We had just stepped ashore in Qeqertat when the small boat approached the beach, dodging its way in between icebergs. Strapped across its bows was a traditional hunting kayak, with a harpoon and sealskin float attached. Trailing behind the three men in the boat was a narwhal, the fruit of the hunt.
We had come to Qeqertat, a small island community several kilometers from Qaanaaq in Northwest Greenland in our search for wildlife on the fringes of the Last Ice Area. We were told in Qaanaaq that narwhal were to be found in the area at this time of year. We were also warned off going further into the Fjord than Qeqertat, as people were worried that we would disrupt the hunt by our presence.
Clive Tesar of WWF and Nick Clark of Al Jazeera English
on the Last Ice Area and visiting Qeqertat:
On our way in yesterday, we scanned the waters, but saw no sign of the famous tusked whales. Now here in front of me was evidence that they not only inhabit the area, but also help support this community in pursuing a traditional lifestyle and economy.
Some of the whale was shared out immediately with the small cluster of people who ran down to the beach. Other parts were cut and hung from platforms to dry. A final portion was packed up and set aside for transport to Qaanaaq, to be frozen and sold.
When people took a break from their chores, I took the opportunity to pass out some information on our trip, and on the last ice area in both Greenlandic and Danish. I also spoke with a couple of the local people who spoke English. One of the women, Nina, read out parts of the information to the other people on the beach. She later told me that they would like to talk further to WWF about the information we had brought, but they would first like some time to absorb it. In the months and years to come, we certainly hope to speak more with the people of Qeqertat, and with the other people living on the fringes of the last ice area.