Cape Farewell – The Southern Tip of Greenland
As explorers mapped the worlds Oceans and coastlines they discovered certain major headlands that were formed by countries and continents extending into great oceans. These headlands became known as ‘Capes’ and around the world there are a few that stand out – Cape Farewell is one of these. The southern tip of Greenland can be an inhospitable place and heading south into the Atlantic from it the next stop is Antarctica. This mass of water, frequent storms and ice have sculptured Cape Farewell into a formidable line of cliffs, mountains and turbulent reefs and skerries.
For many years I have planned to try and kayak around this Cape, few have done it before and it is certainly not a place for the faint hearted. To be successful around the Cape you need a blend of skill, planning, luck with the weather and luck with the ice. This year a team of nine kayakers from the UK managed all of these components and paddled around the Cape.
Led by myself on my tenth Greenland expedition we set off from the most southerly Greenland settlement, Appilatoq, and spent 15 days on the water. The conditions were some of the best for over 10 years and with settled weather and very little sea ice to cause problems we were able to paddle on most days.
The first major headland before Cape Farewell is called Cape Christian and this was paddled round and an amazing campsite found before the wind increased to about Force 6. The following day the wind had gone and the fog had arrived, the team navigated onto Cape Farewell. A storm beach gave a landing just before the Cape to rest as the fog cleared. Rounding the Cape in sunshine the extent of the coastlines exposure was clear for all to see. It was another 5 hours before a landing could be found, with massive ice bergs all around and the Atlantic swell making itself known. The weather was as good as it could get in this part of the world and the scenery and paddling had to be some of the most spectacular on the planet. Cape Farewell was in the bag and the final big headland of Cape Hoppe on the south east coast was also soon to be paddled around.
Having paddled the Capes the team spent a few days exploring on up the east coast before returning to Appilatoq via the famous shipping through rout of Prins Christian Sund. This immense fjord cuts through the south of Greenland from the east to west coast and save ships having to go round the notorious Cape Farewell. This said the fjord is still 600 metres deep, flows at 5 knots in the narrows, has glaciers cascading into it from all sides, is often blocked by ice and can funnel winds in excess of 100kph. So again it is not a place to take lightly, as at one point the paddling team found out with force 8 catabatic winds from a glacier causing a forced campsite having hauled the kayaks a shore at one point.
On the 22nd August 2009 the successful team returned to Appilatoq being one of only a few groups to have paddled the Cape.