Nuuk at last
Three and half hours after flying over the ice cap without incident except for some freezing of our controls, the mountains started to look greenish, and we could see Nuuk, on the seaside. Diving into from our altitude to about 300 feet above sea level to the airport area, we landed smoothly on a regular runway that juts into the sea. Again, Nuuk has steep cliffs on one side and the ocean on the other. For those misinformed Mysoreans who think Chamundi Hill is an obstruction for airplanes landing at Mysore Mandakalli Airport, check out Nuuk with 10,000 feet mountains and the airport a sheer cliff down to near sea level and the runway being less than 3,500 feet long, lesser than Mandakalli.
As we taxied in, an Air Greenland De-Havilland Dash 7, a four engine turboprop fifty seat Aircraft, also known for it’s capability as a short take of and landing Aircraft (STOL), swung by on the taxiway on its way to the runway, heading for destinations further north. The pilots in the dash 7 waved to us and gave a smart salute, either for our bravery for crossing the ice cap or for our plain luck that we tried something stupid and lived to tell the tale!
Parking the Airplane, Fritz and I were in the mood to celebrate and wanted to go to town. We went to the Control Tower, where a pretty lady controller greeted us, allowed us to use the phone to call home to India and talk to my wife. She was indeed happy we had made it. The tower girl also called the taxi for us and we went hotel hunting, only to realize that there were few options and all were full. Some one suggested that we meet the Greenland Tourism Authority, yup, there’s one, and maybe they would be able to help out.
We went looking for them, Copi sleeping in the back of the cab. I remember it was a Sunday and they were closed. A note stuck on their window gave a private number to call on holidays and we did. Sooner than we could say “polar bear”, a lady turned up, the tourism representative and told us that in Nuuk, due to the shortage of hotel rooms, one could stay at a private residence. It seems that a lot of people move to Denmark for long periods of time for educational and other purposes and leave their homes, fully furnished, in the hands of the tourism authorities to rent them out.
Cabby drove us to the house, with the tourism lady and Fritz and I shared the cost of the rent, no more than the hotel rooms were going to cost! We settled in nicely and a bit later went to town, ordered drinks and Pizza, everything else either too costly or too alien to eat. Nuuk is a small town and we could explore every place by foot. I don’t really know why anyone would want to come there for a holiday but I guess someone did and that’s why they had such an efficient Tourism Authority.
A good night sleep and we were off the next day for our take off on the last leg of our Polar Route, Nuuk to Iqualuit Nunavut (Frobisher Bay) in extreme northern Canada. For aviation buffs, this was the same place that they tested the Airbus A380 super Jumbo Aircraft for cold weather take off and landings and icing equipment checks. Now that should tell you something. If Iceland was cold, and Greenland was cold, we hadn’t seen anything yet. The flight to Iqualuit was equally daunting, flying over frozen seas; there were areas that we could see more ice than water. They call this the Greenland Ice shelf, copi called it scary, just plain scary.
Iqualuit (a Nunavut word pronounced as Ikaloueet) was colder than anything we had experienced. It was summer and the ground was frozen and there was ice all around. The wind was robust and cutting us to the bone, this in spite of the wet suit, the jacket underneath, the sweater underneath the jacket, the shirt underneath the sweater and the vest underneath the shirt! Copi refused to come out of the airplane to help me help Fritz pour engine oil into his two engines that needed to be topped off.
We made it to the Air Traffic Service of NavCanada where they helped us to fill out the forms for arrival and file another flight plan out of there. We did not want to spend any more time in this tundra. We wanted to go south as soon as we could, like birds migrating South-now we know why! We had to wait for the fuel to come, in drums, to be pumped by a portable electric pump into our tanks and we finally left the place, cold and miserable and copi asleep in the cockpit once again! I still had lots more miles across Canada to deliver the Airplane in Western Canada but that’s another story for another day.
One thing I could not figure out. Iceland is not named correctly, it is quite green, at least in summer. Greenland on the other hand also suffers from this misnomer. Very few places in Greenland are actually green. It is mostly ice and white throughout the year. Somebody having fun at the World’s expense.
This ferry flight was a fun experience, in making the stops that we normally don’t on long range Aircraft. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat, I’d say yes, the practical side of me on the other hand says why re-do something that you’ve already done? Relive it through your blog; hope others enjoy the trip with you.
The next time one of my readers cross the North Atlantic in comfort, on an Airliner, pray for those adventurous ferry pilots flying several thousand feet below you, for their safe passage across the drink. Look below you and if you spot a small airplane, lights on, going real slow, ask for good champagne on board, raise your glass in a toast, for their success. The North Atlantic has claimed the lives of many such pilots. It goes with the territory of being a ferry pilot.
End of series.