Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Siorapaluk, the northermost community in the planet

Siorapaluk is an inuit settlement located in northern Greenland, on the west coast by Robertson Fiord, only 1362 km from the North Pole.

Qaanaaq, the area's main village, is less than 100 km to the south.

Siorapaluk is also the world's northernmost inhabited settlement (*)

Coordinates:  77° 47′ N, 70° 38′ W
Population:  ~ 70.

Siorapaluk reflects on the calm sea waters that bath its sandy beach

Siorapaluk means "little Sands", after the small sandy beach in front of the village. 

 Sand and ice

The settlement is as far as you can go north in Greenland and still have electricity, toilets and a shop. And TV, and internet.
Somehow, the last outpost of civilization...

Houses are generally well maintained and painted red, with a few in yellow or blue.

 Typical village house

 The local shop and post office

The church at Siorapaluk, with the side tower bell.

 The new school

View from school downwards to the sea in a sunny day

Many of the inhabitants are direct descendants of the last migration of Inuit from Canada in the past century. The main source for living comes from nature - there is good hunting and fishng in the area: birds, foxes and hares, seals and walruses.

The sledding craft is a daily job in this part of the world.

Trips by dog sled out into Robertson Fiord are a small extra income from summer tourists.

Returning home

Average temperature varies from the - 20ºC in winter to a few degrees above zero in summer (with records of -60, + 18ºC). High summer days have 24h daylight, but even that is usually not enough to get warm.

In recent years, though, the climate is less regular, there has been changes in ice thickness and higher temperatures.

Tall sandstone mountains surround the village, in tones of red and purple, ending at the sea in a narrow sand track. Farther, a glacier is visible in the bottom of the small Robertson fiord.

Long shadows as the only means of transport - dog sled - slides to the low sun:

(*) as a native community


Mark said...

Incredible! That is all I can say.Is it possible to stay there? We visited Ilullisat in March. Trip of a lifetime

Mário R. Gonçalves said...

I suppose the nearest accomodation you can find is in Qaanaaq or Uummannaq, Mark. It's a short heli-flight away...

Unknown said...

Great article, but incorrect. The northern most community in the world is Resolute, NU. It's closer to the North Pole, and has a much larger population.

Mário R. Gonçalves said...

How can a lower latitude be closer to the pole? I keep what I wrote.

Unknown said...

Hi Mario.

Lovely photos and an interesting read. Not wanting to be a pedant, but there are a few more northerly settlements, including:

Longyearbyen, Svalbard - arguably the northernmost proper "town" at 78°13′N
Ny Ålesund, Svalbard - the most northerly civilian settlement, albeit as a research village, at 78°55′30″N
Alert, Nunavut - The northernmost permanently inhabited place on earth, although not as a permanent residence, rather by a rotation of scientific and military personnel, at 82°30′5″ N

Mário R. Gonçalves said...

Thank you Ben, you are right about Longyearbyen and Ny Alesund, both located at higher latitude than Siorapaluk. But I meant the northernmost community, as a native settlement, inhabited for a long historic period.

Svalbard never had a native population. Ny Alesund was founded as a mining resort and is now inhabited by a rotating crew of international scientists. Longyearbyen was founded from nothing, around 1900, for tourist and mining purposes, and its population called from abroad. Though I love those places, they are not as genuine arctic settlements as the Greenlandic ones. IMHO, of course.

Unknown said...

Hi Mario,

Yes - you do raise a good point, which was in the back of my head when I posted. You're quite correct to say that the population of Svalvbard (well, human anyway) didn't develop "organically".

I notice from your blog that you've also read The Ice Museum. Great book. I've also held a long draw to and fascination with the north (and south! Yet to make it to Antarctica though - the closest I've been is Tierra del Fuego). Definitely going to need to read more of your entries :)

Heading back to the Arctic soon (To Svalbard, incidentally!) to feed my addiction!

Unknown said...

How about Alert NU?
They did put an asterix in their document.

Mário R. Gonçalves said...

Alert NU is a both a military base and a weather observatory, built by Americans and Canadians in a no man's land. So, as the places I already referred to, it's not a genuine settlement of local inhabitants, that would be inuit. It's history only started in the 20th century, as a station with under 100 military and scientific personnel.

Nevertheless, it's indeed the northernmost permanently inhabited site on Earth.

Fred said...

Did you know that Siorapaluk was Jean Malaurie's base camp? He launched his expeditions from there, and described much of Siorapaluk's features in his famous book "The Last Kings of Thule". I dare dream that many of today's inhabitants of the settlement are the grandchildren of Malaurie's Inuit fellows of that time... Great people and great place.

Mário R. Gonçalves said...

His "Ultima Thule" is one of my favorite arctic books. He is rather underestimated, isn't he ' (In spite of a bit self-regarding).

Fred said...

Hello Mário,
Malaurie is well regarded in the french-speaking world, and maybe understimated elsewhere, I don't know. Anyway, he is 95 now! Do you know if the people in Siorapaluk remember him?