Our flight from Copenhagen landed in Narsarsuaq (population158). It’s the world’s smallest town served by an international airport (UAK). The town has a friendly grocery store, an almost friendly hostel, a café and even a museum. The museum hosts artifacts from Narsarsuaq’s World War II era US army base and a fascinating Viking exhibit almost entirely downloaded and printed from the internet.
After a day of hiking, acclimating, learning how not to swallow oversized arctic mosquitos and finding out that people in Greenland are actually pretty friendly underneath their icy shells, we headed for a test run. Four of us tried to find out what it’s like to kayak in icy conditions. Here’s what we learned:
- You need a waterproof dry suit to kayak in icy waters.
- Unlike in a wet suit, you should never pee in a dry suit.
- Never fix a rental kayak while on the water.
- The water is f*ing cold.
- Wearing a fleece sweater on a warm day under the plastic dry suit is like two rats trying to make a baby rat in a Ziplock bag at twelve noon. (If you don’t know what that’s like, take my words, hot and sweaty)
But the most important lesson of the day was this:
Whoever coined the expression, “it’s only the tip of the iceberg” was a very serious science person. An iceberg’s density is 920kg/m3, sea water’s density is 1025kh/m3. That roughly 10% difference is exactly the tip of the iceberg, which never stays under water. In other words 90% of each iceberg is under water.
Also, some icebergs can really sound like French fries in oil. It’s called the “Bergie Seltzer”. It happens when ice around the compressed air bubbles melts and the bubbles pop.
Icebergs also crack, break, tip over and move around. So if you kayak close to an iceberg, you might not even notice that a 15 ton ice cube just fell on your head and pushed you against 90% of the iceberg. According to seasoned kayakers these incidents can generally ruin even the best kayak trips.