Goodbye Nuuk ~ Hello Ilulissat! (Taste of Greenland)

(From Thursday 21 June 2012)

Greetings from Ilulissat, a town in the Disko Bay area of North Greenland (Qaasuitsup Municipality) and also home to the Kangia Ice Fjord that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site!  In case there is anyone who does not know the premise of this trip, I shall briefly explain it here:

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I am currently a summer intern at Visit Greenland, the Greenland National Tourism Board.  The company has many projects going on this summer – one of which is the Summer Visitor Survey (on which I am working) and another is a television documentary series called Taste of Greenland.  Taste of Greenland follows Chris Coubrough (a New Zealand chef who has found great success in the United Kingdom) as he travels and eats his way through five regions in Greenland!  The Disko Bay area is the fifth and final region to be filmed for the series.  For more information, see here: http://www.greenland.com/en/about-greenland/kultur-sjael/mad-og-drikke.aspx.

This trip was originally planned for the Taste of Greenland project.  Chris Coubrough is here with a film team of five from Ace & Ace out of Copenhagen, Denmark – Esben Hardt, Eskil Hardt, Finn Noer, Yuki Badino, and Adrian Beard.  There is also one representative from Royal Greenland (a Denmark-based seafood provider and sponsor for Taste of Greenland) named Christine, and two Project Managers from Visit Greenland, Anders Stenbakken and Anne Mette Christiansen.  Early in June, it was decided that I should accompany the crew as the tenth member in order to help out the crew whenever necessary and conduct visitor interviews in the meantime.  So here I am!

I should also quickly preface this and the upcoming entries with the fact that getting to meet and travel with the Ace & Ace guys for the next ten days is like a dream come true!  They are actually the ones who produced the Visit Greenland “Be a Pioneer” video that was almost single-handedly responsible for me falling in love with Greenland and wanting to come here!! So it’s a little like meeting an idol!  The video can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egsX0sjhqIE or just search “Be a Pioneer”.

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I flew in from Nuuk (via a transfer in Kangerlussuaq) yesterday afternoon on Air Greenland.  For the Nuuk to Kangerlussuaq leg, we flew beneath cloud level the entire time, so I got a great aerial tour of the west coast from 64*N to 67*N.  I half-heartedly expected to get some indicator that we had officially crossed the Arctic Circle – a giant flag, an intercom announcement from the flight attendant, maybe a line drawn in the snow!  Alas, there was nothing… but I could detect a change in the water and ice as we headed further north, and at one point I could actually see the ice sheet in the distance which was very cool!  The color of the water became much lighter blue and almost grey because of the increase in glacial water.

After a very brief layover in Kangerlussuaq, it was back onto the plane for an hour to go the rest of the way to Ilulissat, 69*13’N 51* 06’W.  During this leg we were above the cloud cover most of the time, so there was really not much to see until we got within fifteen minutes of landing.  Here, the water returned to a darker, more saturated blue color and was filled with icebergs of all shapes and sizes as far as the eye could see.  Ilulissat means “icebergs” in Greenlandic, and you can see why this town is named such:

Once on the ground, the first thing I did was accompany Adrian and Christine on a sailing trip in order to film a local fisherman fishing for hellefisk (halibut).  We sailed in one boat while the fisherman went in his own that was specially equipped for letting out fishing lines and gutting and cleaning fish.  It was great to get out right away to see the icebergs!  Although, it was cloudy and rainy, so they were not very brilliant.

As a Royal Greenland employee, Christine had the inside scoop on the halibut market!  The fishermen’s lines can have over 500 hooks on them, making an average catch weigh in around 300 kilos (660 lbs).  With Royal Greenland paying a market price of 30 DKK/kilo (or roughly $2.32/lb), a single fisherman can earn around $1,500 for a haul that takes no more than five hours round trip!  While this sounds like a lot of money for not a lot of work, the “easy” summer season is very well earned after the much harder winter season.  In the wintertime, the fishermen have to go out on the ice with sledge dogs and cut a hole in the ice through which to fish.

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