The name Ittoqqortoormiit, as the Greenlanders call the village of Scoresbysund, means something like „place with the big houses“, which is certainly true for regional standards, as it is the only settlement in the whole, large area. A small village of only about 400 people for European standards, but one of only two towns on the whole east coast of Greenland. The nearest neighbours are Tasilaq, 800 km further south, and Iceland.
The site had been used by settlers for centuries, if not thousands of years, but the actual history of Ittoqqortoormiit does not go any further back than 1924, when it was founded on private Danish initiative as a colony to make sure the Danebrog (the Danish flagg) would be flying there in the wind before the Norwegian flagg might do so, as the Norwegians had already secured Spitsbergen for themselves in 1920 and were now focussing their polar attention towards northern east Greenland. Ittoqqortoormiit is, in other words, a result of European colonial history and not of local history in Greenland. And the first settlers, who were moved up from did have a difficult time indeed, some fell victim to diseases and starvation in the first years, despite of the land being rich in hunting game, but the whereabouts and when of it still had to be learnt before it could be utilized year-round. Little was to be read about these difficulties and even tragedies in Danish newspapers, where instead the good lives of happy Greenlandic colonists was described very much in propaganda style, also this being a typical part of European colonial history.
But inspite this forced beginning of the modern settlement on this vast and empty coast, the inhabitants soon felt at home there, once the first difficulties had been overcome. Wildlife to hunt was plentyful, from muskoxen on the tundra over seals, walruses and narwhales in the fjords to polar bears that with the drift ice from the north in winter and spring. These natural richnesses was a good basis for a small settlement where most inhabitants were pretty much self-depending for most goods, and most families stayed over generations into modern days. Most inhabitants of Ittoqqortoormiit now very well still today the names of their ancestors who came from southern east Greenland in 1925.
During following decades, modern times moved into all Greenlandic villages including Ittoqqortoormiit, which did not necessarily make life there easier. Subsistance had to be completed with cash, as it became increasingly difficult to resist the temptations of the local Pilersuisoq (supermarket) and those that came with internet, mobile phones and scheduled flights. The job market is difficult in places like Ittoqqortoormiit, and too many biographies have been influenced by the dark sides of zivilisation, mainly alcohol and its evil twins, violence and sexual abuse.
The social difficulties are facts, but we have to – we can! – acknowledge that there are many good people in Ittoqqortoormiit who fight with a lot of motivation against these evils, and they do have success, even if it is difficult and the road to better times is taking many turns. Many inhabitants of Ittoqqortoormiit will without a second of hesitation tell you that their home place is the most beautiful place in the world, and I agree with them every time I am there (I guess I am travelling too much to make a final decision for any given place, no matter how beautiful it is). The more sad that Ittoqqortoormiit is facing a difficult future, economically. The cuts in scheduled flights between Ittoqqortoormiit (or rather the nearby airfield Constable Point, to be precise) to Tasiilaq and Iceland are toug: certainly for locals, who need to take the longer and more expensive trip via the west coast to get to Copenhagen, and for tourists. There are few anyway, but their contribution to some local incomes was important, but now the already long and expensive way to Ittoqqortoormiit is more difficult also for them, which is again a drawback for the local economy. One may ask how much interest the Greenland government in Nuuk, far away from the little settlement in Scoresbysund on the back side of Greenland, really has for the economic well-being of Ittoqqortoormiit.
Click the marker to get to the corresponding panoramas or use the text links below.
- Monument of Ejnar Mikkelsen
- Tourist Information/Nanu Travel
- Monument to Jean-Baptiste Charcot
- Helicopter landing pad
Monument of Ejnar Mikkelsen
Tourist Information/Nanu Travel
Monument to Jean-Baptiste Charcot
Helicopter landing pad
By the way:
my new book is in print and it can now be ordered 🙂 it is a photo book with the title “Norwegens arktischer Norden (3): Die Bäreninsel und Jan Mayen”, with German text Click here for further details!