When people think about their diving bucket list, the Great Barrier Reef, Cancun, and the Bahamas usually come to mind. While these tropical paradises are a dream come true, the curious diver may find an unlikely fantasy come-to-life diving in Greenland.
Many people believe that Greenland is green, but this body of land is mostly ice. The misnomer came about when exiled Icelandic Viking Eric the Red wanted to attract settlers to Greenland, starting a tiny nation of his own. Greenland is a tundra. [Tundras are frozen barren lands with minimal vegetation like an ice desert.] Despite its rocky, empty appearance, a whole ecosystem exists here near the Arctic Circle.
Here are the reasons we think diving in Greenland should be on your bucket list.
Beautiful, gentle, mysterious, and frequently referred to as unicorns of the sea, narwhals are worlds (or oceans) apart from any other cetaceans [cetaceans-carnivorous aquatic mammals including dolphins, toothed whales, and baleen whales]. Unlike their chirping talkative cousins, the Beluga whales, narwhals are low-frequency animals, only speaking in deep bizarre buzzing sounds. Recently scientists have been able to pick up these guttural clicks that the narwhals use to communicate with one another. Like other whales, narwhals dive deep (about a mile) into the icy black waters to find fish. Human interaction with narwhals is limited because they are afraid of people with good reason. The local Inuit are estimated to kill 400 narwhals a year out of the 1000 narwhals killed worldwide. Conservation efforts are in effect, but narwhals do not do well in captivity. Unlike belugas, dolphins, and orcas, narwhals are terrified of human beings. Many attempts to keep them in captivity arose during the 60s and 70s, but the longest living narwhal made it to a mere four months. The Vancouver Aquarium lost its longest-living narwhals four months after their arrival. This tragedy brought to attention the ethics of marine life in captivity. No narwhals have been in captivity since then. Recently when scientists tagged narwhals in the wild, narwhals' heart rates dropped to dangerous levels as they tried to outrun humans. This experiment made them determine that any sort of human interaction was harmful to these elusive creatures. If you want to see a narwhal up close, your best bet is diving into the icy waters yourself. Just remember not to get too close, which can cause them duress.
Icebergs and Biome
Icebergs in Greenland are a specialty and said to be the Arctic Explorers' dream. The best icebergs are near Tasiilaq, Greenland, where you can find the coral reef, on-land diving lagoons, caverns, huts in the fjords, and the bluest icebergs. Think of diving in Tasiilaq like submerging yourself into a giant sea of blue arctic snow cones without the berry flavor. Don't be deceived by the icy blue. There is a vivid world of kelp, amphipods, comb jellies, seals, humpback whales, and more Arctic creatures in the Biome of Tasiilaq. The time of year doesn't affect the iceberg count as much. You can still find icebergs floating around even in the summer months. The icebergs do capsize in the Summer, offering a captivating sight. Save up and book in advance. Only a handful of charters will take people on the tour of nature's frozen wonders. This option is relatively inexpensive compared to charting a boat to the North Pole [starting at $35,00]. A flight to Greenland from SeaTac Washington begins at $720. You need to pay for a hotel [starting at $208 per night] and chart a boat starting around $400 a day].
Help Greenland's Tourist Based Economy
Aside from fishing, Greenland's source of income relies on its tourist-based economy and the Danish government. By booking a stay, kayak expedition, dive, or tour in Greenland, you support their unique economy and lessen the need for Greenland's mining industry. The mining industry is said to be progressing the side effects of climate change. Touring Greenland opens up trade for their nation and allows them to sustainably fish, lessen narwhal hunts, and open them up to external revenue. Awareness is the first step toward reducing our carbon footprint.
If you are interested in visiting Greenland, save up, and look for travel packages. Most people book stays in Canada and Nova Scotia before traveling to Greenland. Check out visitgreenland.com for diving info and updates. Talk with a local PADI SCUBA school such as By the Shore SCUBA Instruction to see if you can book a group charter. Usually, groups get better deals when charting dives. If you want to travel the road less taken or you want to save on a trip to the Arctic Circle, Greenland is for you.