Overnight, National Geographic Explorer was peacefully anchored under clear and still skies next to the small town of Narsarsuaq. While the weather stayed peaceful through the night, the dawn of the north, the Aurora Borealis, had other ideas and sparked a dramatic though subtle show of Northern Lights overhead in the wee hours before morning. As the lights waned, we caught a few more hours of sleep before our expedition activities began. We were in the lush green grasslands of Southern Greenland, a modern sheep farm overlaying the earliest Norse historical site, the ruins of the farmstead of Erik the Red.

The weather gods, whatever their persuasion, continued to smile on us. We explored the surrounding area on a variety of walks, taking in the juxtaposition of modern rangeland with the oldest Norse settlement in Greenland, dating to the late 10th century and now a UNESCO heritage site with the ruined stone bulwarks of historic buildings and a reconstruction of what some of those buildings may have looked like. A monumental statue of Leif Erikson faces the west and commemorates Erik’s son who brought Christianity to the Norse dwelling here and expanded the settlements to the west, to Vinland, and to the Labrador Coast of North America. After the morning ashore, we cruised westward down the long fjord before turning to the north, towards Nuuk, the largest city and the capital of Greenland.