Aasiaat's coat of arms

Aasiaat's coat of arms

Aasiaat, an island on the southern edge of Disko Bay, means “the spiders” in Greenlandic. The town was taken enough with its name that it developed a coat-of-arms featuring a very graphically appealing spider’s web. Recognizing its appeal, all of the rest of the municipalities in Western Greenland quickly followed suit with their own, equally amazing versions. All that’s left is for someone with silkscreening skills to put them on t-shirts and make them available to buy online. Somebody–please!

After five days in Kangerlussuaq, I’d almost forgotten what real Greenlandic towns look like. In that sense, Aasiaat was a breath of (foggy, brisk) fresh air. Spread out over a rocky, precipitous island, the community is comprised of boxy, brightly painted houses, and boasts the by-now familiar 1-2 olfactory punch of drying seal ribs and ripe sled dog shit.

The 18th century Old Town and 21st century harbor

The 18th century Old Town and 21st century harbor

Aasiaat’s colonial old town is small but very beautiful––two cleverly constructed buildings (the first from 1778, the second from 1826) that served as the whaling station commander’s residence and the trading manager’s home, respectively. The museum is equally small but informative––they had some beautiful photographs from Qaanaaq, plus useful information on how the styles of traditional Inuit clothing change as you move farther north. There’s a lot of overlap in the small town museums, but I manage to learn something new and useful at each.

Sled dog pups visit my tent

Sled dog pups visit my tent

Aasiaat is small and very cold, and it didn’t take me long to exhaust its offerings. After games of checkers down by the docks and many cups of coffee at the Seaman’s home, I was itching to head north. Falling asleep early in preparation for a dawn ferry ride, I awoke to a loud scratching at my tent. By failing to tuck away the pastry I’d bought for the morning, I managed to arouse the curiosity of a couple of sled dog pups who proved tough to shake. Eventually everything settled down, however, and after a cold night it was onwards up Disko Bay.


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