by Guest Blogger
July 7, 2005
Last night we arrived at Ittoqqortoormiit near the mouth of Scoresby Sound, and went to anchor a bit off shore surrounded by floating ice
One of the younger villagers paddled out in his kayak. He
chatted with Millie, our translator, and took calls from shore on his
cell phone. Yep, with a population of about 500, they have cell phones
(about 300 of them), and high-speed internet access.
[So a special hello
to anyone from Ittoqqortoormiit reading this. Thank you for letting us
visit your village, and it was great talking with the many of you who
came on board.]
About the village
The first things I noticed were the colorful buildings – blue, red,
green and yellow – not clashing with the landscape but accenting it.
The next thing I noticed was the sound of the dogs. You could hear them
all the way from the ship – a yowling noise different from dogs back
home. Once ashore, I got a closer look. They seemed friendly enough,
but were working dogs – not the sort you pat on the head and throw a
They looked tough, and like they had a lot of character.
Later I watched one of the villagers cutting up red meat for his dogs.
The dogs watched too, with considerably more intensity. They howled in
concert, working themselves up in a frenzy, but once fed quieted right
down – not wasting time begging for more.
My hour ashore almost up, I headed back to the boat landing. On the way, I
surveyed the town’s layout. There was a church in the center, a small
hospital (with a dental clinic), a little tourist office (they
occasionally get tourist ships here) and a general store. Not much food
in the store though. No fresh fruit or vegetables. You can’t farm in
this part of the world, and there’s been no supply ship for months.
Later, discussing global warming, villagers told our translator Millie
that years ago they used to hunt for almost all of their food. Now,
because the ice has become too thin to hunt on for much of the year,
they are now forced to rely more and more on store bought food.
Phil (bosun) was shuttling people out in one of
our boats, but it seemed like every kid in town was trying to get on
board. Driving slowly to the ship, Phil let village kids take turns
putting their hands on the wheel to “help him steer.” You could see
they loved it. On the ship, kids were everywhere – examining things,
climbing ladders, and playing tag on deck. Despite all their
rambunctiousness, I saw they respected the boundaries we’d set up. None
of them went past the rope put across the stern to keep people away from
the helicopter, and none of them went into roped off accommodation areas.
One Greenland custom is dropping in on friends for kaffemik (coffee) to
celebrate special occasions. It’s a nice way of wishing well, so we had
some out for our guests.
Meanwhile, the kids went crazy over the apples
Isha handed out. Many of the younger villagers spoke English. We talked
about what it’s like to work on a ship, and live in a Greenland
village. I was only a little surprised to find out they have a disco
here, and listen to a lot of the same stuff as in the U.S. One teenager
with a big “50 cent” patch on his pants told me they like a wide variety
of music. Apparently, Eminem’s big, along with Metallica and pop music
in general, but the only live music in town is traditional Greenlandic.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay to hit the disco. (I’m guessing Tuesday
is a slow night anyway.) We’re eager to head north to Zackenberg
station, where they’ve been studying the effects of a changing climate
for a decade.