Sisimiut, Inikik, Aasiat, Uummannaq, Amitsuq, Proven, Tasiusaq… these are the names that we came to know and love, as we sailed up the Greenland coast this week. Beautiful towns, villages, islands and bays that we were lucky to find or visit as anchorages and ports. We also transited the east side of Disko Island on a beautiful sunny day; perfectly calm and many large icebergs – the first big ones for crewmate Samuel!
It was the first time that the Arctic Tern I has stopped in Uummannaq, a very colorful village with 1200 inhabitants. There we met Ann Andreasen, a Students On Ice contact, who founded and manages the Children’s Home as well as the Ummannaq Polar Institute. She immediately invited us for a tea and for (what we understood as) a children’s concert. After few jobs on the boat, we headed for the Children’s home and briefly visited this amazing place: a very cosy and warm home that welcomes local children that are in need of care. But, as we entered the building, we understood pretty quickly that it was probably not there that something was happening for us. Were we at the wrong blue house? We headed to another blue house that the kids pointed out to us and realised this was Ann’s home! She was apparently having a party with some friends and invited us to join! An amazing “kaffemik”, as we soon came to understand.
Kaffemik are quite popular in Greenland: It is an invitation for a Greenlandic meal and cakes, in a private home with family and friends, to share stories and catch up on news and gossip. The host usually prepares food for all the guests and people can pass by for 10-15 minutes, for the afternoon, or more! As we entered Ann’s home, we did not really know the rules. But soon, and with a little help, we came to understand and very much appreciate the atmosphere and context. Ann’s daughter was graduating that day and so was the reason of this kaffemik. Local, short-term visitors, long-term workers, old and young – the diversity of people was very impressive! Some from the Feroe Islands, some from the United States visiting, a music teacher from Venezuela, a Danish guy visiting with his wife for few days, and of course lots of people from the community. Everyone had their own stories and reasons to be here in Ummanaaq and at the Kaffemik: amazing to hear the stories and share ours.
One of the interesting aspects of the Kaffemik is the food served : polar bears stew, pilot whales pieces, maktak (piece of skin and blubber from narwhal), dried whale meat, and even narwhal intestin. Some raw and some cooked. For the less adventurous of us, there was also lamb (“amazing” said Grant – high praise from a New Zealander!), cheese and bread. Ann specifically reminded us that it is very important for them to use local food and resources, and mainly without any transformation “the seal is our chicken, the whale is our cow” as she eloquently put it! After all this, a table full of desserts was set up inside.
After a few hours of tasting new foods and conversing with the wonderful people at the kaffemik, we headed back to Arctic Tern I. Full bellies, and even fuller memories. Thank you, Ann and Uummannaq! What a wonderful way of making people feel at home.!
Since then, we kept sailing north, up to Upernavik where we arrived on July 8th. We are getting ready for the crossing to Canada and so are about to leave Greenland. We will head to Pond Inlet and Bylot Island to pursue our scientific mission on seabirds and then welcome a film crew on board in August. Next news from the Canadian side!