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July 9-10, 2014

TasiilaqWe woke up this morning to a beautiful sunny day. We flew by 9 passenger helicopter for a 10 minute ride to Angmagssalik Island and the town of Tasiilaq. Tasiilaq means "Like a Lake" as it lies on a fjord that is only accessible from the sea by a narrow entrance. The fjord is covered by pack ice most of the year and there was still some around the village. It lies just 62 miles south of the Arctic Circle and is East Greenland's largest city with a population of 1900. The Danish founded Tasiilaq as an East Greenland colony in 1894. It services the rest of the 5 small settlements in East Greenland and has a school, hospital, library and large grocery store. Like Kulusuk, the houses are very colorful and perched on rocky mounds overlooking the fjord. Unlike Kulusuk, many of the houses have running water and electricity from a nearby hydroelectric power plant. Today modern technology plays an increasing role in the lives of the people but they still keep their traditional hunting and fishing skills alive.

HelicopterAfter checking into Hotel Ammassalik and having lunch, we were offered an unplanned, optional helicopter sightseeing tour since the weather was so clear. We decided to go for it and it was spectacular. After a 10 minute flight in a smaller 5 passenger bird, we landed on a rocky ledge 3000 feet above a fjord and glacier. We walked around the landing site with 360 degree panoramic views of the surroundings. I don't know how Greenland got its name because it is definitely not green and is covered with snow and ice. View of Greenland IcecapWe could see the Greenland icecap across the fjord. We were told that all the jagged mountains surrounding us were not volcanic. Rather they are basalt bedrock.

IcebergWhen we got back from the helicopter tour, it was decided we should take advantage of the beautiful weather and move the planned boat tour up a day. So we all boarded the boat and headed out to sea, through the remains of the pack ice and around icebergs floating in the water. To see a short video of our boat ride thru the pack ice, click here.

Drum DancerAfter dinner, a local man gave us a demonstration of drum dancing. It is very different from Indian drumming. The drum is beaten on the wood surrounding the skin of the drum, not on the skin. It was used in the past to communicate, celebrate and to settle fights. It is a dying art as there are only 23 people in all of Greenland who are currently drum dancers. Our performer was the grandson of the woman whose statue we saw in Kulusuk. To see a short video of one of the drum dances, click here.


Wildflowers in Valley of FlowersThe next day the weather wasn't near as nice. Fog had rolled in and it was cloudy most of the day, but no rain and about 58 degrees. After breakfast we took a couple hour hike into an area called Valley of the Flowers. The snow had just melted from the hillsides and there were many wildflowers poking their way out of the ground. Waterfall in Valley of FlowersSmall waterfalls cascaded down the hillsides. Our guide said it was very safe to fill our water bottles there. Since there are no animals roaming around East Greenland, the water does not get polluted. Our group with head netsThere were some mosquitoes and black flies buzzing about our heads so we got to use our head nets and bug spray that we had all carried for the last few weeks.


Hotel AmmassalikAfter lunch, we took a guided "walk" through the village. Our hotel was on one of the highest points in the village so we were driven down to the starting point for the walk and then brought back up at the end. We visited the village museum where the docent gave us interesting information about the history of the area and the culture.Long House The museum has a reproduction of a turf house that was still used by the Inuit up until the 70's. Many families lived together in the single room house, cooking on pots hung over seal oil stoves. We were shown what is called the "Women's Boat".Women's Boat It is a seal skin covered row boat that the women powered, carrying supplies, children, etc. to fish camps. Men used kayaks, also made of seal skin, as transportation and to hunt whale, seal and polar bear.Men's Kayak

Back in the hotel we were shown a film produced in 1934 called "The Wedding of Palo." The people in the film were all from Tasiilaq and it showed them going about their daily lives, bringing home seal, skinning and eating it, living in their turf houses. It was a great summary of what we had learned about Inuit life.

The next day we flew back to Kulusuk by helicopter, then had a flight back for a final day in Reykjavik, Iceland before flying home. It was a great trip with wonderful travel companions and a terrific trip leader.

To view more photos from our trip to Tasiilaq, please go to Tasiilaq Photo Gallery. To read about other locations visited, go to Iceland and Greenland.

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