are of her wedding. Her necklace is extraordinary. Her personality was captivating.

She and her daughter were most hospitable. The painting on the wall made me feel quite at home
since it is what my artist wife Jan would do and has done.

The last of my brief people picture stories concerns a child who died over 500 years ago. In 1972 two brothers came upon a pile of rocks near Qilakitsoq, an abandoned Inuit settlement on the northwest Greenland coast. When they noted what appeared be human remains they notified authorities who ultimately discovered eight mummified bodies in two burial sites. The first grave contained three women, a two year old boy and a 6 month old baby boy, while the second grave contained three women. DNA testing showed two groups of related mummies and one mummy unrelated to either of the two groups. The mummies dated to 1475 AD and were fully clothed and in good nutritional state. Five of the six women had facial tattoos. The mummies are on exhibit in the National museum in Nuuk.

The six month old boy is the most famous of the group. As the image below shows he is well preserved appears almost doll like.  It is felt that he was buried alive with his mother as dictated by Inuit custom. This was done after a mother's death if no one could be found to care for the child. 

To see this 500 year old child and his relatives in this tableau was an exceptional experience.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Flower for the Day Cosmos 9-23

I also put in some cosmos for the first time in several years. These cosmos are more than four
feet tall.


Don's Blog Greenland V The Ice 2

An iceberg is a large piece of freshwater ice that has broken off a glacier or an ice shelf and is floating freely in open water. Since the density of pure ice is less  than that of seawater usually only 1/10 of the volume of the iceberg is above the water. Many of the larger icebergs of the north Atlantic Ocean originate from glaciers of western Greenland and according to the ship naturalists these are carried north by the bifurcated Atlantic Jet Stream and are picked up north of Greenland by the current of the Arctic Ocean which carries them south to the North Atlantic Ocean.

Large icebergs are awesome in their size and shape.

If there were any really large icebergs they could be seen on the ships radar.

As the icebergs float on the water there is constant movement of that water into them (below) as waves form openings and caves and tunnels.

The ship steered by and through the ice fields with ease.

Along with its icebergs Greenland is  known for its land ice in the form of glaciers and the ice cap which make up more  80% of the island. Below is your blogger near the Greenland icecap which is reportedly disappearing at an increasing rate. To my left a river can be seen which carries the fresh water to the sea.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Don's Blog Greenland V The Ice 1

When I dreamed of going to Greenland it was always about the ice. I was not disappointed. Awakened from a deep sleep one night when the ship crackled into, onto, and over the ice in the water I had a few short lived thoughts of a lifeboat drill. But it continued with regularity and I remembered the ship was "ice safe". It was the National Geographic Explorer, not the Titanic.The next morning this is what we saw out our cabin window.

And this is was off the bow.

What fun as we watched the ice in the water and along the distant shore.

The myriad number of shapes of the ice was hypnotizing.

Even on the cloudy day there were different colors on top and under the water.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Flower for the Day Night Blooming Cereus 9-21

It is 11:00 last night and I check the night blooming cereus and to my surprise it has bloomed. I have been watching these amazing plants bloom since I was a child. My parents would have blooming parties and friends and neighbors
would come over and watch the bloom open slowly. This plant was a gift from my next door neighbor Kaye and although small in size each year it has increased the number of blooms. This year six buds bloomed simultaneously
about two weeks ago but we were out of town. Then a seventh bud appeared and last night it opened up. 

 It comes right off a lower leaf.


Jan and I were the only ones at this party on the back patio in the dark.


It is a technical challenge to photograph in the dark.


An iPhone image.

The flower usually closes up in the early light but this year it was still open in the morning.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Flower for the Day Zinnias 9-17

The zinnias have both bright and subtle colors.