The weather finally cleared and we flew to the remote airstrip at Qaarsut settlement, before making the short hop to Uummannaq island by helicopter. Whilst Uummannaq is the main hub town for the area, there isn’t enough flat land to land an aircraft on the island, so the airport had to be built at the opposite side of the fjord at Qaarsut, with a short hop via helicopter to get to the island.
As the helicopter flew over the island, we treated to this amazing sight of the tiny island of Uummannaq. The pilot knew that we were photographers, so he deliberately did a 360 turn so that everyone could get a view of the island. Having said that, the window of opportunity for shooting the island is very small and I only managed two frames that conatined all the island, before the pilot banked round to land.
I’m used to these remote settlements leading a precarious existence, on the edge of economic and social collapse, so I wasn’t prepared to arrive in a bustling and thriving town of 1400 people, that appeared to have good levels of employment and a good standard of living. As a measure of how well the island is doing, the children we spoke to planned to stay on the island and work.
Tourism is a relatively new thing in Uummannaq, particularly in the winter. The island doesn’t yet have a hotel, but it does have a number of rooms and houses available for rent and several well stocked supermarkets, so it would actually be a viable destination for independent travellers. With neither hotel nor guest house accommodation available, the group of 11 of us were split up into four different houses, we then all met in one central house for our meals, cooked by Nina a local cook who did a wonderful job. This rather smart, newly modernised house is where three of us stayed, with a perfect view of the heart shaped mountain. Whilst our house was beautiful both inside and out, it did have the drawback, that it was 20 minutes hike steeply uphill from the harbour. But on the plus side, we were closest to the lake.
To say that he view out of my room window was idyllic, would be something of an understatement.
Once settled in, we were able to explore the island with its heart shaped mountain and frozen mountain lake covered in the most fascinating array of cracks. With the temperature hovering around -15C, I spent a pretty cold hour knelt on the ice, waiting for the light.
We were fascinated by the cracks in the ice, so we returned to the lake several times during the six days we were on the island. I didn’t realise at the time just how lucky I was at the time to capture this image, but with the regular snow flurries blowing in, this first afternoon proved to be the only time, this area of the ice wasn’t covered in snow.
With temperatures now hovering around minus 20C, the sea had frozen over and we were able to walk out onto the sea ice to get a close up view of these immense bergs.
The light over the mountains behind Qaarsut in the early morning light was simply sublime.
On our fifth day in Uummannaq, we woke to some nice light, so we skipped breakfast and headed out onto the sea ice. There was a strong wind, and it was bitterly cold and my eyes watered continuously, so it was hard to see my images on the monitor, but I really enjoyed shooting these abstracts. After an hour or so, we adjourned to the supermarket for some Danish pastries, then on to Cafemma for a coffee and a much needed warm up.
All week, we’d been fascinated by the ice patterns, but actually capturing them in a satisfactory manner had proved to be quite difficult. Eventually, we settled on late afternoon when the light had gone off the ice, giving us this pleasingly dark background as a contrast to the white of the cracks.
The town itself is built on the lower slopes of the mountain and many of the houses and streets are accessed by this jumble of staircases. By the time we came to leave Uummannaq, we felt that we knew most of the shortcuts.
All too soon the trip was over and we boarded the helicopter to fly back out again. This time I was sitting on the wrong side of the helicopter, but once again the pilot did a 360 so we could all get a good view of this stunningly pretty little island.
The postponement of our flights to and from Uummannaq, meant that we’d also missed our flights out of Ilulissat, so we now had a few spare days in Ilulissat whilst we waited for the next flight out to Reykjavik.
This gave me the chance to visit the Kangia glacier and marvel at the wonders of nature again.
Covid induced delays meant I”d been looking forwards to this trip for almost two years, so I embarked on this journey with very high hopes, but I’m pleased to say that in many ways it exceded my expectations. Wild Photography Holidays did a great job and Uummannaq really is a unique place, so I’m really pleased I managed to get there. As I’ve said before, when you achieve your dreams, it gives you the chance to dream some more. So where’s next?………………..