Uummannaq, Greenland

2013-07-12–23

Anders, Peter and I, together with the Trackers / Horisontkajak team went paddling on the west coast of Greenland (Uummannaq) July 13-23. Well, actually I didn’t paddle myself as I had a bad spell of asthma. So Anders tooks my GPS and Peter my Spot. Seems there was some miscommunication on the Spot, so it did not track. Sorry everyone!

Transit

Took off with Anders and Peter to Copenhagen. Stayed at the GO hotel close to the airport. Met Carin and Hans there and had a pizza with them at the Cafe Opera. Stayed till they closed (at nine). Met Göran and Berit on returning to the hotel.

Kangerlussuaq (SFJ for Søndre Strømfjord)

We arrived from Copenhagen at the Kangerlussuaq airport, one of the two international ones. Here we experienced our first (shorter, one hour) delay.

Ilullisat (JAV for Jacobshavn)

Our next stop was Ilullisat, famous for it’s ice fjords. The four hour delay here gave more than sufficient time to experience the breathtaking views.

Qaarsut (JQA) to Uummannaq

After a third flight (or fourth if we count Stockholm to Copenhagen), we had a short helicopter trip over to the island. Here’s our first view of Uummannaq. In the background the mighty Storø (Big) island.

Actually, the last helicopter left ahead of time.

We were put up in the so called green and blue guest houses. The green one at the south west end of town and the blue one in the north east.

The Kayak Trip

The Group

Here’s the group, not counting George Truly.

Adam, our Greenlandic guide, home town Aasiat:

Carin, our Swedish guide. This is her fourth trip here.

Hans, Carins assistant guide.

Thomas…

and Lotta

Per-Ivar…

and Lena

Göran…

and Berit

Jonas

Micke our Michelin Guide chef

Monica

Anders

Peter

And here’s the “after” images of the guys living in the “blue house”, they look a bit worn, do you agree? Does not even seem they enjoy the beer I had aquired for their return.

Preparation

Fetching kayaks and gear out of the container, packing, etc.

Then a short lunch break.

The last coordination details get sorted.

And here we go…

Around Uummannaq

As a warm up, a circumnavigation of Uummannaq island. Here’s a link that will bring up Google Maps, you can choose whether to view the map or the satellite images. (There is one of those links for every satellite image)

Trip Start

Finally, it’s time for take off. The kayaks are heavily loaded. I saw the Danish doctor at the hospital who confirmed that I should not paddle.

The town square / center in the background.

Heading out towards Storøn.

Bye now guys – I’ll have to manage on my own for eight days, sob…

Trip

The entire trip, day 2-9 (link)

Day 2 (link)

Daý 3 (link)

Day 4 (link)

Day 5 (link)

Day 6 (link)

Day 7 (link)

Day 8 (link)

Day 9 (link)

(Seems the GPS closed down a bit early, I witnessed them returning safe to harbor, don’t worry.)

Trip End

I saw something out on the water, and here the group is returning.

A last heavy lift (there have been many to protoct from the tide and mini-tsunamis caused by ice bergs).

Some took the easy transport back to the “green” and “blue” houses respectively.

Wrapping It Up

The next day (Monday), it was time to clean out the kayaks, dry the tents and do an inventory before locking down the container.

With the pack house in the back.

Carin sweeping out the container.

Fisherman’s Story

We visited a local, 63 year old, fisherman and hunter. He told us about his life and the fishing and wildlife quotas. This day had had caught 600 kilo of halibut. He also hunted seal, which is a major part of most Greenlander’s food. If he got lucky winning the lottery for a part of the small quota for hunting, he would also hunt musk ox, rein deer and other game.

Adam translating.

The Greenlandic Buffé

The day was completed by a greenlandic buffé that Fritz and his wife kindly provided at their house. We were served fried seal, dried and cooked fish, seal soup, fish soup, whale skin(!), Greenlandic lamb and other delicacies.

Here’s Fritz.

Uummannaq Island

Around Town

Uummannaq has around 1300 inhabitants. The main industry is fishing related. Tourism is a shrinking business, the hotel, the hostel and the camping ground are all closed. The hotel is becoming a dormitory for school children. Some 300 children go to school here, many from the surrounding villages.

House building art

Dog sleigh.

View from the harbor, with the characteristic mountain in the background.

The Greenland flag.

Buildings hang on the cliffs. Land ownership does not exist, so you build were there is free space.

One of the smaller Pilersuisoq shops.

Hunting trophies.

View towards Baffin Bay.

Memorial stone.

The supply ship comes once or twice a week. Absolutely necessary out here were nothing is grown or produced.

One of few larger fishing boats, most are small open boats.

Helicopters connect to villages and the airport (Qaarsut). But they do not run daily.

The entrance to one of three cemeteries.

The seal skins are not as good a business as it used too be.

The pipe lines you see (e.g. this one behind the school) are for fresh water. They are fitted with electricity so as not to freeze during the winters (when there’s minus 20-40 C). Surprisingly little snow however, usually a meter.

Football (soccer) is enjoyed here too.

Kids outfit is not that different from back home.

Daycare is readily available.

I believe this is were they used to cook whale oil.

The only patrol car of the island.

The only café / restaurant of the town. “A nice place where people meet and enjoy the views”. From the impressive menu, the sometimes served hamburgers only. On other days there was only burger and sometimes the burger contained ribs with red cabbage.

The hospital.

Fire brigade.

I’m not sure I want to know what they dumped here this morning.

Cruise ships visits once or twice a week.

The harbor.

Some daredevil sailboats also visit. This is “Galway” from Ireland (obviously).

At least the label is local, the content certainly not.

Cat fish for sale as the market.

Hen party (I hope).

Fish bait (but candy wrapper worked too for my kayaking friends).

Aerial view when leaving.

The Blue House

I was told that what remains of the tourist industry on this island is two guest houses, the green and the blue houses. The blue house where I stayed had four bedrooms, each with two beds…

…a kitchen and a living room…

…and a great view of course. We even saw whales, but only the first night.

I had company most nights, first a local family of six, then two Swiss women that toured Greenland and lastly a German couple. The Germans were to kayak up to Upernavik and back, a three and a half week trip. They are experienced kayakers and had toured Patagonia two times – see this link.

Houses are assigned so called “B” numbers. They are assigned sequentially (when the house is built), meaning there is no particular order to finding a certain house.

Storøn Views

Storøn is the island some 8 km east of Uummannaq. With the midnight sun, it shifted in character over the day.

Icebergs

A Greenland trip without iceberg pictures? Of course not. As you understand, this is just a few percent of the ones I took.

Here’s one that just flipped over. Others just exploded and disappeared.

Hiking

There is one hiking track in Uummannaq, it takes you round the north end at the foot of the of the island. I did the first half, the rest involved some climbing on loose rocks and sand.

There´s a quiet bay where sailboats anchor up.

Here’s the so called Santa Claus Castle. It was built for a Danish kids TV show a couple of years back.

Flowers

Birds

The water reservoir.

Returning towards the town.

Dogs

There are supposedly 40 000 dogs for the 56 000 inhabitants of Greenland. Sleigh dogs are what counts as they are needed when hunting seal in the winter (snowmobiles make too much noise).

Dogs live outdoor and are fed once every or every other day. When they see their owners returning from the sea they start barking and do not stop until they are fed or the owner is out of sight. The main food is fish, I saw dogs being fed with three one kilo halibut each. They chewed the hard bits at the head and then swallowed the rest whole. Dogs are always fed first, before the humans.

Puppies.

Here’s a puppy that followed us from the blue house to the kayak container. Once there it soon lost interest and left.

Museum

Uummannaq has a small but very nice museum. Here are a few of the exhibits.

Kayak models are naturally of most interest.

Seal hunting spears.

The 250-Year Anniversary

Uummannaq celebrated its 250 year anniversary Monday through Saturday. Every day there were four to eight events. Lucky for me that was not able to join the kayak trip.

July 15, Children’s Day

The first day was the children´s day.

Here the kindergarten kids are marching to the inauguration of the new playground.

Yes, there are ice bears in Uummannaq, but supposedly only in the winter (they need ice).

Not sure about this costume, is that entirely traditional? The spears are.

July 16, Artists Day

The artists day included various exhibitions. Here is a speaker opening one of them.

And here is the local choir in one of their many performances.

Visited the exhibit by Wilfred E Richard, a Maine based photographer that has a book on this area. Had a nice chat with him (and met him a couple of times throughout the week).

July 17, Musician’s Day

This day included putting flowers on musicians graves. A large part of the village attended.

In the late afternoon a rock festival started. It included local and other Greenlandic artists as:

Here is Nive Nielsen, a charming and quite famous Greenlandic singer. You can watch a couple of her performances as well as Uumannaq photage) in this concert here and here (the sound is bad). I’m in the back at the left side. But check her out on Youtube.

And here are a couple of blues bands with some exceptional guitarists. Juaaka Lyberth is the singer and Hans Jukku Noahsen the guitarist of the first band.

And this was a serious metal rock band.

July 18, The Museum’s Day

The main attraction on the museum’s day was this family in tradition costumes and an old umiak (a women’s boat that was used to transport the family).

Tools and toys.

This is what they are chewing, dried fish.

Detail from the umiak.

Part of the poster for the film “Inuk“, filmed here in Uummannaq.

There was also traditional Greenlandic dances. Well, traditional means they are variants of Scottish and similar reels.

July 19, The Women’s And The Senior Citizens Day

This day the Inspection ship arrived. A football (soccer) game was played between the locals and the ship personnel.

There were a lot of spectators.

The inspection ship had 3-0 at half time, but Uummannaq made it equal, 3-3, before loosing 3-4 despite a lot of chances.

Celebrating a goal.

July 20, Uummannaq’s Day

I found a YouTube video taken this day, check it out: A Day in Uummannaq, Greenland.

This last day there was a kayak race around the island. This kayak didn’t particpate…

…but some of those did. There were about 10 traditional kayaks (and paddles). There were also four Irish entrants (I believe) with plastic kayaks and wing paddles.

Start of the race.

The leader (and winner) is coming towards the goal line. About an hour and forty minutes for the 18 km.

And here’s the runner up. All medals to traditional kayaks. In fourth place the first plastic one.

Here’s a tired guy in around tenth place.

The winning kayak.

And here are two modern umiaks. There was a race for those too, but I missed that.

Talked to the local guy (Saamu) filming the festival for Greenland TV. May be that a DVD comes out. He works as a teacher in the school here in Uummannaq and is also a film maker. Check out the link for some more Uummannaq views.

The festival was concluded with final speeches. As my Greenlandic is not that good, I enjoyed the costumes instead.

Appendix

The return trip started with a wake up call at 4:30 am. After the usual delay (four hours?) in Ilullisat, we missed our connection to Copenhagen. Air Maybe provided a replacement and we arrived at our hotel in Copenhagen around 2 am the next night (- four hours time difference). On trying to enter my room the key didn’t work. After a visit to the reception for a replacement, a “Do not disturb” sign was on the door. Back to the reception to fetch the clerk who opened the door and found the room taken. Meanwhile Carin and Hans rejected their sulky smokers rooms and we all moved to another hotel. When I set my alarm it showed 3:17 till wake up, but I didn’t go to sleep yet, too wound up. I did not hear the alarm and when we were to leave at 7 am, Carin called and woke me up – appreciated :-). After one of the quickest showers I got to the airport minutes after the others.

Here’s more information about the trip:

  • Trackers (click and select “Grönland” and then “Uummannaq”), text in Swedish only.
  • Horisontkajak (text in Swedish here too)

And about Uummannaq:

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