The Untamed North: Greenland to Iceland Jun 24—Jul 08, 2018

Posted by Machiel Valkenburg


Machiel Valkenburg

Machiel Valkenburg was born in 1982 in a southern province in the Netherlands where, encouraged by his parents, he began birding at an early age. During his teens he studie...

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Wow! On this exceptional trip we explored the southern tip of Greenland and a spent a couple of days in Iceland before and after the tour, all aboard the lavish Hebridean Sky. This cruise, in cooperation with our partner, Zegrahm Expeditions, began in the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik. The first day was a transfer day to Narsarsuaq in southwest Greenland. Two separate charters flew us to Greenland. We first toured around the Reykjavik region. The Perlan Museum proved an interesting visit, especially the fantastic panoramic views of the city. Outside on the parking lot the ‘coburni’ race of Redwing was foraging actively. This heavily dark spotted race is one of the common birds around Iceland. A few Redpolls flew over, and the first of many Glaucous Gulls appeared. More birding was done near our lunch spot where in a little harbor the Common Eider was congregating, many of them chicks. Panic broke out when a Parasitic Jaeger (Arctic Skua) flew over. Fortunately for the young, he had no interest in a little appetizer. This species of jaeger is almost solely kleptoparasiting on the many water birds of Iceland. In the afternoon we arrived in Greenland and boarded our luxurious ship.

Lapland Longspur

Lapland Longspur— Photo: Machiel Valkenburg


Over a period of eight days we cruised from the southwest of Narsarsuaq to the southeast of Nansen Fjord. We took every possibility we had to make landings and to explore areas where very few people have gone before. It is, of course, needless to say that the landscapes were very dramatic with high snow-capped mountains, lots of impressive glaciers, and many colossal icebergs in the seas and fjords we were exploring. Greenland is the largest island in the world and has only 55,000 inhabitants. During our time here, we docked and visited three villages with a maximum of 2,000 people, huge ‘cities’ for this part of the world. We encountered and got in contact with the local Inuit. We witnessed their daily routines with their dogs; as snow sledding is the only way to move freely around Greenland, they have very intimate relationships with their dogs. It was an amazing experience to be part of this for a little while. Another highlight was the performance of a healing by an Angakkuq; this intellectual and spiritual figure corresponds to a medicine man. 

Read Machiel’s full report in his Field Report.