Every time I sit down to write, something unmissable happens

Tags: Emily Venables

First of all I’m sorry, yet again, for taking so long to write. Time is running away and I’ve been busy taking everything in! Every time I sit down to write, something unmissable happens! Now the Argo is launched and we’re heading south I have a little time so I’ll start where I left off last time. Little did I know back then that later in the evening Carol and I would be on stage with Kate, Luke, and the Disko Bay Blues Band! We pulled up to Ilulissat in the dark, having watched David’s projections onto icebergs. Karen led us to Murphy’s bar, which she’d had opened especially for us and organized a local band to play. Jarvis kicked off his Disko Bay disco with some classic vinyl before the blues band played. Later they were joined by Robyn and his harmonica, Kate and her icebergs (us- Art/Science interaction at its best!) and many fantastic acts that followed.


On Tuesday morning we walked to the ice fjord, guided by Karen through her home town, while we waited for the flight carrying Jude, Shlomo, Graham… and the software… to arrive. That afternoon we headed off to start another survey line whilst Simon and I tried to fix the CTD. Alas, deep temperature and salinity measurement on the CF Disko Bay voyage were not to be. I can’t actually put the frustration into words, but there is nothing we can do about it out here and instead I shall be doing my best to answer questions from the crew, explain my everyday work as a scientist and help Carol and Dave with their surveys. Fortunately, The Argo float, as I have already described will go on collecting far more data than we could ever imagine getting by hand in a voyage. Tuesday night was spent traveling northwards, past Disko Bay and towards Ludvig’s home town of Uummannaq.


In Uummannaq we had the most fantastic day. Blizzards to begin with, followed by clear blue sky and sunshine and finished off with Northern Lights! It was a feast of culture in the town. We visited the museum and the church and a traditional turf hut. On our way to the children’s home we were accosted by two young lads armed with snowballs. It did not take long for this to digress into a full on snow battle – we couldn’t understand a word of each others language but there was much laughter, which Karen has explained is an incredibly important part of Greenlandic culture. A more elderly Greenlander hobbled past with his sticks as we were playing so we stopped to let him through… but there was no stopping – we got a snowball manufacturing lesson from the master – again, no words exchanged but many laughs! We watched the huskies being fed (this involves a sledge full of fish being pushed round, with a bucket of fish on it which are hurled one by one at the howling dogs). It’s been made incredibly clear to us that these dogs are not pets, human connections should not be made and resisting the urge to pat is not easy… Any hint of restraint went right out of the window, however, when a tiny 3 week old ball of fluff was placed in my hand!

The work of the children’s home was very impressive. We were treated to music by the youngsters and then local food, coffee and cake. Local food included raw seal, seal liver, dried whale and dried halibut. I cannot deny that seal liver was particularly tasty. Finally, a local choir sang some Greenlandic songs for us. During this time the sun came out and so later we took a walk around the town. It was incredible to see the scenery that we had been oblivious to having arrived in a blizzard! That evening was another musical treat, all our musicians got together and played, introduced by Marcus and it was fantastic. We are all completely in awe of Shlomo’s beatboxing talents and are fighting for lessons in advance of Sunday night’s beatbox championship! To top the evening off, the northern lights were out for us as we headed back to the ship on the Zodiacs.


Clear skies and snowy mountains greeted us on Thursday morning as we headed up a fjord to a glacier face. Zodiacs took people up to get a close (ish) view of the glacier front whilst Simon and I took the hand-held temperature and salinity probe (mini CTD that Jude had brought over just in case the software failed to work) in a separate boat and looked at the surface (0-8m) water properties near the glacial outflow. Later we went ashore to see a glacier that was retreating up towards the ice cap, leaving behind it a fantastic glaciology/geology lesson. We anchored in the same bay overnight, though the katabatic winds (Forgive me if it’s not spelt with a ‘k’) were very strong. In the same way that the ocean water sinks when it gets cold, so does the air. These winds are a result of air being cooled over the ice cap and getting so dense that it plummets over the edge at the coastline resulting extremely cold and very strong local winds.

It’s Friday, not too late!

After a run ashore for some more art, we were on the move again and preparing to run a survey line along the length of the fjord. At the end of a transect we looked for an iceberg suitable for Francesca’s project, but really the idea of getting people onto icebergs is not the safest thing to do even in calm conditions, so given the wind we eventually had to call it off. The afternoon was spent braving the elements to soak up the scenery, but it was cold. Carol announced at one point that her nose was so cold her fingers were going to drop off! Later in the day we reached the northernmost part of the voyage and turned out to sea for an overnight steam to a suitable place to deploy the Argo float. After dinner there was a spectacular northern lights display and a disco in the water from the phosphorescence – bright green flashes caused by the ship’s propeller disturbing plankton in the water.

Saturday… wait! Working oceanographic kit!

This morning we set the parameters for the Argo float, and selected the name, chosen by Quentin, of ‘Diskovery Bob!’ She has been programmed to go with the flow at 200m depth in order to hitch a ride on the West Greenland Current, but every five days she will sink down to 500m, record a profile to the surface of temperature and salinity and beam it back to the satellite network. Now, having hidden in my cabin for long enough to write this, I’d better head back downstairs for some more interviews. All of a sudden everything seems to be coming to a close but we do still have a lot to fit in! Thank you so much for your messages, see you soon :o).

Read more about the previous days.

One Comment

  1. Gill

    Posted Sunday 5 Oct at 09:29 | Permalink

    Hi Em have been following your journey with increasing fascination, the blog is just great
    Take care