Kangerlussuaq Greenland, the small town where our adventure begins…
The town originated in 1941. Founded as a US airforce base and remained as one until 1992 when it was sold to the Danish government for the high and mighty price of $1 on the condition that if the airforce ever needed it back they could have it without question. It is now the largest airport in Greenland and the main air transport hub.
The town itself is very small with a population of around 500. Most of the people who live there work in the airport.
When we first arrived we decided to take a walk around the immediate town. This included the airport, the 3 souvenir shops, the canada goose shop and the supermarket. We walked about 3 minutes in one direction then about 5 minutes in the other direction and well, that was town.
Kangerlussuaq, actually said, ‘Ganger-slu-ssuak’ has an interesting feel about it. I know I live in the middle of nowhere at the moment, in a town of only about 300 people in Iceland but it doesn’t feel small. But on arrival to Kangerlussuaq it really did feel small and isolated. I wondered what did people do there… they work in the airport and go hunting. In Greenland it is tradition that when boys turn 14 they are given their first rifle. Kangerlussuaq is rich with wildlife (for greenland). There are reindeer and musk ox roaming the surrounding planes. The women spin the wool of the musk ox to knit with. This wool is very soft and extra warm.
I love that even though I have done quite a lot of travelling and seen many places there are still things that can give me a little culture shock. 🙂
We had a tour of the town for a few hours in the afternoon where we got on our awesome truck/bus, we called it “the cooler” as it looked like a big truck fridge with windows. On this trip we learnt about the town and how it originated as the airforce base. We visited many of the smaller settlements around the town, one of which was Kellyville. Kellyville has a population of 7 people and a big satellite. All the people who live in Kellyville work at the aurora research station which the satellite is now used for.
We also visited an old diesel power plant from when the airforce was still there. It is now an abandoned building sitting on it’s own in the wilderness, with much of its original machinery still inside.
We visited the head of the fiord. This is an interesting place for many reasons. The fiord was still frozen over while we were there and it is not expected to melt until 1st-5th June. At this time the first cargo ship will arrive to the town for the year. In Kangerlussuaq, and for that matter all of Greenland, 95% of their produce is brought in by cargo ship. Fresh fruit and vegetables comes on a plane regularly from Denmark but everything else is far to expensive to bring on air freight. The first ship was expected to arrive on 7th June. The second ship in July and the last ship in the first week of September. This is all the cargo that will arrive into the town of Kangerlussuaq for the whole year so the restaurant and the cafetaria in the town have to order all their produce well in advance. The supermarkets also, it is common for the supermarkets to be selling out of date produce in April and May while waiting for the new shipment to arrive.
In the harbour where all the ships come in there is a long standing tradition which started in the early 50’s. This was where upon arrival the crew would climb up the nearby rocks and write the name of their ship and the year. Now there are lots of names and dates all over the surrounding rock faces.
One interesting thing to note about this town is that there is a police station with two police working in it. Though they don’t really have much to do there. Their main job is to screen all the flights coming in with sniffer dogs looking for drugs, mainly cannabis. As Kangerlussuaq is the main air hub in Greenland this is also where most of the drugs are smuggled into the country. Each week they take all that they have collected and burn it in an outside oven. When this happens it’s common to see lots of the big kids standing down wind from the fire in the smoke….
In the picture below you can see the police sign, this is where the police station is. Right on the end of town, a whole 2 minute walk from the airport. In the picture you will also see a dark brown bit in the middle of the grass, this is where contraband is burnt.
As Kangerlussuaq was originally military owned, when the military moved out they left behind a lot of their things. There are lots of working condition radars and radio towers all around the surrounding areas. Some are used but not all. There are also lots of old used rockets that were used to help large planes to take off on short runways. These rockets could only be used once and then they were just left behind. Now days you can see these old rocket cartridges all around the town, most commonly used as ashtrays. There were lots of old plane carriers and barges left in the harbour and these are now used to transport cargo and people.