Sunday, July 23, 2006

Sisimiut, Greenland II

I load all my gear into the Seamen's Hotel truck and get a reluctant lift from the sullen driver. I'm clearly a source of entertainment here as well, as a half dozen folks stop to stare at me wrestling my gear down to the dock, and then slowly inflating the boat. I make good time, at least until I have to walk back up to the hotel to grab the rest of my equipment.

The mist and rain return in earnest once I'm out on the water. There are dozens of boats out ahead of me, all of them hunting seal it seems. It sounds like a small battle all around me, as gunmen blast at anything remotely resembling a seal. It's a little scary, the loud rifle shots at close range. I keep hoping that no one mistakes me for something cute and furry. It feels like some backwoods part of Pennsylvania on the first day of deer season, and about as safe.

I'm not sure what drew me to the island, but it appeared out of the fog and I found a convenient rock pinnacle to tie off on. I hoped to salvage something from the day, and slowly walked around the island photographing the rocky coastline, the small patches of green tundra and heather growing in the cracks. The landscape here is far less lush than 450 miles further south, and the rocks are more rounded. The shoreline seems storm weary.

There is a small gravel beach near where I tied up, and I recognize stone patterns that were obviously manmade. One could have been a cache of some kind, stones in a rough circle, fallen in together. Near the beach stood the clear outline of a dugout house, likely similar to the one I saw earlier at the school. The roof has collapsed and there was barely any evidence of walls, just the clear excavation of a floor plan. Nearby another pile of stones bore all the markings of an Iniut grave site. Carefully stacked rocks forming a coffin shape, with long flat stones covering a moss filled hollow. When I looked closely though the loosely stacked rocks, I clearly made out a leg bone, and other smaller bones emerged from the moss.

I stare a long time, then and prod the stones a little, but can't bring myself to disturb the grave and the ancestor's rest. It seems a good spot to spend eternity.

I stop from time to time to listen for whales, but all I can hear is the whine of outboard motors and the strange, muffled whoomp of distant gunfire. I take a long circle back to town, grow wet and cold, and motor back into the harbor on fumes.

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