Iceland review - 2002, Blaðsíða 47

Iceland review - 2002, Blaðsíða 47
ICELAND REVIEW 45 Is it strange to have your plate cleared by the only man to have performed a muscular biopsy on himself at 8000 m altitude? A lit- tle. A celebrity in the circles of extreme sports and outdoor expedi- tions, in 1983 Peroni was the first person to hike across the inland ice of northern Greenland at its widest point, covering 750 miles in 88 days – a feat that nobody has attempted since. One of the few foreigners around who speaks Greenlandic, ten years ago Peroni planted himself between Tasiilaq’s growing tourist industry and the Inuit community. Though this monopoly and the prices he charges raise some eyebrows, The Red House was set up with the goal that it be eventually taken over and run by Tasiilaq residents to promote a healthy tourist boom. If staying in Tasiilaq for more than a day or two, it is nearly impossible to miss Peroni and his Red House. In addition to organ- ising approximately 20 serious expeditions a year, The Red House organises custom boat trips for an 800 Dkr price tag, hiring out local hunters to carry groups of camera-toting tourists around the island of Ammassalik, to the ice cap in the west, or to one of the more remote settlements for a day or two. “It’s always changing here,” says Lisbeth, a Red House summer employee who is an Arctic Studies student during the year in the Netherlands. “The weather is always changing, people are always coming and going. Just when you get used to it, it changes again.” Catch it while you can On board The Big Catch, melting chunks of ice bang against the metal bottom of the boat as Vittus Ignatiussen charges in and out of smaller floes and bergs. The owner and driver of the boat, Vittus is a hunter from Tasiilaq famous for his unheard of day of hunting on which he shot three polar bears. That was ten years ago, and it hasn’t been matched since. On the eight-hour boat tour that Vittus takes us on around Ammassalik island, he controls the boat easily, watching the land with the look of somebody on a Sunday drive, familiar and appreciative of the land’s intimidating beauty in the same glance. Standing at his boat’s bow, the light rain flicks like needles with its speed, but in this sunlit pass between two black fjords, it’s tempting to stay outside. Clearing the fjords, the sun begins to set behind the architecture of the ice mountains that we and a few intermittent boats on the water quickly pass. Equally ironic and understandable is the constant talk of change in one of the oldest parts of the world. Residents feel that the friendly nature of their towns is changing. Returning tourists gripe that hunters didn’t used to charge for a ride across the bay. Weather patterns seem to be changing and traditional Inuit ways of life are disappearing. Late one evening at The Red House, a Danish ex-pat working for the government pulls out his pack of Camel straights at the front door. “If you stay here long enough, you start to become part of the history,” he comments before tak- ing his leave in front of the television for the night. The world here is in flux; Tasiilaq and its surrounding communities seem to be sit- ting on the same fence between worlds. And while its future may be unclear, one thing remains unchanged: East Greenland is quite a catch. Krista Mahr is a freelance writer from Los Angeles. On Saturdays in the Kulusuk harbour, local families pile jackets, kids and picnic supplies into their boats for afternoon rides through the bay. 40 IR302 - Grænland bs-rm 3.9.2002 12:15 Page 45
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