An Arctic storm rages over the Greenland village of Ittoqqortoormiit. Photo: Daven Hafey
We’re at anchor just off the shores of Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland. The wind is blowing 74 knots, creating steep, white-capped waves only a couple hundred meters from the protection of land. The winds are so severe that large clouds of sea-spray surge across the water’s surface, carried by the power of the Arctic’s unforgiving weather. The skies are dark and heavy. There’s fresh snow on the ground. And kitchen and bedroom lights twinkle from the brightly colored houses of this Greenland village nestled safely on shore.
Welcome to the North.
Arctic Villages Home to the Inspiring People of the North
These conditions remind me what I love most about Arctic communities and the people of the North. Villages, hamlets, settlements, and small towns, dotted across these severe yet beautiful landscapes from Southwest Alaska to East Greenland. Each with their own pulse, their own dynamic, their own relationship with their surrounding waters, lands, and ice. Each following the paths of those that came before them, maintaining the old and learning new ways to not just survive in the face of the powerful Northern environment, but to thrive.
The charming Greenland village of Ittoqqortoormiit, where locals thrive even in punishing Arctic conditions, after the storm. Photo: Daven Hafey
Visitors to the North often comment how challenging, how tough it would be to live in a small village exposed to the intensities of Arctic weather. And I try to remind them that yes, conditions are indeed challenging, but for Arctic residents, these conditions are home. They are known and familiar. They might be tough, but they’re met with an equal amount of toughness, grit, resourcefulness, and intelligence.
Life Under the Midnight Sun in a Picturesque Greenland Village
Challenging doesn’t necessarily mean complicated. And I think that’s what draws visitors to Arctic communities. The simplicities. The direct relationships with the weather and the sea, with wild foods and wild landscapes, with neighbors and family. With life. No stop lights, no traffic, no waiting in line. Just internal clocks set to the rhythms of the world. The tides, the seasons. The Midnight Sun and the Polar Night.
Traditional houses on a craggy rock hillside in the West Greenland village of Uummannaq. Photo: Daven Hafey
I once met a fisherman in the West Greenland community of Uummannaq who was out looking for halibut with his son. We chatted out on the water for an hour or more about life and living. At the end, he reminded me of a key part of Northern life that draws visitors year after year: “Keep it simple. Simple is beautiful.”
Here at anchor, we’re watching the winds whip through town and whitecaps surge out to sea. The power of the weather is captivating, powerful. But over on shore, inside their colorful Greenlandic homes, are friends and families resting, laughing, sharing meals, waiting out the storm. Knowing that, as they always do, this storm will also pass, and everyone will very soon be out and about again, enjoying the richness of this land.
Keep reading: Experience Greenland: Where Should I Visit and Why?
About the Author
Daven Hafey is a Polar Shop Manager & Guide with Quark Expeditions. Born and raised in western Colorado, he moved to Alaska in 2005 and has called it home ever since. Daven spent three years as a Park Ranger in Yellowstone National Park, and four more as a Tongass National Forest Ranger on Admiralty Island in southeast Alaska. He’s guided on nearly 30 polar expeditions and has worked in regions with high densities of polar bears, gray and Arctic wolves, African lions, and African wild dogs (painted wolves).More Content by Daven Hafey