Friday, 15 January

Article Index

Part 3/4:- Return visit to Qaanaaq in 1984

By Pentti Kronqvist, originally in Swedish.

In August 1984, we were a group of four people who planned a visit to Northern Greenland, to the Qaanaaq village. Participants were the old professor Wladimir Goichman, Jan-Anders Söderholm from the Finnish Television, Lennart Johansson and myself.

It was arranged beforehand that we all would stay at Ilanguaqs place. We received the same friendly welcome I had received at previous visits. They had readied a small room for us on the second floor. We carried up our gear and rolled out the sleeping bags on the floor.

I briefed Ilanguaq about our plans. The top priority was to follow along on hunting trips for a few days to film for the Finnish Television. But we were also going to create footage for a documentary about professor Goichman, then the oldest living arctic explorer in the world.

Ilanguaq told us now that he had fallen ill with cancer. One of his lungs had been removed at the central hospital in Copenhagen. I noticed that he was breathing heavily, and he was not the Great Ilanguaq anymore. He mostly sat home, whittling amulets that he sold. His oldest son was now a deputy police officer, the middle son worked in the warehouse at the store and Kale, the youngest son still went to school.

Our group went to visit old friends and familiarized us with the village, and we got started with the filming work. Everything went as we had planned. Goichman greatly enjoyed his time.  He painted sketches of the landscape, which he thought was powerful. As an artist, he admired the light and its variations from moment to moment. Here the sun shines for four months without setting.

We decided to go to a small village named Qekertat, and mentioned it to Ilanguaq. He told us he can bring us there if the weather is good. He still had his cutter. There we followed along with narwhal hunters, filming their hunts. Ilanguaq also caught a narwhal. The other hunters then helped him out cutting up the narwhal.

Our next visit was to Siorapaluk, the northernmost of the villages in the area. The other three members in the group had not been there yet. We all stayed at Inurtesuaqs house. He himself with his wife Naduq were visiting Kaanaaq. I had run into him there and had told him that we were going to visit his village. Inurtesuaq had then offered us to stay at his house.

We stayed a few days in the village. One afternoon Lennart went for a hike up to the edge of the mountain to take on the view of the village, do some photographing and to take a closer look at the continental ice sheet, which covers 85% of Greenland.

Lennart returned in the evening, carrying a large arctic hare, proudly telling us about him shooting it. He told us that he had seen a rifle placed against a rock on the mountain slope. He had grabbed the rifle, thinking he might run into a hare. Also if he would see a polar bear wandering around, he might need something to defend himself with. He had walked for a while when he saw a hare, and shot it and then run up to the wounded hare. To finish off the hare, he hit it with the rifle stock so hard the that the stock broke. But the hare did die.

Hunters in Greenland often leave their rifles in their hunting areas so they will be in place for them at their next hunting trip. Lennart went on to say that he pushed the pieces of the stock back in place, placed the rifle back where it had been against the rock and slowly walked back to the village.

Later in the evening we enjoyed cooked hare, inviting some of the older hunters. One of them, a neighbor, was my old acquaintance Ingapaluk, who is now retired. It began to be late in the evening, and we had a great time.

I was teasing Lennart, saying “You being a lawyer and a judge will sure be called to the court here one of these days for shooting a hare without a hunting- and weapon license. Furthermore, you have damaged a rifle, which you took without permission.”

The next day we left the village, all happy over the visit to the northernmost village in the world with permanent population. Goichman was satisfied over the many sketches he had drawn and will then complete at full scale in his studio in Turku. We were happy for the tremendous amount of film footage we had been able to get done for the Finnish Television.

We arrived in Qaanaaq late in the evening. More guests had arrived at Ilanguaqs place. There were two men from the westernmost village, Savisevik. The village is located south at Baffin Bay. Ilanguaqs father-in-law Tautjanguaq and his wife were also visiting from the Kangerslusuaq village. We all fit in the house and had a great time.  Professor Goichman treated us to a 50-year celebration, which lasted to early morning. It had been 50 years since the Taymyr expedition to Novajasemla, led by the known glaciologist Otto Smith. Goichman partook in the expedition as a crew member and medical doctor. Goichman was now 81 years old.

It was time again to say farewell. We said goodbye to our dear friends and then flew by helicopter to the Thule base, and from there flew via Copenhagen to Helsinki. We all felt happy with the trip.