Monsters and Glaciers April 17, 2017 09:56

Ilulissat is a major town on the western coast of Greenland and an entry point for visitors to the spectacular Disko Bay where huge glaciers carve. It was different to my imagination of what Greenland would be like. Eerily beautiful and ancient- no roads linking the settlements huddled on the coast. We were there in Summer and the number of large European cruise ships arriving was disconcerting.

There are more sled dogs than people in the town.

I took way too many pictures of this spectacular landscape to include them here, but the town itself provided a small glimpse into the rich Greenlandic culture. 

In Greenlandic the word 'tupilak' means an ancestor's soul or spirit, and previously it referred to mysterious, sinister spirits. They have a long history in the Greenlandic culture and are based on mythical creatures in Greenlandic Inuit mythology. In their original forms - they were considered magical and dangerous and had very specific uses. Once foreigners arrived, locals began producing 'copies' of tupilaks for the curious outsiders. to reveal a real tupilak totem was considered too dangerous. Now, carved tupilak "monsters" are a very popular tourist purchase and can be made of bone, stone, wood.

A small museum and art gallery provided more glimpses into a fascinating and rich culture. Of course, Greenlandic inuits only wear traditional clothes for special occasions.

Something very beautiful about seal skins- every one is different of course. This is a banquet in the art gallery made from three furs.

Next to Ilulissat harbour is the Jakobshavn Glacier, also known as Sermeq Kujalleq in Greenlandic. It produces 10% of all of Greenland's icebergs- and they are usually huge. The largest one was 12.5 kilometres across and carved in 2015.  Some can drift up to 4,000kms before they finally melt. Scientists believe the Titanic's iceberg came from here. The pic above are two glaciers freshly carved hanging around Ilulissat harbour and below the glacier itself. 

Above a section of Disko Bay glacier further up the Greenland coast. For scale - it is about 1000metres high.

19th century painting depicting Illulissat locals watching the arrival of a foreign ship and things are never going to be the same again.