30. In Arctic explorer Paul-Émile Victor’s footsteps or hike to the Delta

Late in the afternoon at about 16.00 hrs I started another guided walk from Café Victor. This time the group was much smaller. 3 including our guide. We were now going for a walk towards the river delta which is a river of meltwater coming directly from the inland ice and dividing into seperate branches just before its end.

At 1st we followed a trail parallel to the steep coast. The view over the clear blue water, dotted by white floating ice pieces and bright orange boat sailing west was incredible…

This was not sea ice, but land ice, calved from the Eqip Sermia Glacier, now floating towards Arve-prinsen Ejland…

Below out trail the rocky beaches were full of ice. Quite something different than a tropical beach…

I have always been fascinated by geology. On my previous journeys I had travelled through lonely deserts (Taklamaka, Kyzylkum, Karakum, Kalahari and Namib) and over some of the highest mountain ranges in the world (Himalaya, Pamir, Tien Shan, Alpes) and I had researched detailed satelite photography by NASA, to get a feel of the geology of these lands. Here in Greenland’s Arctic wilderness, where rocks were stripped bare of almost all vegetation and where these rocks have been molested and scratched by the advancing and retreating ice masses, you didn’t have to make any effort to see its wonderful geology immediately at the surface…

In the above pic you can see, Glacier Lodge Eqi’s luxury cabins surrounded by the vast, empty, bare Arctic wilderness. Luxury means that the rooftops of the cabins are provided with solar cells to create energy for warm water (shower) and electricity. Futhermore there are warm beds, and large windows with a great view over the Eqi Glacier. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of keeping tourism in Greenland sustainable. (More information can be found at the sites of World of Greenland and Greenland Travel)

Now we started to climb the steep coast towards a saddle between to hill tops and than after catching our breath we advanced further to the highest hill top where we had a magnificent view over the river delta behind these coastal hills …

This river originated from the inland icecap and its melt water filled riverbed branched out near the river mouth. It formed a delta and that was what we were now looking at…

On the dry areas between the river branches, small arctic plants had started to bloom…

Little birds showed themselves on the bare rocks searching for mosquitos and black flies. Yeeeeaaah !!!

The view below is in the direction of the river mouth…

The view below is land inward towards the inland ice which was not visible from this location…

I really like this pic of the three of us on the highest vantage point of the trail, with the sun in our back providing some special effects 😉

Enjoying the view some more…

Then it was time to walk back to the Glacier Lodge Eqi for diner.  Here’s another view from the saddle over the small ice covered beach…

For the return walk our guide decided to take the high trail which enabled us to enjoy the views…

We returned to the Glacier Lodge Eqi where the trail ended near the Cabin left there by the french Paul-Emile Victor Arctic Expedition. I can’t imagine a better spot for such a cabin and I dear say that I can imagine where the idea to create a Glacier Lodge Eqi at this location was sparked from 😉

Apart from the wooden Paul-Emile Victor Cabin there were lots more expedition items that were left in the wilderness between the cabin and the inland ice. As I told you before in the earlier blog about my walks to Lac des Canards, that trail was used by the arctic expedition to get to the inland ice where they did research. Several teams were sent out to search for a route to the ice. But it was not easy. The trail used by a former expedition in 1912 was not good enough for the tracked vehicles. However, one team discovered a new route which looked as if it would be passable after a few improvements. The route was later marked with cairns and cleared of rocks. Larger rocks were blasted out. To do research they needed to transport all kinds of stuff like tents and other camping gear, caterpillar tracked vehicles, sledges, explosives and fuel (gasoline) barrels, trailers for laboratories, radio’s and radio equipment, wood to build primitive but effective bridges and steel cables to build a cable-way!, food, scientific instruments to the glacier camp they were building near the edge of the icecap. Dotted along the trail, lots of remains of the stuff they used can still be found, because nothing decays fast in the arctic…

Above are the remains of at least 64 year old caterpillars used by transport vehicles (the last Paul-Emile Victor Expedition was in 1953 (see the plaque below) and I visited Greenland in 2017)…

Paul-Émile Victor, used motorized tracked vehicles (Weasels) to get his equipment to the ice sheet. In the fells close to Eqip Sermia, the calving glacier, in the north-eastern part of Disco Bay there are clear traces of the tracked vehicles that ethnologist Paul-Émile Victor used in his great 1948 to 1953 (see plaque below) polar expedition “Expéditions polaires françaises”.

So who was this Paul-Emile Victor?

Paul-Émile Victor

Paul-Émile Victor (born Paul Eugène Steinschneider; 28 June 1907 – 7 March 1995) was a French ethnologist and explorer.

Victor was born in Geneva, Switzerland to French Jewish parents of Bohemian and Polish descent. He graduated from École Centrale de Lyon in 1928. In 1934, he participated in an expedition traversing Greenland. During World War II, he engaged himself in the US Air Forces. After the War, he initiated the Expéditions polaires françaises to organize French polar expeditions. He died in 1995 on Bora Bora, to which he had retired in 1977.

A survey led by Victor in 1951 concluded that, under the ice sheet, Greenland is composed of three large islands. In 1952 he was awarded the Patron’s Gold Medal by the Royal Geographical Society of London for the work. 

Mount Victor, in the Belgica Mountains of Antarctica, is named for him.

His son, Jean-Christophe Victor, stars in the weekly geopolitical show Le dessous des cartes on ARTE.

 

Research

If the icecap of Greenland would melt immediately, underneath we would find three or more islands seperated by a large lake or sea (the green area on this 3D map).

What kind of research were they doing? It wasn’t climate research like nowadays, because little to nothing was known about melting icecaps due to CO2 polution. No this was a different sort of research, much more pioneering and getting to know what the impact of the icecap was on the land.

E.g.: I found this text from the Ellensburg Daily Record (a 1951 newspaper) stating:

Godthaab, Greneland Oct. 24. – (AP)- A French scientific expedition says it has found that Greenland, regarded as the world’s largest island, is really three separate islands bridged by an icecap.

This was one of the results of a 26-man expedition led by Paul Emile Victor and disclosed here by his close collaborator Captain Gaston Rouillon. The scientists have returned to France after several years’ research in the Greenland wilderness.

They measured the thickness of the icecap by setting of explosions and calculating the time it took for the echo of the blast to resound from the ground underneath. The maximum thickness of the ice was found to be 2 miles.

Rouillon said the scientists found that Greenland was divided into three islands by “two deep sounds running under the icecap from coast to coast”.”

We walked closer to and passed the expedition cabin…

There were clear efforts made to preserve this cabin…

Than we returned to the Glacier Lodge Eqi and I prepared for another great diner from the sustainable kitchen of Café Victor (yesss: named after the famous polar explorer 🙂 ).

After diner I drank a Greenlandic beer and then went to my cabin to enjoy the crazy sunset (See my previous blog about Café Victor and my Standard cabin at Glacier Lodge Eqi).

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