Ittoqqortoormiit

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

chunks.

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

Frisbee.

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.

Open boat

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.

– Andrew

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