In between blizzards

New Years Eve, and the following days, we were blessed with cold, clear weather!!

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The picture above was taken on January 1st, at about 9.30 am. A beautiful New Years Day`s morning!

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We celebrated the first day of the year by going out to hunt seals. With Ingkasis dog-team, we searched for breathing-holes on the sea-ice close to Ittoqqortoormiit.

When we found a hole that looked promising, Ingkasi stayed there to wait for the seal. I continued by dog-team, away from the breathing hole, to let the seal believe we had left it altogether. Ingkasi shot a seal just before it began to get dark! We invited some of our family members to eat the delicious fresh meat with us that same evening.

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Two days later, Ingkasi went out in the morning to look after his seal-nets. A few hours later, I got a call from him, telling me that he had just shot a polar bear! I went out to meet him on the ice outside of town, where he began to explain what had happened.

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He had found fresh tracks of the bear very close to the house of the Youth Club (“Ummimak Klubben”) where it must have passed by during night-time. Ingkasi followed the tracks until he found and shot the bear just a few kilometers away from Ittoqqortoormiit.

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Arriving home, the dogs deserved a good rest! They did a great job that day.

This was the first bear hunt since last June, when the last bear of the 2014 quota was shot, and it brought lots of excitement and joy to the community. We had called Ingkasis siblings, and several of them came running towards the sledge to touch the bear when he returned to Ittoqqortoormiit. According to local tradition, the bear is divided into 5 parts. The hunter gets one of them. The first 4 people touching the bear after him also get one part each. Others just came by to help out or to wish us well.

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I realize that many people outside of Greenland would like to see polar bear hunting come to an end, and some of them have commented on another post about polar bear hunting (written in 2013) on this blog to express their opinions and concerns.

I actually considered not to write about this bear and not to share any pictures of it, because I don`t like to upset other people.

After giving it some thought, I decided to share this anyway, because a successful  polar bear hunt is such an important local event. To leave it out in the context of writing about “Living and Hunting in Ittoqqortoormiit” would mean be to leave out one of the very few still existing nerves of traditional Greenlandic culture in our community.

I am currently evaluating where I want to go with this blog in the future. Maybe (and not just for the reason mentioned above) I will stop bogging about hunting altogether and create a new blog about other topics!

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A few years into the new year, a new storm hit us, and has only calmed down for a few hours at a time, ever since!

Blizzard after blizzard has made us spend most of our days indoors. Flights to West Greenland have been cancelled (there has been a single flight from Iceland making it through). There has been no mail delivered, and no passengers have arrived from other parts of the country, since before Christmas!

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In the spells between storms we have to restock our food and water supplies, feed the dogs and make sure we´ll get through the next storm without running out of fuel.

These last pictures were taken on Saturday, when the weather was quite calm in the middle of the day. We went out to get some more water, and enjoyed the fact that we for once could see the sky!

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We got loads of new snow in the first half of January (note the snowdrift by the yellow house)!

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Home, sweet home :-).

I am so thankful to have a cosy home to safely sit out the blizzards, each time they hit Ittoqqortoormiit!

As I am writing this, it is once again stormy outside, 30 m/s this evening. But – finally, the weather forecast looks good! And in just a few days, we should be able to see the sun again 🙂 :-).

26 thoughts on “In between blizzards

  1. Happy New Year Ruth! I’m sorry to hear you had some negative feedback about Polar bear hunting. I think it’s great to see the culture of Greenland. I appreciate you educating me on your life there. What a cute little house you have. Have fun with seeing the sun again:-) Take care,
    Darcy

  2. Do as you see fit, but I think it’s important people who are against hunting polar bears or seals understand how necessary this source of protein is. Here in the lower latitudes where we have more options that are economically viable we tend to see things through a paradigm of plenty at cheap prices including year-round fresh vegetables delivered weekly or more often. Perhaps they should think about decreasing hydrocarbon emissions which are destroying your environment by melting the glaciers and ice shelf.

    Thank you for all the photos you include in your posts, especially those including people.

  3. Hi Ruth, happy new year 🙂
    I think that you have to continue to write about hunting in Ittoqqortoormiit because it’s a part of your culture and we would miss something if you don’t tell us those stories. And I like the way you tell the story because we really feel that it’s not just hunting, the traditionnal sharing is still important for all of you. And, after all, there are rules and quota. Who am I to say “don’t hunt”? I’m not a specialist and there are specialists and scientists in Greenland to think, decide and allow to hunt. Polar bears are classified as “vulnerable” and not “endangered” according to the red list (http://www.iucnredlist.org) and if they are vulnerable, it’s because of us, the western culture, because we absolutely don’t care about environment. That’s very hypocritical for a western person to tell Greenlanders what to do and not do, Greenlanders are the best persons to know what to do for themselves and their land. And even, we should learn from them, we should learn to respect the nature as they do. So I won’t cry about the nice polar bear Ingkasi shot, I prefer to congratulate him.
    I just read a reply about your last post on hunting bear which says that you have to stop hunting and do tourism. Tourism can be good for Greenlanders if they really want to develop it but in their way and for now, tourism is mostly control by the western companies. Polar tourism is increasing because people want to see the polar nature but what will happen when the tourists will change their mind and go somewhere else (as they always do)? No more income. And what will happen if there is too many tourists in Arctic? What about the “endangered” polar bear? Once again, that’s not Greenlanders wich threat the polar bear, that’s us.

    • Happy New Year, Aude, and thank you so much for your comment!! I`m so glad you shared you opinion and knowledge on this subject. If there are any french readers out there, they should read your thesis about identity and tourism in Greenland 🙂 to learn some more.

  4. Kære Ruth!
    Jeg nyder dine historier og oplevelser fra Ittoqqortoormiit! Jeg håber du vil fortsætte også med jeres jagthistorier. Men hvis det giver dig ubehageligheder, forstår jeg godt dine overvejelser. Mit hjerte hænger i byen. Ved du hvordan det går med sygehuset? Det har de vel ikke lukket helt ned endnu. Drømmer ofte om at komme tilbage, ved ikke om det en dag sker. Nok ikke?
    Astrid har det godt i sit job som ambulancebehandler i Lyngby. Ingrid er leder at en maritim afdeling på DTU, Danmarks tekniske universitet. Hun er alene med Maja på 5 år og når vi får solgt drager vi mod Virum og omegn.
    Kærligt Ulla

    • Godt at høre fra dig, Ulla! Jeg kan godt forstå at du savner byen … sygehuset kører ennu, dog med lidt mindre personale end da du var her, vil jeg tro. – Dejlig at høre om Astrid og Ingrid … jeg husker godt den tid Astrid var her, og hvordan hun hjalp mig med at få vaccineret mine små hvalper 🙂 Du må hilse hende fra mig! KH Ruth

  5. The polar bear has become such an icon for the Arctic and the media have perhaps persuaded people (who don’t live in the Arctic) to be on the “side” of the polar bear. Much as it makes me a little sad to see a dead polar bear I then remind myself that Svalbard polar bears are protected. They’re doing okay! Thank you Ruth for your truthful blog about real life in Greenland, don’t stop writing.

    • Thank you, Yvonne! I must admit, that it also makes me sad to see a dead polar bear, – but it`s quite the same feeling I get when seeing other animals dead, including those I have shoot myself! Both my husband and I very much enjoy watching bears, that for some reason are not shoot – both outside, and on TV! I´m also glad there are areas, like Svalbard, where polar bears are protected. They are such incredible, amazing and intelligent animals. Thanks again for your words, and I will continue writing!

  6. Please continue writing and telling about the Greenlandic culture and tradition, Ruth! If no one lives the tradition and culture it will die. In my job at the Museum this is one of the most important projects. We can see that there are few living communities left taking care of this knowledge. It has become a worldwide problem. In 2003 UNESCO made a convention to take care of intangible cultural heritage (I’m not sure if that is the right English word for “Immateriell kultur”?).
    How you, Inkasi and the rest of the people in Ittoqqortoormiit lives your tradition in the daily life is very unique. I know this also because I’ve been so lucky visiting you and seen it.
    Please keep on living the tradition and culture. -It is the best way to take care of it! And please continue writing, telling, document it with photos etc. -It is a very important work you are doing there, Ruth! If you, or others, want to read more about the UNESCO’s:
    http://unesco.no/kultur/immateriellkulturarv/:

    På norsk fra denne nettsiden:
    Språk, utøvende kunst, sosiale skikker, tradisjonelle håndverksferdigheter, ritualer, kunnskap og ferdigheter knyttet til naturen er eksempler på immateriell kulturarv. For mange folkegrupper er den immaterielle arven en kilde til identitet med forankring i historien. Filosofi, verdier og tenkemåter overføres gjennom muntlige tradisjoner, gjennom språk og andre former for ikke-materiell kommunikasjon, og utgjør samfunnslivets fundament.
    Arvens immaterielle karakter gjør den særlig sårbar. Sang og dans, tradisjoner, språk og kunnskap er i ferd med å forsvinne på grunn av globalisering, konflikter og vår hurtig skiftende livsstil, særlig i Asia, Oseania, Afrika og Øst-Europa.
    UNESCOs konvensjon om vern av den immaterielle kulturarven ble vedtatt i 2003 for å beskytte denne rikdommen bedre. Konvensjonen er også en kilde til utvikling, og dermed en ressurs for mange folkegrupper.

    • Tusen takk … thank you Kjersti, for sharing this!! I sometimes forget how our daily life, although strongly influenced by the rest of the world, is still very traditional in many ways. I am very thankful to be able to learn and take part in Greenlandic tradition and culture, and I hope the traditional knowledge of this region`s population won`t get lost in the decades to come! There are, for instance, remarkable few dog-sledge-teams left in Ittoqqortoormiit, compared to when I first came here, 10 years ago. That makes me sad, but I also think it is up to the Greenlandic people to decide how they want to live in the future! – Klem fra Ruth 🙂

  7. Hi Ruth. I always enjoy reading your blogs even though I don’t always comment! Your pictures are always beautiful as well. If you ever make a picture book about living in Greenland – I want one!

  8. I love your blog! Please never stop writing it. I read every post with great interest (but this is the first time I make a comment).

  9. Dear Ruth (in English today, so all can understand, and a little elaborate 😉 )!
    I fully understand your quandary. I also get sad when I see a magnificient creature, like the polar bear that Ingkasi shot, dead. But then, death is part of nature – an important one. We humans kill millions and millions of animals every day to feed ourselves, and often not in a very “humane” fashion. It is just done out of sight, by people we rarely know. We have outsourced the unpleasant side of our food-gathering. And what about the animals we mistreat for luxury: specialty food, clothing etc?
    You in Ittoqqortoormiit, who – in part – hunt for food have, in my view, a much more honest relationship to the way a meal comes to your table than the rest of us, who walk down the aisles of our supermarket.

    I know, the polar bear is an iconic animal of the arctic and, hence, the object of much sympathy. There are many other animals in this world – endangered to a varying degree – that deserve the same attention. And where do you draw the line about which animals are “morally correct” to hunt? If all great predators are “too magnificent” to be killed by man, what about intelligent ones, like gorillas or whales? While I personally dislike trophy hunters (I think it’s childish), I also realize that they can be a source of income to the locals. In some cultures, killing a formidable animal, such as the lion, is still a badge of manhood. Can we condemn that out of hand? Surely, being killed by a bullet with a clean shot is more humane than being held captive in tiny cells and being put to death in a factory.

    An important point is, of course, if a species is driven to extinction by hunting. We have to hope, that we can trust the wisdom of the set quotas and the enforcement of them. I like to think, that people who live their lives in close touch with nature and who know how dependent they are on a healthy environment would be very careful indeed not to squander resources. I have been in Ittoqqortoormiit only once and for a short time, but I am certain that you who live and hunt in this beautiful place are not exterminating the polar bear or any other creature. From the little I have learned about your way of life, I feel that you are upholding a culture that must be kept alive, if only in a tiny corner of this planet, so we can all be reminded.

    So, please keep writing!

    Thank you and good luck,
    Jörg

    • Jörg – thank you so much for sharing your opinion! It is very encouraging to me that you, and quite a few others, have taken time to consider what I brought up, and comment on this post!! So yes, I will keep writing 🙂

  10. I really enjoyed reading and learning from your post. I think when hunting benefits local community, there is nothing to be ashamed for. And people criticizing that are maybe not aware about the importance of that for the local population. It’s not trophy hunting, it’s sustainability ! 🙂

  11. Hej Ruth. Jeg er trofast følger af din blog og jeg har efterhånden kommet til at holde meget af den, jeg ser altid frem til at læse nye indlæg. Ikke nok med at du poster de flotteste billeder af mit hjem, så oplyser du omverdenen om bæredygtigheden af jagten derhjemme uden at skulle prædike om det. Så jeg håber du fortsætter det flotte arbejde du laver med denne blog 🙂

    • Hej, Bettina – og mange tak for din feedback! Det betyder meget for mig, at det ikke kun er udlændinge eller turister som får noget ud af at læse bloggen!! Dejlig at høre fra dig :-).

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