Upernavik, End of the Line

I was nervous about Upernavik. It’s extremely far north, though it’s amazing how much more of Greenland lies beyond it. Upernavik is also very small––it’s an island with a circumference of just a few miles––and planes fly in and out only sporadically. I landed on a Saturday, and there was no option to leave before Thursday. I hoped that I would like the place and I did, very much. It’s what I think of, now, when I think of Greenland.

Here are some things I did in Upernavik:

The cold, foggy hill where I pitched my tent

The cold, foggy hill where I pitched my tent

I walked around in a heavy fog, looking for the hotel-restaurant my guidebook promised. I learned that it had shuttered, and that there wasn’t anywhere to eat, sleep, or warm up any longer. I pitched my tent on a very high hill, near a giant satellite dish. I cooked elaborate meals on my camping stove and drank whiskey to keep warm. I wore all of my clothes to bed every night. It was always a relief to rediscover feeling in my fingers and toes in the morning.

I took to pestering the quiet man managing the museum in the director’s absence. After a lot of bothering, he finally let me into the old cooperage to shower and shave. The building had been recently renovated to function as a studio for artists. The last artists to live there were two women from North Carolina. They left their long hair in the shower drain and two inches of cold standing water in the stall. I cleaned the drain and took my shower. It was my first in over a week, and one of the best I’ve ever taken. I went to thank the man afterward, but he’d already closed up for the day. I think he was trying to avoid telling me that I couldn’t sleep there.

spoils of the hunt

Spoils of the hunt

I descended the rickety staircase between my tent and the town about a thousand times, always pausing to admire the sawed-off head and hooves of a musk ox, drying on a rock.

View From N72º48’18.2”

View from N72º48’18.2”

I walked the perimeter of the island twice, once clockwise and once counterclockwise. I saw the remains of an old turf hut, barely visible in the grass. On my first trip, I spent a while trying to find the northernmost spot on the island, thinking it was probably the northernmost place I’d ever get. The next day, I saw an aerial photograph of the island, and realized that I’d missed a small spit of rock that jutted out even farther. So, I repeated the trip a second time, in the rain, to reclaim my victory: N72º48’18.2”

I met a Danish doctor who was staying in Upernavik for a month-long residency. He worked mostly out of the hospital, but sometimes did overnights to the smaller settlements, scattered up and down Baffin Bay. At one settlement, of sixteen homes, they pushed two desks together at the school, and put paper down over top, as a place to see patients. Afterward they gave him two kinds of seal meat: one regular and one that confused him as to whether it was “seal lung” or “seal young.”

Navarana Freuchen's grave

Navarana Freuchen's grave

I found the grave of Peter Freuchen’s wife, Navarana, who died on the fifth Thule expedition. The ground in Upernavik is frozen most of the year, so the graves are raised and covered in rocks. The smell of death is faint but detectable.

A view of the pitch

A view of the pitch

I watched many hours of an annual soccer tournament between Upernavik and the surrounding settlements. I ate aebleskiver and clapped for both sides. The crowds were enthusiastic––lots of shouting and airhorns––but the biggest cheers were reserved for the icebergs in the bay, which would calve loudly, every now and again. Sometimes the ball would fly errantly into the bay, and then all the kids would rush down and throw rocks at it in a vain attempt to coax it in. In general, the games were a lot of fun––I was impressed by the skill and physicality of the teams, particularly after learning that, in many of the settlements, there isn’t anywhere flat enough to practice, and they have to wait until the harbor freezes to get a real workout.

I spent hours hand-copying the wall labels at the museum, which detailed the complex dividing principles involved in traditional hunting.

I finished War and Peace.

The old church (1839)

The old church (1839)

I found the most beautiful building in Greenland, a church built in 1839. Inside, there were chandeliers made from brass salvaged from a 1921 shipwreck. There were countless dead flies on the floor and windowsills. They looked oddly lovely against the gleaming white walls.

I met a lab tech from the hospital who was trying to get a kayak rental business off the ground. It took him months to get permission to build––he complained of rampant nepotism––but he got it, and now he’s struggling to get a structure up before winter. I tried to talk him into taking me out kayaking, but the timing and the weather never worked. He was understandably more intent on shoveling his basement out before the ground froze. I helped him move some rocks, and talked to him while digging. He had a terrifically dry sense of humor, and was at once very cynical about Greenland, but also committed to making a life there. I wrote down some of the things he told me in a little notebook. After getting back, someone showed me an article about Upernavik in Outside magazine, in which he says all of the same things, almost verbatim. I laughed at that. I hope he got his basement finished.

I saw the Kingigtorssuaq runestone. It’s much smaller than I expected. It was found atop a cairn on an island north of Upernavik. It’s been dated to 1250-1350 A.D. and represents the northernmost artifact left behind by the Vikings. How it got there is something of a mystery.

Chartering the boat

Chartering the boat

I found out that the Danish doctor and some nurses from the hospital had chartered a small motorboat to travel to the inland ice, and I talked them into letting me pay-in to come along. We sped through the fjords and I sat in the bow and looked up at the giant, intricately carved icebergs while the doctor and the nurses laughed and chattered in Danish. We stopped off at a settlement, where a small group of smiling kids showed us how they liked to hop between bags of gravel for fun. The town wasn’t much more than a few houses, a school with funny wooden cutouts of seal and narwhal on one of the walls. There was also a hand-painted sign memorializing Michael Jackson. I walked aimlessly around, thinking about how I was farther from home than I’ve ever been before––hours by motorboat to Upernavik, two days and three flights just to get to Nuuk, a few more days before the next available hop to Reykjavik, another night before crossing the Atlantic home…

Far from home. Mostly.

Far from home. Mostly.

… But, in the end that’s what I did. It seemed like everyone in Upernavik knew someone who was either arriving or departing on my flight; they streamed up the hill from town to say teary hellos and teary goodbyes. I was the only one who didn’t know anybody. And then the Danish doctor arrived to see a friend of his off, so I got to wish someone well after all.

That’s a wrap, I guess. Thanks so much for reading.


Beylikdüzü Konut Projeleri posted on March 17, 2023 at 5:08 am

thanks for helpfull writing. this article very important. have a good day.

passgame posted on March 17, 2023 at 5:11 am

A very beautiful and excellent article. Again, your article was excellent. I carefully read it line by line and I believe it took you a lot of time to gather this information

shivani posted on March 17, 2023 at 5:36 am

wow good post

sohbet posted on March 17, 2023 at 9:47 am

Thank you very much for this beautiful sharing, good luck

Yutulabilir Mide Balonu posted on March 17, 2023 at 10:03 am

thanks for helpfull writing. you should this article thanks

sohbet posted on March 17, 2023 at 1:39 pm

Thanks for this useful information, best wishes.

Seriale Online posted on March 18, 2023 at 4:17 am

Click : Vezi online cele mai noi si bune filme subtitrate in limba romana
Seriale Online , Seriale Romanesti , Vezionline in HD and fs online hd free

ali posted on March 18, 2023 at 10:06 am

The best company to transport home furniture to another country

sara posted on March 18, 2023 at 1:28 pm

الدراسة في الخارج للسعوديين

Metabo flex posted on March 18, 2023 at 3:38 pm

This is one of the trending weight loss product.

Radha shetty posted on March 19, 2023 at 3:08 pm

Thank you for the interesting information. You can check here for more new information, Sevenmentor has created a CCNA Course in Mumbai to prepare students for an associate level job in the IT industry.

yourcollectivehealth posted on March 19, 2023 at 3:50 pm

I have been meaning to read this and just never obtained a chance. It’s an issue that I’m really interested in, I just started reading and I’m glad I did. You’re a fantastic blogger, one of the best that I’ve seen. This weblog undoubtedly has some facts on topic that I just wasn’t aware of. Thanks for bringing this stuff to light.

chhavi posted on March 20, 2023 at 3:17 am

end of the line

call girls posted on March 20, 2023 at 3:49 am

nice post

nnn acnoria posted on March 20, 2023 at 10:08 am

أفخم الهدايا النسائية مقدمة من متجر اكنوريا بأقل الأسعار في السعودية وأسرع خدمة توصيل، تسوق الآن.

nnn acnoria posted on March 20, 2023 at 10:09 am

هدايا نسائية مقدمة من متجر اكنوريا بأقل الأسعار في السعودية وأسرع خدمة توصيل، تسوق الآن.

Rulet Oyna posted on March 20, 2023 at 10:32 am

bathroom towels should be maintained with a good fabric conditioner so that they will last longer`

nn shaba posted on March 20, 2023 at 10:34 am

نوفر كل ما تحتاجه في جلساتك الخارجية، يمكنك الآن الحصول على عروض موقع شبة خلال شهر رمضان الكريم، اطلب الآن واستمتع بأقوى العروض والخصومات

Blackjack Oyna posted on March 20, 2023 at 11:05 am

bathroom towels should be maintained with a good fabric conditioner so that they will last longer`

Harga Pagar Panel Beton posted on March 20, 2023 at 11:06 am

Harga Pagar Panel Beton Murah Per Meter dan Borongan hanya di Prima Konstruksi.

Harga U Ditch posted on March 20, 2023 at 11:08 am

Saluran Beton U Dtich Berkualitas dan murah hanya ada di Sriwijaya Beton.

Uniliv posted on March 21, 2023 at 1:03 am

Are you looking for pg with food in north campus? Look no further.

Blackjack Oyna posted on March 21, 2023 at 7:58 am

Whenever you have a look at many which can be clear when you look into the Move Content Write-up Completion Provider, you might in the near future locate there presently exists numerous things you can really look into.

Betboo Giriş posted on March 21, 2023 at 10:53 am

bathroom towels should be maintained with a good fabric conditioner so that they will last longer`

Bahis Oyna posted on March 21, 2023 at 11:53 am

What i don’t understood is in reality how you’re no longer really a lot more well-appreciated than you may be right now. You are so intelligent. You already know thus significantly on the subject of this subject, produced me in my view consider it from a lot of various angles. Its like men and women are not interested until it is something to do with Woman gaga! Your individual stuffs nice. At all times handle it up!

mywifiext.setup setup posted on March 21, 2023 at 3:43 pm

Use the web-based admin panel for the NETGEAR range extender at mywifiext.net to change the WiFi password, SSID, and other default settings.

Imlie Online posted on March 21, 2023 at 4:02 pm

Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai is a StarPlus Hindi TV serial. Subscribe now to watch
Akshara and Naitik, yrkkh Desi Serials is hindi drama at hotstar live free videos

Kwick Metrics posted on March 22, 2023 at 1:47 am

With amazon ppc optimization KwickMetrics, it’s easy to track and manage all of your Amazon seller data – on your computer, on your phone, your tablet and more.

taylor posted on March 22, 2023 at 3:54 am

A design like yours with a few simple adjustements would really make my blog shine. Please let me know where you got your design. Thanks

hamza posted on March 22, 2023 at 10:05 am

good post dear

토토사이트 posted on March 22, 2023 at 3:49 pm

I have bookmarked your website because this site contains valuable information in it. I am really happy with articles quality and presentation. Thanks a lot for keeping great stuff. I am very much thankful for this site. I have been searching to find a comfort or effective procedure to complete this process and I think this is the most suitable way to do it effectively. I think I have never seen such blogs ever before that has complete things with all details which I want. So kindly update this ever for us. Such an amazing and helpful post this is. I really really love it. It’s so good and so awesome. I am just amazed. I hope that you continue to do your work like this in the future also.

Post a Comment

Your email address is never shared. Required fields are marked *