Friday, 15 January

Article Index

Part 3/4:- Return visit to Qaanaaq in 1993

By Pentti Kronqvist, originally in Swedish.

I visited Qaanaaq again in 1993, this time with Mayvor Stagnäs, who is an editor for Jakobstads Tidning (the local newspaper). She was traveling as a reporter. A third member of the group, a researcher from the Ymer expeditions in the 50’s and 60’s in the Svalbard area, Anders Häggblom, was supposed to join us, but something came up at the last minute and he was unable to come. Anders was born and grew up in Jakobstad, but since the 50’s has been living in Stockholm.

We were going to be here for ten days, visiting all the villages in the district. I stayed at my old friend Duneqs place. Mayvor stayed at the district school superintendent Gustav Olsens place. He was the grandson of the old missionary Olsen, who arrived here in 1909  as the first missionary in the area.

Ilanguaq was now worn out by the cancer. He wasn’t going out on any demanding hunting trips. But one day he suggested that we together pay a visit to his old hometown Qekertaq. He now had a smaller boat with a 30hp outboard engine. His youngest son Kale also came along. It was a Saturday in the middle of august. Only three families still lived on the island. Ilanguaqs childhood home was still there, but had further deteriorated, as it had stayed vacant for many years.

In the village we met hunters who were hunting narwhals. We spent the evening visiting with them. We ate cooked seal meat and drank tea with biscuits.

It was Sunday morning. The church bell called to services, which we attended. Now as before, Ilanguaq visited his father’s grave. I noticed that this time he sat a longer time and fell deeper in his prayer. Maybe he was telling more in depth about leaving this life in a near future, as stricken as he was by his sickness.

It was a beautiful and calm evening when we returned home to Qaanaaq. This time we didn’t have any catch with us. The great hunter Ilanguaq was too tired and worn out after years of fighting his difficult sickness.

Time for farewell

When I five days later said goodbye for my flight home to Finland, I had tears in my eyes. Avataq wanted to give me some gifts. I was given a gun rest, kamik boots, a polar bear skull and his old polar bear pants. Maybe he thought it was the last time we were going to see each other, that this was our last farewell. Those gifts are now in a good care at the Nanoq arctic museum in Jakobstad.

Ilanguaq parted this life on the Pentecostal day 1994 at 55 years’ age. He was known all over Greenland as one of the greatest hunters. He built the most slender kayaks, his harpoons and its spears were the best of their kind. The polar bear head amulets he made were sold around the world. He took good care of his family and he was a role model for his tribe and his generation.

I remembered the amulet, made in the shape of a polar bear head, he gave me on my first visit in 1976. I have been taking good care of that amulet and maybe it will give me strength in my old days.

Ilanguaq had become one of my greatest friends and I will always remember him as the Great Ilanguarrhuaq.