Around 5:00 a.m., National Geographic Explorer crossed the Arctic Circle at 66˚ 33 N. There was no physical indication, but early risers with a GPS could mark the time and position. The rest of us slept a little longer until expedition leader Andy’s morning address at the much more reasonable hour of 7:00 a.m. Through the early fog, we arrived in Sisimiut. With a population of 5,247 people, it is the second largest city in Greenland. Located 75 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle, Sisimiut is Greenland's most northern year-round port with no ice.
Sisimiut literally means "the residents at the foxholes.” Over the last 4,500 years, the area was inhabited by peoples of the Saqqaq culture, the Dorset culture, and then by the Thule people, whose Inuit descendants form the majority of the current population.
We had a quick breakfast before heading out for a range of guided activities. Some guests hiked to Tele Island to enjoy a bit of nature and observe the remains of a historic village. Dog Island was seen and heard from various points on the hike. A group of guests took a coach to Dog Town, where the city’s working dog population is housed. With more dogs in the area than people, some of the puppies were free roaming. To our delight, they were happy to socialize with us. We took a moderate walk back to town with some opportunistic birding moments. We arrived a bit early and spent time in the open-air museum and enjoyed a look at some of the souvenir shops before we headed to a local food tasting at Hotel Søma. Muskox and reindeer sausage, snow crab legs, local bread, dried cod and capelin, plus creamed fish roe made for a delicious and filling snack of local foods.
Walking back to the ship, several other shops tempted us to visit. On board, more food awaited us at lunch before we headed back out on our own or with naturalists, who offered another guided walk of the island and additional interpretations at the museum and open-air museum.
We threw the lines and set sail north to Ilulissat in the late afternoon. Greenlandic guest speaker Aleqa spoke about her culture and the Inuit people of Greenland. Evening recap followed, and the underwater team entertained us with their dive finds from the morning. Mada spoke on, “Cod is Life,” and Andy shared plans for tomorrow before we tucked into another scrumptious meal.
Our evening entertainment was the documentary Chasing Ice with footage of the Jakobshavn Glacier. We plan to see icebergs from this glacier in Ilulissat Icefjord tomorrow. The film was a good send off, and we went to bed excited for the coming day.