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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Puppies, Villages, and Swimming with Icebergs in Greenland

The puppies in Oqaatsut, Greenland were happy to see us.  Unlike mature Greenlandic dogs, puppies are allowed to run free.

Greenland Greenlandic dogs cute puppy puppies Oqaatsut village community homes houses colorful

This tiny village, called Oqaatsut, has only 34 inhabitants.  It's a day's walk up the coast from Ilulissat.  (Ilulissat is known as Jakobshavn in Danish.)  This village is surviving with a more or less traditional way of life.   In the warmer part of the year, they use a motorboat to fish and hunt seals with rifles.  When it is cold enough, they use dogsleds.  There are a few snowmobiles around, but they say dogsleds are more reliable.  The cold season has gotten shorter by a few months over the last few decades, so it's become harder and harder to support the dog population.

A few of the houses in the village, with a few icebergs floating in Disko Bay, and the mountains of Disko Island in the background.  These houses are painted in traditional colors.  A spot of bright color is probably welcome when everything else is white for months on end.

Greenland Oqaatsut village icebergs traditional small community

A view of Ilulissat from Hotel Arctic, where we stayed. There was a dog zone right in front of the hotel.  It's really tempting to go pet these chained-up, lonely-looking dogs.  Unfortunately, dog zones are no-go zones for anyone but the owner, as you don't want to get in the middle of a bunch of big angry dogs defending their territory.  Two or three miles further in the background of the photo,  gigantic icebergs have run aground at the mouth of the icefjord.  It takes months or sometimes a year, for them to melt small enough to break free and float further out into the bay.

Greenland dogs icebergs town Ilulissat Jakobshavn Danish Denmark houses scenic colorful

We also visited Disko Island.  One evening, we were standing at the shore watching humpback whales spout and roll just offshore.  While we watched, we noticed a group of children next to us playing in sandy pool of a stream leading out the bay.  As if that water weren't cold enough for them,  these three boys kept running down and jumping in the bay water.

Greenland Disko Island Bay freezing cold swimming ice icebergs children swim dive Arctic

Obviously, water with icebergs in it tends to be incredibly cold.  We were told it's around 33 degrees - cold enough to kill you in five minutes.  After jumping in, they'd give a sharp yelp or two, and run back to the pool.  But, they kept on going at least five or six times while we were there watching the whales.

Greenland Disko Island Bay freezing cold swimming ice icebergs children swim dive Arctic

This dog zone is on Disko Island.  The dogs checked to see if we were bringing food, then quickly lost interest, despite our calls to get their attention.  Greenlandic dogs live outside all the time, including the winter, when low temperatures average 0 degrees Fahrenheit, and dip far below that much of the time.  They've been a reliable means of transportation for the Inuit for about a thousand years, but, due to the shortened winters and resulting lack of ice thick enough to travel on, their use is waning and their numbers are being drastically reduced.

Greenland Greenlandic dogs Disko Island  village community homes lakes mountains reflection colorful

The town on Disko Island, with a better view of the mountains behind.  

Greenland Greenlandic dogs Disko Island  village community homes lakes mountains reflection colorful

Next up, I'll have some photos from our midnight iceberg kayaking trip near Ilulissat (Jakobshavn).   My previous article was all about the glaciers and icebergs, with spectacular aerial photos.  The post after this is a short one on kayaking at midnight, followed by Humpback whale watching amidst the Ilulissat icebergs.

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