Explore Greenland

   Sea Kayaking / Touring
West Greenland, Ilulissat - Nanortalik - June - July 2018
Expedition kayakers Fiona Lee and Tara Mulvany complete a two month long journey along Greenland’s west coast.

   Sea Kayaking / Touring

West Greenland, Ilulissat - Nanortalik - June - July 2018

Expedition kayakers Fiona Lee and Tara Mulvany complete a two month long journey along Greenland’s west coast.

The team

Fiona Lee

Fiona Lee

“There is something quite special about waking up in the morning to a panorama of icebergs and the sound of whales.”"


On July 28th, expedition kayakers Fi Lee and Tara Mulvany reached the village of Nanortalik, successfully completing a two month long journey down Greenland’s west coast.

Tara Mulvany and Fiona Lee
New Zealand expedition kayakers Tara Mulvany and Fiona Lee

The two Kiwi women began their adventure in Ilulissat, on the shores of Disko Bay and next to one of the world’s most active glacial fronts. Finding their route south blocked by ice, they spent five days waiting for it to shift as glacial ice extended at least 20 nautical miles offshore.

Eventually, they were able to sneak through and soon were in calm, ice free waters on the far side. For Fi, this was her first time in the Arctic and a new experience paddling amongst the ice. Describing the ice fjord, she states, “It was quite daunting, watching gigantic bergs drifting around with the tides and current. I wasn’t sure that we’d make it through.”

Fiona navigationg through the many icebergs along the route
Fiona navigationg through the many icebergs along the route

Several days in, they found their intended route frozen solid as the winter sea ice had not yet broken between the islands. A second possible channel was also cut off by ice and they were forced to detour further out of Disko Bay and into more open waters. This was the beginning of a string of challenges that they would face along Greenland’s shores.

Fog, snow and relentless winds made each day a struggle, and both Fi and Tara were grateful for their Kokatat dry suits and mitts. Navigating through thick fog, they relied on their GPS and followed bearings for hours on their deck compasses. At the end of each day the landings were tricky, as the winter snow pack still ringed the islands and often there was only a small icy shelf to haul out on.

Tara states, “The locals kept telling us that winter was staying late this year, and that it was unusually snowy and cold. It was tough on morale at times, but it added to the excitement and challenge of our adventure.”

The idea of paddling Greenland’s coast had come about in mid-2017, while Tara was working in Norway. She says, “The pull of the north was just too great to be ignored. I wanted to see more of the Arctic, and Greenland has always intrigued me. It seemed the most fitting way to experience the Arctic was by sea kayak.”

Although travelling along seemingly remote coasts, they found ample evidence of human activity. Rock cairns sat on mountain tops, and stone rings marked old campsites. On islands and peninsulas, they found remnants of sod houses - simple structures made of rocks and clumps of dirt.

They stumbled upon many ancient grave sites, with rock piles and human bones. In other places they found abandoned settlements, some left to ruin mere decades ago, others deserted centuries before.

As Fi and Tara moved south, the landscape grew greener and the locals waved frantically from their motor boats as they passed. Fi tells of the numerous small channels they paddled through between islands. “Often we’d have to wait for high tide to slip through. It’s quite cool to think that these were passageways paddled by the Inuit for hundreds of years.” A number of times they encountered locals in small boats also waiting for the tide.

Along the way they had many encounters with whales and ringed seals, and sighted Arctic fox, Arctic hare, reindeer and many species of birds. They even came across polar bear tracks in the snow - something quite unusual in west Greenland in the summer months.

In the southern region and during the final weeks of their adventure, it seemed that summer had finally arrived, bringing sun and warmer temperatures. This saw Fi and Tara spending more time exploring on land, where they enjoyed wandering in the hills high above the fjords.

They paddled amongst large ice bergs once again in this region, with most of it drifting around Greenland’s southern tip from the east coast. Tara states, “There is something quite special about waking up in the morning to a panorama of icebergs and the sound of whales. This was certainly the Greenland I’d imagined.”

With the completion of the expedition, Fi will return to New Zealand; Tara will continue on alone towards Kap Farvel and Greenland’s southernmost point, spending another four weeks out in the wilderness.

Both women would like to thank both Kokatat and Tahe Outdoors for their support during this expedition.

To learn more visit www.explore-greenland.com

“There is something quite special about waking up in the morning to a panorama of icebergs and the sound of whales.”"


The Gear that Made This Possible