Photo Story

Northern Jewels Part 2: Greenland’s Southwest Coast

© Dennis Minty

Continue your tour of this captivating region of the Arctic—the southwest coast of Greenland. In the second part of this powerful photo story, you’ll see for yourself how such a journey has the power to change your life forever.

Read Part 1 of Dennis Minty’s Northern Jewels photo essay: Iceland and the Norse Ruins

In 2002, I made my first expedition with Adventure Canada from Iceland to Greenland exploring coastlines rarely witnessed by even seasoned travellers. The trip changed me and motivated me to return to travel with Adventure Canada every year since. Just like my first Adventure Canada outing, the Iceland to Greenland: In the Wake of the Vikings expedition takes you to some remarkable places. Let’s take a closer look at some of the jewels along the way.

Icebergs and mountains of south Greenland coast

© Dennis Minty

As the ship turns north, the Labrador Sea stretches to the horizon on the port side and the rugged mountains of Greenland rise on the starboard.

Homes and apartment buildings of Nuuk waterfront

© Dennis Minty

Nuuk, Greenland’s capital and largest city, houses about one third of the country’s population of around 18,000. It is the seat of government, as well as the centre of commerce and education.

Much of the city feels new and modern, however people have occupied the area since 2200 BC: first, Paleo-Eskimo people, then Dorset. By 1000 AD, Norse people had occupied the site and created their Western Settlement. Inuit and Norse lived here together for about five centuries, after which the Norse disappeared.

The Old Town sits snug by the harbour while the newer commercial high-rises, shops, and apartment blocks occupy the higher levels of the modern city.

Modern glass and metal building Nuuk Greenland

© Dennis Minty

Nuuk successfully mixes swanky and traditional. You can buy the latest iPad in the flashy shopping mall or go around the corner to pick up some fresh wild muskox, caribou, or salmon for your dinner.

Nuuk National Museum exhibit traditional Greenlandic beading

© Dennis Minty

In the Old Town by the harbour, you find the National Museum where there is a superb collection of all things Greenlandic, from traditional dress to the Greenland mummies.

Katuaq Cultural Centre wooden walls Nuuk Greenland

© Dennis Minty

Greenlandic people put their cultural pride on display in this city, from art to architecture, past to present. A fine example is the Katuaq, the Cultural Centre, that is used for concerts, exhibitions, conferences, and movies. It also has a lovely café, so stop by for sure.

Lutheran Nuuk Cathedral

© Dennis Minty

The Lutheran Nuuk Cathedral (Church of Our Saviour), established in 1849, overlooks the Old Town.

Nuuk marina Sermitsiaq Mountain

© Dennis Minty

The magnificent mountain, Sermitsiaq (Saddle Mountain), oversees almost all of Nuuk even though it is about twenty kilometres to the northeast. At a height of 1,210 metres, it creates a magnificent backdrop for the city. Nuuk people, an outdoorsy lot, have loads of opportunity at their doorstep, from cross-country skiing in winter to boating and fishing in summer.

Mountain biker in front of Nuuk Sermitsiaq Mountain

© Dennis Minty

By the way, it is a wonderful town to sign up to use one of Adventure Canada’s great mountain bikes.

Greenland fishing boats and dinghies

© Dennis Minty

The fishery once dominated Nuuk’s commerce, but, as with most other coastal economies, it is less rigorous than it was. However, the harbour is still home to half of Greenland’s fishing fleet.

Kangerlussuaq Fjord Sondre Stromfjord

© Dennis Minty

You must be on deck for the final highlight before disembarkation: the magnificent Kangerlussuaq Fjord (Søndre Strømfjord). At 190 kilometres in length, it is the longest fjord in west Greenland and among the top three longest in the world.

The ship crosses the Arctic Circle as it sails to the northeast. As you pass through the narrowest part (1.5 kilometres wide), you feel dwarfed by the impressive mountains on either side.

Mountains of Kangerlussuaq Fjord Sondre Stromfjord

© Dennis Minty

The mountains are made of gneiss, but here and there you will see dykes: black, rippling bands of basalt intruding into the older, parent rock, as though some giant’s hand was stirring chocolate into a marble cake. This happened when the parent rock split and new molten rock filled the cracks.

Green Northern Lights Aurora Borealis

© Dennis Minty

On a clear night, the aurora borealis might dance overhead. It often does.

Airplane over hills of Kangerlussuaq Greenland

© Dennis Minty

The utilitarian town of Kangerlussuaq, where the airport is located, grew out of a World War II American military base. Certainly not as pretty as most other towns in Greenland, it is an important jumping off point for elsewhere.

Alluvial flatland Kangerlussuaq Greenland

© Dennis Minty

The town occupies part of a huge alluvial flatland created by the Watson River where it empties into the end of the fjord. The river carries so much silt that the harbour must be dredged constantly.

Person standing on mountain top

© Dennis Minty

So, you have reached journey’s end and are preparing to resume your regular life. It will be a shift, physically and mentally. I said at the beginning that I felt changed by this, my first Arctic trip: broadened, humbled, inspired, and incredibly fortunate. I wonder how you will feel.

About the Author

Dennis Minty

Dennis Minty

Photographer, Wildlife Biologist

Dennis has been working with Adventure Canada since 2002. Dennis’s path—from his small island roots in Twillingate, Newfoundland to his current career as a photographer and eco-tour leader—has taken him through more than three decades of local and international work.

For him, nature and photography are inseparable. Dennis immerses himself in nature through photography and seeks to inspire in the viewer a deeper connection with the natural world. Dennis has authored nine books on subjects such as environmental science, his home province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and his photography.

To see more of Dennis' work, visit his website.