Due to the weather, the quantity of ice blocks, and the mysteries of logistics, we never know exactly how departure from our study site will happen: by boat or by helicopter? what day ? at what time ? This year, the initial program called for a return to the village on August 8, and that's why I took the opportunity to spend one last night in the colony. But the quantity of ice in the southern bay, as well as the last telephone exchange with Mette, tended towards a delayed departure of one or more days...
« Tuesday August 8. I go back to bed at 9:45 a.m. for a short 3-hour nap... abruptly interrupted by a loud wake-up call at 12:50 p.m.: the boats are here! (without Mette having warned us...) We tidy up our things, the dishes, all the things that were still lying around here or there (emptying the toilets, burning the last trash can,...), all in fourth gear so that Inuuta and Hjelmer don't wait too long. Completed in 1h30, not too bad in my opinion. Boarding the two boats, Julie and Greg with Hjelmer (whose engine is reluctant to start), me with Inuuta. Gloves on the little steering wheel, cigarette in your mouth, let's go! At full speed: rearing boat and slalom between the ice cubes which are still quite numerous on the first portion. In short, a fairly sudden and brutal departure from the hut, and at the same time exciting with this beautiful boat trip between ice floes and rocky coasts.
Further on, a very beautiful large iceberg, a few kittiwakes, a skua, and two groups of Arctic terns passing Cape Tobin. A little earlier, the two boats had suddenly stopped, for an attempted seal hunt. “Lucky seal!” Inuuta will tell me.
At the port, a bustling activity: the red cargo ship of the Royal Arctic Line, a Hurtigruten cruise ship (190 tourists on board) and a two-masted sailboat. We unload our things, Mette arrives on her quad. »
Welcome to Ittoqqortoormiit!
If the east coast of Greenland has experienced different waves of settlement from the far Canadian north for 4,500 years, the creation of the village itself is much more recent. It was in 1925 that a settlement colony was established there by the Danes, with Inuit families coming from Ammassalik, 1000 km further south, thus allowing Denmark to establish its sovereignty over the entire Greenland.
The village today has 350 inhabitants. Administratively, it is part of a giant municipality, with an area close to that of mainland France, which brings together the 2,800 inhabitants of the Ammassalik region in the south-east, as well as the 20,000 inhabitants of the capital Nuuk, on the southwest coast.
Colorful wooden houses with Scandinavian charm. A pontoon, a hospital, a school, a supermarket. Whose shelves are busy again. Here the cargo ship only passes twice in the summer, it's an event!
Around the houses: a container, vehicles (a few rare cars, snowmobiles and wooden sleds waiting for winter, boats waiting for Sunday family outings in the neighboring fjord, but above all the unmissable quads with their wooden box fixed to the handlebars), a trampoline, often, other children's toys, etc.
At the forefront of climate change, the village is changing. Its population is decreasing (there were 550 inhabitants at the beginning of the 1990s) and traditional hunting activities are declining due to the weakening of the sea ice and the reduction in snowfall, which limits travel by sled in winter (hunting for seals and muskoxen). Conversely, fishing (Greenland halibut) and tourism are developing. In this summer of 2023, no less than sixty cruise ships, from simple sailboats to enormous liners, have anchored in front of the village!
We spend a short week in the comfort of the guesthouse. Shower (much appreciated), laundry, and even wifi this year! Rest, after this intense month in the field, data entry, preparation for the additional day of fieldwork on a colony of kittiwakes, and the (usual) uncertainties on the return trip. All interspersed with explorations of this quiet little village at the end of the world. For me, a welcome transition before returning to France in the middle of August.
« Sunday August 13. Arrival of a catamaran, which passes next to the large tabular iceberg. Stroll through the streets of the village. Music comes from a house next to Nanu Travel. “Come, come!” a smiling couple welcomes me in front of their house, few words but a real nice exchange, where I try to explain to them that I was in Ukaleqarteq to observe birds, we understand snippets, the woman wants me to continue talking French, it makes her laugh. As we greet each other, the man teaches me the Greenlandic word for little auk, whose pronunciation is close to [a pø lɛ a su] (Appaliarsuk). »
[next episode 10/10] Some last images...