blog, Living in Greenland, Travel


Arfeq: whale

Qapangeqqavoq: disappears frequently below the water like a whale

Naparutaq: dorsal fin of a whale

Sarpik: tail of a whale

Sarpigaarpoq: shows its tail 

Yesterday was such a special evening, one that I won’t forget for a long time and moments that I will hold onto so dearly in my heart.

I am grateful that I’ve made a connection with a captain of a ship, who kindly offered to take me out into the ocean last night with a group of photographers. The five photographers were intense, carrying with them large gear – making my DSLR and 300mm lens feel like it was a toy camera. The captain joked that with their large lens they didn’t even need to go out onto a boat. But the photographers were so kind to share with me some of their stories about travelling around the world and pursuing photography as a career. It was their fifth consecutive night of sailing.

As we set off into the ocean around 10:30 in the evening, I stayed close to the captain finding his company enjoyable and learning new Greenlandic words. I didn’t have any expectation to see whales, I just missed being out on the water and I was grateful to be sailing the ocean.

It was almost midnight and we were circling around icebergs. The photographers asking the captain to move slowly as we approached places with the “right” light.

Suddenly, the captain points out the window, “arfeq”, I see whales. I couldn’t really see anything, but quickly step out onto the deck with my camera. And suddenly I see a black fin pop out of the water, so much closer than I had expected.


I feel so conflicted in these moments, wanting so badly to experience and savour the encounter with the wildlife with my eyes and mind – not with and through a camera. Yet at the same time, I yearn to photograph the moment so I can visually keep it and share it with my family and loved ones.

IMG_5279The captain told us it was two whales, a mother and her child. It was hard to tell who was who, since we can’t see their size above water. It feels surreal to see them, even if it’s only a fraction of them – the fin, back, tail. We streamed along side them for a while, but somehow they disappear and the magic trails off into the ocean. You gaze at the water hoping that they pop up again, but as you’re gazing at the water you realize that the water is beautiful in itself.

The rest of the 4 hours on the boat blurred into the sunset iceberg silhouettes of the night. We continued to see pairs and lone whales, some close to our boat as the first time, and some much further in the distance, hugging the curves of the icebergs. With each encounter, the patterns of our reactions were the same – first exuberantly happy, then patiently silent, finally filled with awe and wonder expressed through words and smiling.

At 2:45am we start to pull towards the docks of Ilulissat. There was still so much light, the sun does not set and it’s like I’m in a dream – perhaps coming from the combined tiredness and joy I feel so deeply.