National Geographic Explorer traveled southwest from Kangerlussuaq overnight beneath shimmering aurora borealis, heading down along the granite shores Greenland’s longest fjord, before turning north to Sissimiut. The morning dawned clear and bright, and weather throughout the day was exceptionally fine, with low winds and bright sunshine. As the second largest settlement in Greenland, Sissimiut is a community of roughly 6,000 people and a major regional hub.
The houses and buildings in Sissimiut look as though they’ve been taken from a typical Scandinavian town—and in fact, some of them were. One church, for example, was built and disassembled in Denmark, then shipped to Greenland. The intervention of government officials was required when it mysteriously became “stuck” in Norway for a year. Unlike the buildings in arctic Canada and Alaska, those in Greenlandic towns are painted in bright colors—typically reds and blues and greens and yellows—that signify their function or the owner’s occupation. Greenlanders build their houses perched on the granite bedrock to prevent them from melting and sinking into the permafrost.
Guests spent a few hours wandering through town, taking photographs and learning about Sissimiut’s history and culture from our local guides. Following our return to the ship, we were treated to a demonstration of traditional Greenlandic kayak rolling, a critical skill for anyone venturing out on the icy ocean in a kayak.