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Qaqortoq and Hvalsey

Qaqortoq and Hvalsey

Today we woke up docked in the town of Qaqortoq. It is the biggest town in South West Greenland and the capital of Kujalleq, one of the provinces of Greenland. After breakfast I headed ashore and explored what Qaqortoq has to offer.

First stop was the tourist information office, which has a large selection of souvenirs, maps and postcards. I decided to take the opportunity to buy some postcards and stamps and went outside to a small seating area to write my postcards whilst admiring the view.
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At 10am we had all arranged to meet at the museum for a guided tour and explanation of the Thule culture.  img_0312 img_0319

The Thule inuit came all the way from Alaska and emigrated eastward across the arctic region. They landed in Greenland around 1000AD and were very quick to colonize this part of the island. The museum contains a number of artifacts such as kayaks, seal bladders, harpoons and clothing. The Thule used dog sleds to travel over land, but quick boats such as kayaks allowed them to move fast and follow migrating animals for hunting. This was a very important part of their culture and they would use every part of the seals and the whales that they hunted. Seal blubber, for example was turned to oil, which was used in lamps as well as heating turf houses and igloos. The Thule culture is very important to Greenlanders who still keep it alive by hunting seal and whales and by building their own kayaks using traditional methods.

After the museum we have a couple of hours free time to explore the town. As you wander around the town you can’t help but notice various sculptures, which have been carved into the rocks. The amazing Stone and Man project was created by a Greenlandic artist called Aka Hoegh. She commissioned artists from around Scandinavia to create shapes and reliefs from natural stone. Her wish is to turn Qaqortoq into a sculpture gallery, which will never be completed.

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One of the other must see sights in Qaqortoq is the fountain. Not only is it the oldest fountain in Greenland, dating from 1928, it is also the only fountain in the whole of Greenland!

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After days of not seeing any locals or even a town it was nice to visit a real Greenlandic Town and get a sense of living on this unique island. After a very interesting morning we headed back to the ship.

Once we were all on board we set sail for Hvalsey. Just as we were settling down to lunch a cry came up that a humpback whale had been spotted just ahead of the ship. Running down to the cabin to grab my camera I then went on to the deck where everyone was crowded around trying to see the whale. We slowly approached the whale, which allowed us to get a really good look as it swam and dived in front of us. It was a definite highlight of the trip and I was so excited by the whole experience.

After lunch we headed to Hvalsey, which is the site of Greenland’s largest and most preserved Norse ruins. The origional farmstead was established by Eric the Reds uncle in the late 10th Century and it was a major centre in South Greenland until the 15th Century. The most interesting site at Hvalsey is the church, with its rock walls still standing next to a whole complex of dwellings and barns. A wedding, which took place at the curch in 1408 is the last documented event to occur during Norse times in Greenland. The couple left Greenland and settled in North Iceland in 1413. Over the next 100 years the last norse settlements in Greenland slowly died out.

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After an explanation about the history of the site and the events that took place there we were free to walk around and explore the surrounding area. A few of us climbed to the hill overlooking the ruins, where we saw some amazing views of the settlement and the Qaaortup Imaa Fjord. After a couple of hours we made our way back to the small jetty where we landed and took the zodiacs back to Rembrandt.