It was an early start today as we headed out on the Zodiacs on a cruise through the icebergs. The sun was already shining over the fjord as we began our cruise – although it was freezing cold flying along in the zodiacs. We were completely surrounded by icebergs of all shapes and sizes with shades of white and blue. We even saw one iceberg losing its balance and turning over in the crystal clear waters. We were also lucky enough to spot a couple of seals playfully diving under and over the icebergs.
We finished our cruise and returned to Rembrandt where Johnny was waiting with some spirits to warm us up after our Arctic adventure.
The rest of the morning is spent sailing towards Qassiarsuk, the home of Eric the Reds Brattahlid. Upon arriving in Greenland, Eric the Red chose what he believed to be the best Fjord for himself. He named it Ericsfjord and it is here where he established his farm Brattahlid. In the year 1000AD, Christianity was introduced into Greenland, but Eric did not agree with the new religion. Nevertheless, he allowed his wife Tjodhilde to build a small church at the farm. I was really excited to visit Brattahlid and its many historically significant sites.
We arrive into Eriksfjord, drop anchor and enjoy lunch overlooking the settlement. After lunch we leave Rembrandt in the zodiacs and head towards a small jetty, which is our landing point. We then set off along a red dirt road towards Tjodhild’s Church, the church that was built by Erik the Red’s wife Tjodhild at the beginning of the 11th Century. It is also believed to be the first Church ever built on the North American Continent.
Continuing along the dirt road we walk past the current church of Qassiarsuk
before coming upon the Museum area, where there is a perfect reconstruction of Tjodhild’s Church and a Norse Long House.
We were welcomed to the museum area by David a native Greenlander who was to be our guide. David was extremely informative and gave us a very interesting explanation about the history of the Norse and Thule people and their way of life. He explained how the Church and Longhouse were sympathetically reconstructed using timber and turf in 2000. The internal dimensions of the church are just 2 x 3.5 metres (6.5 x 11.5 feet) and although it is a bit of a squeeze, there is actually room for 20 – 25 people. Although we preferred to view the beautiful interior in groups of 4.
After exploring the reconstructed Church David led us into a replica of Eric the Red’s Longhouse. Inside there is a central fireplace, cooking utensils, axes, reindeer and seal furs and a loom with stone weights. The walls are around 2 metres thick – providing plenty of insulation. Again our Guide, David, gave a fascinating explanation of how the house would have functioned and how Erid the Red and his family would have lived during the 10th Century.
For me the time I spent exploring Brattahlid and learning about the Norse history was a definite highlight. Whilst both are reconstructions the small church and Long House really brought to life the way the first settlers on Greenland lived. The hardships they faced and how they dealt with them.
After the museum area we had free time to head back through the town to where the Zodiacs had docked. I stopped to enjoy the view from Leif “The Lucky” Eriksson’s statue, which is located high up on a hillside above Qassiarsuk.
Leif was the second son of Eric the Red and he is considered by many to be the first European to reach North America, centuries ahead of Christopher Columbus. However, the details of his voyage are a matter of historical debate, with one version claiming his landing accidental, hence the nickname Leif The Lucky. Another explanation is that he had sailed there intentionally after learning of the region from earlier explorers.
After saying goodbye to Leif I headed back down the hill to return to Rembrandt. Back on board we sat on deck and enjoyed a drink under the last few rays of sunshine before heading to the dining room for Farewell Drinks with the Captain and Crew.