Nanortalik – Place of Polar Bears

Today in Nanortalik I learned that if the ice mass that covers 85% of Greenland were to melt, it would raise sea levels by approximately 20 feet and that would see most coastal cities (including Brisbane) pretty much pooched.  Cheerful thought indeed.

Nanortalik means Polar Bear Country or Place of Polar Bears but we were duly warned not to expect to see any polar bears, the most likely sightings of polar bears would be a rare sighting of one floating past on an ice berg.  It is a town of barely 1500 people with another 1200 living in surrounding nearby villages and seems to consists of a school, a couple of supermarkets, a tourist information centre, a very rocky cemetery, a fishing factory, a small museum, a church and of course a couple of pubs.  Today it is sunny, cool (about 6-9C) and quiet here… like eerily quiet.  It’s summer holidays yet with the cruise ship having attracted a handful of children that were playing up to the tourists, we couldn’t hear any children playing in the streets as we walked through town.  There were cars going past and one random ambulance driver (who seemed to be cracking laps looking for an incident to attend), but once those vehicle noises faded away, walking through the middle of town the only noise that could be heard was the crunch of our own boots on the gravel underfoot.

In the local market – hair products, throat lozenges, fungus cream and CCI standard. Above the local church.  Below some Polar Bear claws for sale as souvenirs (about $300 each). Brightly coloured houses, perhaps to stand out against the snow during the winter. It must be a very hard life here with the Inuit people having survived here for as many as 5000 Arctic winters – it’s cold enough here for me in the middle of summer.  They lived on hunting for seals, musk ox, polar bear, arctic hares and whales; working together as a community to gather food and whale oil and blubber for fuel.  Living in small collaborative village communities, warfare is almost completely unknown to the Inuit people here and communal assistance is guaranteed from their fellow villagers – this is how they have always survived, by helping each other.  Many people even now rely on communal water stations as they have no plumbing to their houses and we couldn’t imagine what it must be like in the dead of winter having to go outside with your 5 gallon jerry can to collect water from the town’s communal water stations.

In the local market – hair products, throat lozenges, fungus cream and CCI standard.

The people are quite friendly and we are told that Greenlanders firmly believe that they live in the most beautiful place in the world and that we, the outsiders, are the less fortunate ones.

Greenland is really beautiful – the landscapes are dramatic, the light here has a truly lovely quality, the towns are colourful and the people are friendly.  On top of that we have been blessed with truly fortunate weather so much so the Maitre D’ is convinced the Captain has a remote control for the weather.  Having said that, unless I was heading for the Artic, I’m not sure that I would come back… which is really unusual.  Cruise travel tends to give you a taste for a place which usually leaves you wanting to come back and see a place ‘properly’.

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