Part 1: The Open Boat
Qoornoq is an abandoned fishing village about an hour and half's boat ride from Nuuk. It sits on a tiny island adjacent to a much larger island in the Nuuk fjord system (you can walk between the two islands, but only at low tide.) Qoornoq was a thriving fishing village back in the 1960s and 1970s, but the fishery has since dried up and now there are only a handful of well-maintained summer homes there, as well as an old fish-drying factory and a beautifully restored church. Every summer there is also a "mayoral election", obviously a bit of joke given the lack of permanent residents, but a great excuse for a beach party/barbecue. We were lucky enough to be in Qoornoq for this event as well.
So, around 9 pm on a gloomy Friday evening, a man named "Jon" showed up in a small skiff to pick us up and take us on the hour and a half trip into the fjord. Jon didn't say much, and the whole affair seemed a bit mysterious, but he got serious for about 30 seconds before we boarded the boat. After the first few words out of his mouth, he had my rapt attention:
"There are no life preservers on this boat. If we hit a whale, or something like that, and tip over, STAY WITH THE BOAT. It has a double hull, so it can't sink. Climb on top of it. DON'T LEAVE THE BOAT. Press this red button" (pointing to the S.O.S. button on his Spot rescue device) "and an SMS should go to my friend that we're in trouble. And then he'll come for us. I hope. DON'T LEAVE THE BOAT."
Got it. Don't leave the boat when we tip over. We were a total of 7 passengers with camping gear, food, and beer; the boat had an 800 kg (~1700 lb) weight limit. You do the math. With choppy seas and ominous skies, I had an uneasy feeling about the whole thing, but everyone else seemed in high spirits. Huh. I got on board and thought about my mother for a minute.
Interestingly, I've never had anyone tell me where the life jackets are on any of the boats I've been on since coming to Nuuk. I'm not sure if this is due to a certain nonchalance that develops in a seafaring culture, or if it's just because the water is so cold here that a life jacket won't do much good if the boat goes down. We've heard people say, "If you're not out of the water in two minutes, you're dead". Noted.
Within 20 minutes of leaving Nuuk we had seen a humpback whale surface a few times-- my first whale sighting in Nuuk-- and the excitement over this further assuaged my general angst about the trip. I did, however, spend the next hour clinging tightly to a rope in the front of the boat, because I was still scared on a more localized level that each passing wave (and its subsequent bump) would fling me into the sea.
Just before reaching Qoornoq proper, Jon dropped us off near our campsite (on the main island about 2-3 km from the actual Qoornoq mini-island) with a promise to return for us on Sunday. "Really? That's it?" I wondered. But I suppose one doesn't just forget these sorts of things.
Before we knew it, it was morning. Here, sunset bleeds into the sunrise, with colors that stretch across the sky for hours with no real night in between. It's surreal to realize that sunrise has circled back on the sunset without you even noticing. And although most claim to love it, it makes me feel a little cheated. Where did my night time go? When am I supposed to sleep? In this situation I feel a small small sense of betrayal; others, mania.
Regardless, when the birds start chirping, you know it's time to go to bed--at which point it's also a good idea to blindfold yourself with something so you can get some sleep.
Up next: Injury in the wilds of Greenland in Qoornoq Part 2: The Open Wound.