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July 14, 2003


Bjorn had to tell me at least 5 times where we were going in Greenland, and I was relieved to find out that the town was generally referred to in short form, as Kanger. Initially, I expected Kangerlussuaq to be a decent-sized Greenlandic town, self-sufficient and normally functioning. In Schenectady, when someone suggested we may get into Kanger too late for dinner, that there’s only one place to get dinner and that they only serve during certain hours, I readjusted my picture of Kanger a small, mostly-native, rural town with limited resources. Needless to say, neither of these pictures fit. Kanger is located at the head of an ~100-mile-long fjord, in a setting of glacially-sculpted hill which floored me. The location offers both protection and ship access, which is why the US chose Kanger as the site of a US military base during the Cold War… which is how Kanger got its start. As a result, the buildings are boxy, functional, matching, making the town more institutionalized than individualized. But, as Bjorn points out, they've been painted bright colors.

[View of Kanger with rainbow. Photo: Bjorn.]

In post-Cold War times, the town has become the home of Greenland’s major airport, which is little more than a rural airway. There are few actual houses, few signs of natives carrying on as natives; most of the people there are there to support the airport, and many of them are imported from Denmark. Adam’s story captures it better, so here again is the link:

Bjorn and I climbed a ridge up from Kanger the first night we were there, and less than an hour walk from town we were standing atop glacially-smoothed rock, aside a narrow lake tucked just behind the ridge where it could surprise us when we reached the top. Looking upvalley, we could just see the icecap from where we were standing. Below, rivers of glacial meltwater raged milky-gray, and the smooth rock ridges went on and on and on around us.

[Kanger from above. Photo: Bjorn]

[Down-fjord. Photo: Bjorn.]

[And the view up-valley. Barely visible is the ice cap, behind the hills left of center.]

Posted by beth at July 14, 2003 11:49 PM