Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Kayaking Architecture

After a memorable paddle on the Saturday, we joined in the Shadwell Basin paddling festival on the Sunday and although we didn't paddle that far we had an illuminating talk on the history of the area by Toby.  Next time we visit the area we will be looking at the buildings through different eyes.
William Kidd was executed a few yards below Wapping Old Stairs, on May 23rd 1701.  Pirates were normally hung and then chained to a post on the foreshore for 3 tides, as a warning to others.  Today the pirate is commemorated in this riverside pub.
Wapping Police Station is the site of the oldest police force in the world, formed in 1798.  It was formed because of the level of crime on the river.  It was estimated that 11,000 of the 33,000 people who worked on the river, at the time, were known criminals.
Toby was really well prepared with numerous visual aids.  He would land and whilst talking about the area use the photographs to illustrate the history of this area of London.
 Crossing to the south side of the river our first stop was Butler's Wharf.  Built between 1871 and 1873 it was supposedly the largest tea warehouse in the world at one time.  Today as the docks have moved downstream it has been developed with luxury flats and apartments.
Looking west towards the city skyline, which has changed significantly in the last few years.
 The design of Tower Bridge was the result of a competition.  A number of the submissions were a bit more unusual.
 The bridge was built between 1892 and 93 using granite blocks from near Liskeard, in Cornwall.  Many people are surprised that the bridge isn't older.
One feature we passed over but couldn't see was the Thames Tunnel.  It was built between 1825 and 1843 and was designed for horse and carts.  It now forms part of the London Overground railway system, between Wapping and Rotherhithe.  This was the first tunnel in the world to be constructed under a navigable river and when it was completed a banquet was held to celebrate the engineering marvel of the Brunel family.  Although we couldn't see the tunnel we did pay our respects as we paddle above its route.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A capital paddle

There is something quite special about paddling through the heart of one of the world's great cities.  Over the years I have been drawn to urban areas, as diverse as, Paris, New York, Seattle, Vanvouver and Venice to dip my blades into the water and without exception have never been disappointed.
Each year I have returned to London, to enjoy a weekend on the water with other members of the Jersey Canoe Club, in the company of Tower Hamlets Canoe Club.  The last weekend proved to be particularly enjoyable with perfect weather and tidal conditions, which allowed a number of options.
On the Saturday we paddled through the heart of London, from Shadwell Basin to Putney, where we took advantage of a riverside pub to top up our energy levels before heading back to the east end on the ebbing tide.
 Approaching Tower Bridge from the east.  It is interesting to see how the skyline has changed in the 5 years that we have been visiting London for a weekends paddling.
 Underneath Albert Bridge.  Most people have their favourite bridge, with Tower Bridge most people's choice but the Albert Bridge is a very respectable runner up.
The main reason for stopping at Vauxhall is to buy some egg custards from the Portuguese restaurant across the road but today we were in the company of 4 statues.  The Rising Tide, by British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor, are 4 horses which become visible as the tide drops.  Their heads have been replaced by oil well pumps, which is apparently a statement on our reliance on fossil fuels.  The are part of the Totally Thames Festival which finishes tomorrow, 30th September.

 With a view like this, it has to be one of the finest day trips that it is possible to do in a sea kayak.  If you haven't paddled through the centre of London, you should start planning a visit soon.
 The London Eye always looks spectacular when seen from the river.
 The OXO building was a river landmark from the 1930's until it fell into disuse in the 1970's.  Refurbished in the 1990's it is now a vibrant area of the south bank of the Thames with shops, design studios and a delightful restaurant where we once had a memorable meal overlooking the Thames as the sun set over London.
 The old and new of the London skyline.
 Nicky passing the bow of HMS Belfast.
 It was a real surprise to see the PS Waverley, which is the worlds last sea going paddle steamer.  Built in 1946 she spent her working life on the Clyde, in Scotland before retiring in 1973.  Restored to her 1947 appearance she now operates passenger excursions around the British coast.
This was a real surprise to see Tower Bridge opening, to allow the Waverley through.  Although the bridge opens about 850 times a year, to allow ships with a mast height greater than 30 feet to access the Upper Pool of London, I think that this was the first time I had actually seen it open.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Disko Bay - Day 17

Your final day on a long trip is always a time of conflicting emotions.  We had taken part in a really memorable paddle through some stunning scenery.  There was far more ice around than I had experienced on my 5 previous trips in Greenland, which at times had presented a significant challenge and even up until the last we weren't sure how things were going to go.  The French paddlers we had seen a few days earlier had taken 2 days to get out of Ilulissat because of the ice, if we took two days to get in then we would miss our flights home.
There was quite a special feeling, this was the conclusion of a project which had started over 2 years earlier.  At the Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium in 2013 we came under some pressure to run another event in Jersey in 2014.  It was eventually agreed that we would go ahead with the event but the aim was to raise enough funds to be able to buy a number of sea kayaks to place in Greenland, which would be available for the participants at the event to use.  Effectively we were aiming to re-invest in the sport.
2015 was the first year that the kayaks were available and they were used for 40 days, which was a successful year from the Jersey Canoe Club's perspective.  We already have bookings for 2016 as well as tentative inquiries for 2017.  A successful legacy from the Jersey Sea Kayak Symposium, which will hopefully allow more paddlers to experience the memorable kayaking off the west coast of Greenland.
The final morning.  We had lifted the kayaks up quite a distance the night before as there were a number of large bergs just offshore and we didn't want to risk losing the kayaks on the final night.
Eric heading south through the ice towards Ilulissat.
Our first glimpse of Ilulissat.  We were still concerned about whether we would be able to reach the town.  There was a significant amount of ice, the only indicator which gave us hope were the number of small boats going past.  They had clearly been able to force their way out of the harbour.
 The last few hundred metres and there was a hint of open water between the ice floes.
 The final slabs on which we pulled the kayaks.  At this point we knew that in 36 hours time we would be on the flights home.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Disko Bay - Day 16

The last but one day on my trips in Disko Bay have always been memorable because the distances have always been short, there is the chance for a few pleasant snacks at lunch time and the evening meal is in one of the nicest restaurants I know, anywhere.  The H8.
I really enjoy the drop in pace, it allows you to adjust gradually back into "normal" life following several weeks out in the field.  Rodebay a small village, to the north of Ilulissat, was the focus of today's activities with lunch purchased at the shop and the evening meal taken in the restaurant.  It was really nice to be joined by Kampe who made the journey north from Ilulissat, in the evening, in his small boat.
Late in the evening we sat on the slabs, just to the south of the village, trying to come to terms with the awe inspiring view across Disko Bay, to the west, whilst realizing that this was likely to be our last night in the wilderness for some time.  This was a time to savour the experiences, as opposed to rush back to the "delights" of Ilulissat at full speed.
 Paddling towards Rodebay in almost perfect conditions.  We just needed to hope that the restaurant was taking bookings!
 I have always tended to use this narrow inlet on the southern side of town.  Landing was always slightly spoilt by the large quantities of broken glass which littered the beach.
 Toby in front of the kayaks.  The village shop is visible behind.
 The buildings in the village are quite spread out, it is alwaysquite pleasant to wander around the village whilst taking in the superb views to the west.
 Eric made friends with the local wildlife.
 He was quite a delightful dog who seemed quite happy to pass the afternoon in our company.
 Every now and again whilst walking around the villages you will across some surprising discoveries which provide a link to the past.
 Kampe joined us for the meal in the evening.  Coming up from Ilulissat in his trusty boat.
 Camp site just to the south of Rodebay.
 After a meal at the H8 restaurant it is always an emotional moment sitting on the slabs looking out across Disko Bay, knowing that this will be your last night in the wilderness for quite some time.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Disko Bay - Day 15

Today was just a short day, but we needed to build in quite a large margin of time to allow for our exit through the tidal narrows.  As it turned out we were able to eddy hop and use ferry gliding to exit the inner part of Pakitsoq a couple of hours earlier than planned.
Almost as soon as we left the narrows we were re-united with our constant companions, ice bergs, something that we had missed for the last few days.  We were able to relax as it was just a short paddle to the slabs at Anoritoq, where we had camped 14 days earlier, at the start of our journey north.
Leaving the campsite.  It really was very pleasant apart from the swarms of insects.
Nicky heading out through the narrows.  Through the application of some appropriate ferry gliding we were able to exit the inner part of Pakitsoq a bout 2 hours earlier than anticipated.  As we left the narrows we had stunning views of a white tailed eagle, which had been perched on the shore.
Almost as soon as we left the inner part of Pakitsoq we returned to the world of ice.
Conditions were pretty much perfect.  We had distant views of whales, so we kept up our 100% record of seeing whales every time we have paddled in this area.
 Entering Anoritoq, for another evening of camping on the slabs.
 Always a spectacular backdrop for cooking the evening meal.  If everything went to plan the following evening we should be eating on the H8 restaurant.  Always an indication that the trip is drawing to a close.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Disko Bay - Day 14

After a truly memorable day exploring glaciated landscapes the day before, it was time to start to head west back towards the open waters.  The tide hadn't risen high enough to float the kayaks so initially we had to drag the kayaks through some rather sticky glacial mud.
Eventually with a falling tide and slight tail wind we made rapid progress through the narrows, reaching the open water relatively quickly.  For the first time on the trip we saw a number of groups of geese, close to the waters edge plus a some distant views of an Arctic Fox.
We finished for the day relatively early and some of us passed an hour or so rolling and rescuing.  Although the water was cold it wasn't as harsh as we had experienced on other days, which might have been because of the lack of ice floating in the water.
Whilst chatting about a particular rescue I swallowed 4 insects, which was an indication of what it might be like on the land.  That evening was the worst we experienced on the trip for insects.  To say they were unbearable would be an under statement.  It was impossible to be outside for more than a few seconds, the only refuge was in the tipi.  The lack of photographs for today, is an indication of what an impact they had that evening.  
It was an early night and probably 30 minutes was spent I nside the tent, ensuring that all the biting insects had been dealt with, before we settled down to sleep.
Probably the only negative aspect of kayaking in Greenland.
It wasn't that warm as we prepared to drag our kayaks across the mud flats in search of water deep enough to float them.
Looking west as we paddled out of the narrows.  The milky water indicates that we were still pretty close to the meltwater streams.
How often is that you across a roche moutonee, whilst out sea kayaking.  The glacial landscape was always revealing new features.
Lunch was taken on one of the small islands in an attempt to reduce our contact with the insects.  It seemed to work.
 The summit of the island was covered in a range of small plants and lichens.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Disko Bay - Day 13

It was strange to be kayaking with no ice visible in the water, it was as if we had entered a completely different world.  Somehow the landscape seemed less harsh, initially.  We had decided to explore the southern arm of this large, sheltered inlet, access to which, was protected by fast moving tidal streams.
Lunch was taken on a beautiful sandy beach, something we hadn't seen too much off in the last couple of weeks, just before we headed into the narrows of Qingua kujataleq.  What followed later that afternoon were some of the most memorable experiences of our summer in Greenland and guaranteed to send anybody with an interest in geography into raptures of delight.
 A rare sight in Disko Bay, a small sandy beach.  This was a perfect place for lunch prior to entering the narrows at Qingua kujataleq.  There were no insects, so it was a completely relaxing break.
 Entering the narrows.  The change in water colour is an indication of melt water streams feeding the inlet.
 Nicky trying to seek some sheltered water to make progress upstream.  At this point there was a significant flow from left to right.
 We should probably have foreseen this, but suddenly we started to run out of water.
 This was a far as we could go, although looking at the map we thought we should have been able to make further progress towards the ice cap.
 A steep climb up a stream bed, just behind where we landed and a walk along a raised valley delivered us to this viewpoint.
 A world of moraine, melt water streams and ice.  It would have been so easy to miss this remarkable landscape if we hadn't made the effort to go walking.
 On our maps this was marked as the sea, which it clearly isn't.  We are still trying to decide whether it was a glacial outwash plain or an old lake bed.
 Whatever the origins of the flat landscape there were very few splashes of colour.  We did see some other human foot prints but interestingly this was the only day on the entire trip when we didn't see any other people.
We are pretty certain this a varve, an annual layer of sediment.
 After a lovely day kayaking and truly memorable walk we were rewarded with a spectacular camp site.