Day 8 |
Sep 14, 2010

Qaqortoq and Hvalsey, Greenland

By Hans-Peter Reinthaler, Biologist

Co-ordinates:60°42´N, 46°02 W

Weather: sunny
Air Temperature: 12 C

After a long night out on deck watching the northern lights above the little town of Qaqortoq, the next day started early with an exhibition of the kayak skills of young Inuit men from the local community. They paddled out where the ship was anchored and from the outer decks our guests admired the handling of these traditional Inuit hunting boats demonstrated just in front of the bow.

Qaqortoq is a colorful little town with its pink, blue, green, red and yellow houses that stretches out on the hills around the bay. Nearly each of the small houses in town has its own garden, growing sometimes rhubarb, potatoes and some garden flowers. On the sides of the road I found Cranebill’s, Yarrow, Buttercups and willows.

Although the car traffic is restricted due to the infrastructure, there are some hundred cars in town and our guests had to watch out when they were crossing roads and taking pictures.

We had a guided tour through the village, looking at the old colonial houses with their gardens, the first fountain in Greenland, and the church that first sunk with a ship coming from Denmark. Big parts of that church were rescued and rebuilt here in the village.

For approximately 15 years Qaqortoq has been a very active cultural center here in Greenland. Walking through the village one can admire different sculptures in the granite stones around several places mainly made by Nordic artists from across Scandinavia and Greenland.

Before we came to our last stop, the historical museum, we visited the tiny local market. Here our guests could have a look at what the local nature has to offer for lunch or dinner. Reindeer, seal, harbour porpoise, salmon, wolfsfish and even an arctic hare were lying on the shelves ready to be bought by the local people.

The museum itself has a nice exhibition regarding the traditional living in southern Greenland as well as beautiful pieces of local handcraft art and modern art.

At 12.30 the last Zodiac went back to the ship and anchor was lifted, just to do a very short repositioning to our afternoon destination, Hvalsey and the third part of the Viking trilogy on our tour through Greenland. The first two parts of this trilogy our guests saw yesterday and consisted in Brattahlid and Igaliku. My colleague and onboard archeologist Colleen Batey was so excited about visiting the three most important Viking sites in Greenland that she called the “Viking trilogy”. Not only that they are the three most important sites but also that they represent the beginning of Viking settlement (Brattahlid) the time between (Igaliku) and the end of the Viking period up here in Greenland (Hvalsey).

The excursion in the afternoon was like the three last days marked by an absolutely clear blue sky and warm sunny weather. My colleagues Colleen and Christian Walter, our onboard historian, did their best to give our guests an impression of how living conditions and life was in the 14th century here on the biggest island of the world.

Apart from the importance of the historical site there was also some nice green stuff around with still some flowers in the late autumn. As the botanist on board, I was proud to show to our guests the beautiful violet flowering Arctic Harebell, the small white flowers of the Arctic Cinquefoil and the yellow and red leaves of the Wolly Willow and Dwarf Birch respectively. It was a very calm and peaceful day in the southern part of this beautiful island before the Prince Albert II lifted anchor and sailed in the direction of our next stop: Iqualiut, Canada.

In the evening, Expedition Leader Robin West gave a short briefing to our guests about tomorrow and my colleagues Colleen, Sue, Aiello, Christian and Hayo held a short recap regarding materials used by the Vikings, food of the Inuits, the fish market in Qaqortoq, housing in Greenland and glacier retreating in Greenland.