Saturday, 29 May 2010

Greenland blog 16: Maniitsoq - life on the edge

Docking at Maniitsoq, Greenland. Image copyright Margaret Sharrow, 2008.

My original plan was to spend a few days in Nuuk, take the ferry overnight to Maniitsoq, and spend two nights there until the ferry returned on its southward journey. However, once again I had a problem because I hadn’t prebooked my accommodation. No hostel beds were available, and the cheapest hotel single room that the helpful woman in the Nuuk tourist office could find cost £90 (about $140 US). At that price, I thought I might as well change my ferry ticket, spend two extra nights on board, and have the chance to make stops at Sisimiut, Aasiaat, and the elusive Ilulissat. Actually there is nothing elusive about Ilulissat, except in my previous budgeting, as it is the most likely place for reporters to be filmed ranting about climate change while standing in front of the glacier, which is less than a kilometer’s easy drive from the airport. 

And so I found myself having an early morning glimpse of Maniitsoq dock for twenty minutes, not long enough to risk taking a walk. So what was I missing? Aside from being yet another beautiful sunny day...

Maniitsoq is a settlement on a small island quite close to the main landmass of Greenland. It is a top destination for fishing, snowmobiling, hiking and skiing. As with all outdoor pursuits in Greenland, a greater degree of preparedness is required than when venturing into the ‘wild’ areas closer to human infrastructures, such as many of the national parks in Europe or the United States. Venturing out without knowledge of, and respect for nature, is ill advised. 

Maniitsoq itself, like many Greenlandic settlements, is perched on the edge between rocky cliffs and the sea. The bridge in the photograph leads to a road that winds perilously along this edge, cars and trucks parked along its length, before winding back to a higher level of houses, apartments and industrial buildings. It gave the simultaneous impression of nowhere to go, and limitless space, highlighting how much our modern sense of being able to move depends on human infrastructures, such as roads and rail (there are no trains anywhere in Greenland). It was natural to wonder what it would be like to live in such a place. Of course, from the perspective of having a small boat, horizons expand. And as we set sail past Maniitsoq, there was ample evidence of this in the form of several isolated houses scattered a few miles along the coast, fishing/hunting lodges with no other connection to the main settlement except these private boats. Places without neighbours, roads, electricity, running water, and possibly telephone signal. Just one or two people, tiny in the vast sweep of nature.

30 August 2008 08:15 recalled 20 January 2011


then lope over to my Greenland blog   

or enter my open call for an exhibition - send me your images of ULTIMATE STILLNESS

and stay tuned for another episode tomorrow!

No comments: