Wild Women In Greenland and Wild Labrador

April 9, 2024

The Unexpected Impressions of Greenland and Wild Labrador

- By Jules Torti

Continue reading The Unexpected Impressions of Greenland and Wild Labrador

A Photographer and Painter’s Experience

Sometimes it’s the simple electricity of a conversation that triggers curiosity. During a virtual chat with Julie-Anne (Wild Women’s in-house photographer and Adventure Expert) and Kyra (Client Care Manager), the animated exchange of their post-trip memories stirred a little envy.

Last year, both women were part of the Wild Women crew on the 15-day Greenland and Wild Labrador small ship expedition. Though they didn’t travel together, Julie-Anne and Kyra’s impressions and superlatives were totally in sync. As a photographer and artist, their observations of the tundra were insightful and naturally creative. From the extreme burning fall colours of Torngat Mountains National Park to the shifting luminosity of the glaciers and metallic sea, both photographer and painter were left with indelible images and brushstrokes.

Julie-Anne couldn’t commit to a singular “wow” moment.

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There were breathtaking shades that I’ve never seen before—the mottled orange, pink and mauves of the micro landscapes of resilient Arctic shrubs and tiny berries…I wished I had packed my macro lens!”

The Open Colouring Book of the North

Kyra shared her experience of the vibrating aurora borealis dance and how everyone was so consumed by the seemingly photoshopped skies. For Julie-Anne’s group, the ship’s crew promised to wake those who were interested if the Northern Lights appeared. The day had been smeared with cloud cover so everyone went to bed with realistic but optimistic expectations. “When the aurora appeared, that cloud cover meant that the clouds were all a phenomenal lime green. I’m giving myself goosebumps just talking about it again.”

Northern Lights

The women bounced “wows” back and forth. Kyra said,

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As someone from Ontario, we are spoiled by fall colours. I never expected the fall colours of northern Labrador to be so spectacular. The rich reds and golds of the tundra were phenomenal.”
Wild Women

See what I mean about those shared superlatives? “Phenomenal” kept popping up every few sentences. For Kyra, the thundering rush of the calving glacier was something that shook her senses. For Julie-Anne, it was the talent of the expedition staff as musicians. “It was like an east coast kitchen party every night! The impromptu jams added such an unexpected element to the ship experience. Everyone was so talented. Whether it was the glaciologist or geologist or Zodiac driver—everyone played piano or the trumpet or a guitar. I had total music deprivation when I returned home!”

Inuit Women Singing

Impromptu Music and Silence

Nothing is 100% predictable when on expedition—from polar bears to the Northern Lights to having lunch with the first female president of Greenland (as Kyra did). She also mingled with Barney Bentall, a Canadian pop/rock singer-songwriter known for his 1990s-era band, Barney Bentall and the Legendary Hearts. Julie-Anne nodded along, “I know Barney Bentall. His daughter is a musician too and is in a band called Wild Honey. It’s an all-female roots trio based in the East Kootenay area (of British Columbia) so Barney is often seen at her shows.”

After comparing musical memories, Julie-Anne takes pause to reflect on how emotionally moving the experience of traveling from Greenland and learning more about Canada’s Inuit. “It was a unique time because we were on the ship on National Truth and Reconciliation Day.” Introduced in 2021, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is observed on September 30 and is colloquially known as Orange Shirt Day. The Canadian holiday recognizes the legacy and history of the Canadian residential school system. The day honours the Indigenous children who never returned home and Survivors of residential schools, as well as their families and communities.

“It’s a heavy day,” Julie-Anne said. “It’s intense to hear but it’s important to know, and I think the women on the trip understood the impact of that. I really wasn’t expecting such an in-depth Inuit connection on this trip. Some of the expedition leaders were Inuit and the storytellers facilitated this intimate experience that introduced us to their homeland. We were walking on shore with an Inuit man whose former childhood house was now abandoned remains.”

Hippie-on-a-Stick and Caribou Tracks

Kyra added, “and to walk with the Inuit and understand how resourceful they were and continue to be, using medicinal herbs and foraging for edible plants.” Julie-Anne chimed in, “Yes, it’s quite powerful when you hear the connections between generations and the guides sharing the stories of their grandmothers and how they used a particular plant or berry. It’s not the barren rock I thought it was going to be! I loved the flora of the tundra and the Inuit interpretation of traditional uses of the foliage. Aesthetically, it just gives me goosebumps. And those, what were they called? Hippie-on-a-stick? They were these funny, fuzzy anemone flowers and their tufts would blow sideways. It’s little stuff like that.”

It’s the big stuff too—like sighting a polar bear on shore or a mother with two cubs. “Some women saw a fox, there was a black bear, some minke whales but wildlife is rather scarce. It’s not as abundant as I thought—it’s definitely a trip that’s more focussed on the landscape and Inuit connection.” There’s a deep impression of culture and history of the land underfoot and hearing stories from women like Liz, it’s just so powerful. I mean, she was our bear guard, holding a gun and at the same time, an incredible storyteller who demonstrated Inuit arts and crafts on board. She was just the coolest.”


The women are both smiling, virtually walking back along the silent shores. “And the silence. It can be just dead quiet,” Julie-Anne said. “You’re walking across tough tundra and finding shed antlers and caribou hoofprints.”

“And the waterfalls—they were a surprise,” Kyra added. “And no bugs! Coming from Ontario,  bug-free hikes have a small window!”

Wild Women in Greenland

Educational Edibles and Dips

Kyra and Julie-Anne also spoke of their educational edible experience. During a visit to a community members’ home in Labrador, Kyra decided to try the local fish. “I’m a vegan but I felt it important to be gracious and respect that this woman had prepared this fish for us to try. I think this is the best way to approach this trip, with an open mind.”

Julie-Anne agreed and revisited her “Taste of Greenland” opportunity. “Sure, some women didn’t want to participate and that’s okay. There were samples of whale blubber, seal skin and dried caribou. I felt it was culturally important to try it and respect how connected the Inuit are to the land. This is their grocery store.”

“Oh, and the grocery store prices!” Kyra remarked. The price of items in Nain (the northernmost permanent settlement in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador)! Laundry soap was fifty dollars! Laundry soap!”

My colleagues differed on their affection for the polar plunge. Kyra, a seasoned northern Ontario cottager voluntarily opts to do this throughout the winter when ice levels permit. She was all in and wished she’d hung in a little longer before climbing back out to fully embrace the moment. Julie-Anne shook her head, happy to behind her camera lens to capture women willing to plunge instead.

Red Hot Tip: Read About Erik the Red!

When pressed for hot tips, Kyra noted that women should be prepared for itinerary and navigation changes. Small ship expeditions are wholly routed by weather patterns. The Northern Lights and polar bears are not a guarantee—that’s what makes them so thrilling.

Julie-Anne wished that she had read more about basic Inuit history to have a greater appreciation of the stories being told. “I’m not a museum person at all but I was really impressed by L’Anse Aux Meadows National Historic Site. It’s the only Viking settlement in North America and I would urge women to read more about Erik the Red and early Viking seafaring accounts to truly feel the impact of this history.”

The conversation bounces back and forth as the memories continue to seep in. Hiking in the Torngat Mountains. Wow. Being so close to icebergs. Traveling down Greenland’s longest fjord.

“The trip is just active enough—you get the full ship expedition experience of awesome food, entertainment and the feeling of being pampered with some phenomenal hikes and Zodiac excursions. AND, you can easily extend your trip in St. John’s, Newfoundland as there is only one charter flight at the beginning of the trip to Kangerlussuaq. Lots of women in my group opted to stay for extra days, even a week, in St. John’s. That’s a big bonus,” Julie-Anne says.

Kyra adds, “The best time to see the Northern Lights is September. The temperature is comfortable, there are no bugs and the colours. The colours are everything.”

For a virtual view of the Greenland and Wild Labrador adventure, check out this pre-recorded webinar starring Julie-Anne and Kyra!

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