Q&A: Crew Changes On The West Coast Of Greenland

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Question: What is your experience with changing crew in Greenland?  Should we plan to go to the large airport at Kangerlussuaq (Sondre Stromfjord) to pick up new crew?

Answer: We have changed crews in Greenland at Nuuk and Sisimiut. I have never been into Kangerlussuaq (Sondre Stromfjord), but it does not sound like a problem, according to the RCC Greenland Guide, other than needing to time the tide. However, I don’t think you need to do the 200-mile round trip from the ocean up the fjord to pick up crew. All the communities of any size at all are served by regular and fairly reliable air service either by helicopter—Greenland Air is the only airline in the world to run regular scheduled air service by helicopter—or STOL aircraft.

When I changed crew at Sisimiut in 1995 it went without a hitch and that was by helicopter; since then the Greenland government has built several more STOL airstrips, so it is even easier. Your crew may have to overnight at Kangerlussuaq, but that is not a problem, and I think it would be a lot less boring than the 100-mile motor transit of the fjord at the beginning and/or end of a cruise. Due to the high pressure system generated by the ice cap, the weather in summer is generally pretty reasonable for flying so I don’t think long delays are likely to be a big problem, although it could happen, I guess. The only caution is that your crew needs to book all of this well ahead of time and the cost will make their hair curl.

The Lonely Planet Guide has a good section on getting to and from Greenland, although I think that they are unnecessarily pessimistic about reliability, at least in summer.

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