Day 2 |
Sep 09, 2013

Sisimiut, Greenland

By Dr Colleen Batey, Archaeologist

Co-ordinates: 68° 06’ N – 54° 12’ W
Weather: Light breeze, slightly overcast with sunny periods
Air temperature: 4°C, 39°F
Wind: 30 knots

The first day of our odyssey began with some signs of blue skies above the pretty village of Sisimiut, with brightly coloured houses punctuating the hillsides around the town. With a population of some 5,598 souls, this is the second-largest town in Greenland and its economy is based largely on fishing the cold waters offshore, particularly for the world-famous shrimp. This is also the most northerly port in Greenland that does not completely freeze in the winter months. Our town walks provided an insight into the ways of life with medical facilities, schools and kindergartens, two supermarkets and several pretty houses. Between the houses, areas of open ground were home to several sled dogs that come into their own during the winter months when they provide the basic transport infrastructure for the settlement. The Greenlandic dog has become specially adapted to being amongst the strongest working dogs in the world and incidentally has origins dating back some 4000 years in the vicinity. With justifiable pride, our Inuit guides explained about their lives in the community and their schooling, higher education as well as kayaking exploits. Visits to craft workshops and shops were to prove very popular and costly, but the purchases are unique and provide a suitable reminder of the whole delightful experience in this small settlement.

A visit to the out-of-town holding area for many dog teams was a highlight for some. The puppies in particular provided an endless source of photographic opportunities! Back into the old town centre, the red hilltop church dominates the scene, and in its shadow the old museum buildings were a focus of the second part of the visit. Buildings dating back into the 1800s housed exhibits, old and modern, ranging from archaeology to modern design pieces, boats and tools. The archaeology display included an important exhibit of the recent excavations at a Saqqaq people site to the south. The origins of these people are currently under debate as they survived for some 2000 years but yet appear to have had no genetic input into the modern Inuit population.

Back onboard, we sailed away in the sunshine, being passed by a raft of harp seals. A lecture by Colleen Batey entitled, “Westwards to Greenland: Norse across the North Atlantic,” provided an insight into the culture and raiding missions undertaken by the Vikings and then the permanent settlements in the colonies of the North Atlantic: Northern Scotland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland and finally to the shores of Greenland.

The evening began with the Captain’s Welcome Cocktail Party and Dinner, hosted by our Captain Maggie Ettlin.