Fishing and the good people of Qaanaaq


A blog post by Anders.

The people that live in this remote place of the earth are a very special kind of people. I don't think I have ever been in a community that is so relaxed and unstressed. If the one flight of the week is delayed or cancelled no-one seems to be too emotional about it, because that is life up here.

The local heroes, for both the other Thule Greenlanders and temporary residents like us, are the hunters. I would agree on that they are quite remarkable, never covering their faces even in strong winds at -30 degrees, and you don't want to play the 'strong man game' (from New Years) with them - they are strong and they will win!

Most of the locals in Qaanaaq are descendants of the Inughuit (the 'Polar Eskimos' or 'Arctic Highlanders') that went with the first polar pioneers, like Robert Peary and Knud Rasmussen, when they went around the Arctic exploring new land and culture. With only a few hundred Inughuit living today, they have their history and legacy in their blood and they are proud of it.

One of the problems up here now is that a lot of the teenagers are not interested in going hunting; they are more into what modern society have to offer. Those who do want to take up hunting don't know how to get started. Normally it would be the father that taught it to his son but some families don't hunt any more so the son doesn't have anyone to learn the skills from. We have been told that many young people up here are too shy to ask the older hunters for advice and teaching. It's a problem that we feel could be so easily solved but yet threatens the future of one of the last great subsistence hunting outposts in the world.

One of the things we have learned living up here is that the hunters really want to help. They come to find us either out on the ice or in our little home with advice on how to do all sorts of things. But they all seem to do various tasks, like dog harness stitching and sled design differently from each other and believe that their way is the only way. We have to listen to what they say and then do whatever we find best and most logical for us.

The last few days have seen long sessions on the ice with our two dog teams, alternating day to day in anticipation of an extended journey next week. We have also been out fishing with a hunter friend, Mikael, to see how we can source our own dog food more cheaply! Seal meat is pricey, let alone bags of dry kibble.