Expedition Greenland – The lives of the locals.

Yesterday we spent the day in the only local settlement close to us, a village called Ittoqqortoormiit. Pronounced E-TOK-O-TOR-MIT. It’s about 2-3 hours from our base by snowmobile and is completely surrounded by snow covered mountains and frozen seas and sits at the mouth of the Scorseby Fjord, the largest fjord in the world.

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Yesterday we spent the day in the only local settlement close to us, a village called Ittoqqortoormiit. Pronounced E-TOK-O-TOR-MIT. It’s about 2-3 hours from our base by snowmobile and is completely surrounded by snow covered mountains and frozen seas and sits at the mouth of the Scorseby Fjord, the largest fjord in the world.

The village is the most northern in Eastern Greenland representing the edge of human existence in this part of the world. It is also one of the most remote towns in Greenland and has a population of just 469. The locals derive a living primarily from hunting with the surrounding area know for muskox, seals and polar bears.

Spending the afternoon in the village meant spending it with a crew of local kids. They tagged along from the moment of our arrival, impressing us with their ability to race, jump and crash their home made sleds and with ruthless enthusiasm, commandeer our snowmobiles for joy rides and sled towing that lasted all day.

They loved our gear and equipment and were interested in almost everything but just generally wanted to make friends, laugh and have fun. It was inspiring handing my camera over to one of the local boys to see him instantly turn it on us and wield it like a pro, directing us all into poses and groups for photo opportunities. It’s small moments like this that make travelling to these remote places worth every effort – for me it’s everything. Coming from entirely different worlds with no common language or culture means nothing when you’re laughing and having the time of your life with a stranger you’ve just met.

After the local kids, it was the sight of polar bear skins hanging out in the sun to dry that was one of the most significant memories from the day. Having never seen a polar bear in the wild myself I was astounded by the enormous size of the pelts – these animals are huge!

This gave way to being overawed that these animals, that are iconic symbols of the arctic and the primary catalyst for the global initiative to protect these regions, are hunted to provide for the daily lives of the people that exist here.
Polar bears are a source of food and clothing and for thousands of years have been a key figure in the marital, spiritual and cultural lives of the arctic indigenous people. They are allowed to hunt a small quota each year so as not to affect the populations of these precious animals.

There are between 20,000 and 25,000 polar bears left in the wild with this species the first to be declared endangered due to global warming. They are the largest land carnivore and largest bear on earth standing up to 3 metres tall and weighing up to 800kg.

Understanding the precious and precarious link between protection of an endangered species and respect for indigenous culture is one of the greatest challenges faced by all of us that hope to have a positive effect on the future of our planet and all that inhabit it.

Sending it for the camera!

Sending it for the camera!

Ittoqqortoormiit

Ittoqqortoormiit

The local race team.

The local race team.

Sneakly attached to the back of our snowmobile - along for the ride!

Sneakly attached to the back of our snowmobile – along for the ride!

Polar bear skins drying

Polar bear skins drying

wink.

wink.

From ear to ear.

From ear to ear.

The local Ittoqqortoormiit Laricans.

The local Ittoqqortoormiit Laricans.

Hanging with the local champion sled racing team.

Hanging with the local champion sled racing team.

Ittoqqortoormiit

Ittoqqortoormiit

Curious little guy.

Curious little guy.

Polar bear skin fur - feels like nylon!

Polar bear skin fur – feels like nylon!

Polar bear skin tent.

Polar bear skin tent.

Traditional Greenlandic sled and dog team

Traditional Greenlandic sled and dog team

Ittoqqortoormiit

Ittoqqortoormiit

Ittoqqortoormiit

Ittoqqortoormiit

Do sled team just chilin'

Do sled team just chilin’

On of the local laricans wielding my camera like a pro!

On of the local laricans wielding my camera like a pro!

Greenland.

Ittoqqortoormiit

Ittoqqortoormiit

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Happy Days

Happy Days

This guy caught a wiff of me on the wind and woke up to see what the fuss was about...

This guy caught a wiff of me on the wind and woke up to see what the fuss was about…