Sisimiut, West Greenland

Sep 13, 2018 - National Geographic Explorer

After some great days of expedition in Iceland, we arrived in Greenland to incredible weather and scenery. It was not yet totally dark when the call come up: “We have something special dancing in the skies—you can’t miss this!” We were treated to a spectacular show of the aurora. The greens, reds, and yellows of the northern lights painted the skies all around the ship. It was simply unbelievable!

In the morning, we were in Sisimiut, the second biggest town in Greenland, with about 5,000 inhabitants. Fishing for shrimp, cod, and haddock is the main industry. This town has the privilege of having a port that does not freeze over the winter; it’s accessible by sea all year-round. Our morning was spent exploring this colorful town with local inhabitants. Some of us adventured on a nature hike to the outskirts of Sisimiut.

In former times, the Inuits only wore clothes made from animal hides or skins. These clothes were warm and hardwearing, and if properly looked after, could cope with the winter’s freezing temperatures in the Arctic region.

Before contact with the outside world, the Inuits did not have access to fabrics and beads—all clothing was made from skins of seal, polar bear, reindeer, foxes, rabbits, and dogs. Both men’s and women’s clothes consisted of furs, trousers, and boots, but with different cut and choice of animal skin.

The West Greenlandic outfit for the women is very colourful. They use sealskin for the kamiks, as well as embroidery and dyed sealskin leather, cut into small pieces, called avittat. The pants are almost shorts and are also made of sealskin and avittat. The anorak is made of fabric and features a complicated design with a beautiful pearl collar.

In the afternoon, we visited a local clothing school for the crafting of traditional products. The details, the creativity, and the patience to produce such pieces is fascinating. We also saw a local Inuit man perform an astonishing kayak demonstration right next to National Geographic Explorer

One would think the day was almost at the end, but we were thrilled to see the second-largest cetacean in the world, the fin whale (which can travel at 48km/h) swimming just next to our ship. What a day!

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About the Author

Madalena Patacho


Madalena was born and raised in Portugal. Her childhood was spent in Belem, surrounded by Portuguese maritime monuments and history, always dreaming about exploring the oceans. Her love for nature has led her to study biology and later a Master’s in management of natural resources, specialized in ecotourism. She has lived on Príncipe Island, off the west coast of Africa, working with local communities on a responsible tourism project. She is inspired by the principles of ecotourism and is always looking for the best ways to contribute and leave a positive footprint everywhere.

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