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Sailing Expeditions in West Greenland & North West Passage

West Greenland is more familiar to adventure tourism than the almost uninhabited East Coast.  It also has a longer history of human settlement, nomadic hunting, exploitation of rich resources and polar exploration. West Greenland has long been the gateway to attempts to find a North West Passage through the Canadian Arctic islands to the Pacific. Tall ship Tecla will be the first in Classic Sailing fleet to attempt this tortuous sea route in 2019 with charter crew.

The West Coast of Greenland has a warm current sweeping Northwards and keeping part of the coast ice free, even in winter.  The Vikings discovered the West Coast was more habitable than the East Coast which is totally ice bound for most of the year. The majority of Greenland's tiny population live here. As a sailing ground there are still a lot of icebergs and broken pack ice to dodge near Cape Farewell and also around Disko Bay where you can marvel at icebergs that have calved off the many glaciers. The walking amongst the mountains and glaciers here is awesome.

If you dont have 49 days for this epic adventure then you can still learn about Inuit Culture, European exploration, whaling and the seal trade and the search for a North West Passage whilst on a shorter West Greenland Expedition. Tecla has a great ships Library and there are several museums in Nuuk.

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Why we love this sailing ground

Sense of History - In the wake of the Polar Explorers

Tecla's skippers have  genuine interest in all things Arctic and the history of exploration in these parts. Debbie in the Classic Sailing office has sailed on Tecla in places like Faroes, and Iceland and also sailed in East Greenland and we feel the programme they have created, includes some of the best sailing destinations and will give you a real taste of wild landscapes. It is also interesting to ponder on how various cultures have survived these harsh but beautiful lands from the Vikings to the Inuit and European explorers, Whalers, and fur traders.

The greatest story of all was the hunt for a navigable passage from to China. The most famous was the Franklin Expedition and two ships and crews which simply disappeared. Many more perished trying to find them. Unsung heroes like Dr John Rae spent years mapping the Canadian Arctic and learning from the Inuit how to over winter without scurvy. The Royal Navy and the Hudson Bay trading Company spent huge resources on exploring and mapping the whole region. The Russians explored from the Pacific end. The Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen finally succeeded in sailing the entire North West Passage on a gaff cutter called Gjoa between 1903-1906.

finding a way through Polar waters
finding a way through Polar waters on a square rigger

Fjords, Mountains and Glaciers

The coastline is as indented with fjords as Norway but inland is the vast Greenland icecap so the glaciers are active and the fjords and valleys they carve are huge. Global warming is accelerating the calving of ice cliffs and huge icebergs make their way to the sea.  A landscape photographers dream and the scale of this wilderness is mind blowing.  Nuuk is south of the Arctic Circle but as you approach Disko Bay you are back in the land of the midnight sun.

The vegetation is low slung so the walking on bare rock and tundra is not too hard and the surrounding mountain scenery offers some of the most spectacular glaciated landscapes in the world.

crew walking in greenland

Meet the Inuit

Nuuk as a city is the largest and fastest growing cities of Greenland. With over 17.000 inhabitants, it is still a small city compared which gives you the opportunity to really see the live of the local people in Greenland.  In Nuuk you will find a lot more with the National Museum and the Inuit Art Museum

Historically Nuuk (Godthab) has had inhabitants long before the Vikings came there. Even before the Iniut tribes settled nearby, Nuuk was already a place where people gathered. 

Explore the Arctic and read about it on Tecla
Explore the Arctic and read about it on Tecla

What Wildlife Might I See?

The South West coast of Greenland is good for Blue Whales, Humpbacks and Orca. Ashore is a botanists delight with over 400 species of flowering plant.

To see Arctic species like Polar Bear, Narwhal and Beluga or Bowhead whales on this coast you need to travel a long way North but those signing up for the North West Passage are entering their realm.

Humpback by Maria Cerrudo
Humpback by Maria Cerrudo
Which ship for my adventure?
Tecla under full sail

Tecla is a historic Dutch Herring Drifter that has sailed around the world with charter guests and rounded Cape Horn under sail. She might be only 90 feet long on deck, but she punches above her weight in terms of adventurous sailing programmes.

Her owner-skippers are really hooked on sailing in the Arctic and all the exploration history associated with it. After a couple of seasons sailing in East Greenland she is following the pack ice down this virtually uninhabited coast to Cape Farewell and around the corner to West Greenland as far as Disko Bay. This will put her into position to be the first tall ship to make an attempt on the North West Passage (dates soon) through to the Pacific and beyond. Make sure you sign up for our e newsletters (see footer at bottom of the page) to receive the details as soon as they are released.

Below decks she has two person en suite cabins with heating.

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West Greenland and the Davis Strait

West Greenland, Baffin Island and Hudson Bay

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