Further Exploring the Arctic Region

John and Karen Clarke

John and Karen Clarke returned to the Arctic with their latest travels reaching Greenland.

John Clarke ’77 and Karen (Benz) Clarke ’77 continued their post retirement adventures, following their respective careers at the U.S. Geological Survey and Delta Airlines. The most recent adventure took them back to further explore the Arctic.

Read the following for John Clarke’s perspective on the trip to Greenland.

John Clarke ’77 (Earth Science) and Karen (Benz) Clarke ’77 (Social Work) recently returned from a cruise to Greenland. With this trip they have now visited the Arctic Circle at both the top and bottom of the world, including visits to the Antarctic in December 2021, Svelbard, Norway in 2022, and the recent Greenland excursion in August 2023.

We travelled via charter flight from JFK airport in NYC to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland on July 31. The Inuit language includes words of double consonants which we never could pronounce, so we called towns by abbreviated names such as “Kangertown.”

We boarded our ship, the Silversea Endeavor, and departed on our voyage that evening. The luxurious ship had a crew of around 200; there were only 100 passengers so we were outnumbered 2:1 by crew! Needless to say, we received fantastic service.

John and Karen Clarke photo collage in Greenland/Arctic Circle

During the 10-day voyage we covered 2,087 nautical miles and traveling to 72 degrees north latitude. We visited numerous fjords and glaciers and toured in sea kayaks and zodiacs. The beauty of the ice and rich blue waters was spectacular.

During the cruise, temperatures were mostly in the 40s, never falling below freezing. Effects of global warming were evident with glaciers clearly retreating. Locals also mentioned how bays that previously froze over in winter no longer do so. During a kayak tour in Evighedsfjord, I was struck by the beauty of the hanging glaciers of the fjord and how similar it looked to Milford Sound in New Zealand. The main difference is that the glaciers in Milford Sound have melted away, leaving hanging waterfalls. Could this be the future for fjords in Greenland?

One way in which this trip differed from our Antarctic and Svelbard cruises was the paucity of wildlife. We only saw whales a few days, a few seals, and no land mammals. While visiting some of the villages, we noticed there were mostly women in town. Apparently, we arrived during hunting season and the men were out hunting reindeer (perhaps this is why we didn’t see any reindeer during our trip).

Our original itinerary included stops as far north as Cape York, Greenland, with a final port at Pond Inlet, Canada. Unfortunately, we received notice on August 7 that the port of disembarkation would need to be changed due to “surprising and unseasonable sea ice” blocking access to Pond Inlet. Our port of disembarkation was changed to Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada, 943 miles southward, requiring 2 days at sea. Although we were disappointed by this change, we understood how weather and sea conditions can change the itinerary of an expedition cruise. Fortunately, we had great weather throughout the trip, so earlier stops were under bright sunshine.

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Posted: October 23, 2023