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  • Janette Kerr Land of Ice

The ever-changing ice

I haven’t posted for a while. Just found a note I’d written to myself that says ‘the weather is very erratic’. Indeed it is; I think since the last Blog I wrote it has changed many times.



A week ago I walked across the frozen bay and a bit further with Roswitha and her pal Tinor.

It takes longer than I thought. Walking into direct glare of the sun, I turned back when I felt my skin burning. As soon as I turned back it felt cooler, which was a relief. The whiteness of the snow makes it difficult to judge where you are putting your feet, and treking back across the bay was just exhausting.

The snow, churned up by the dog sleds and snow mobiles, is melting, so it’s an unpleasant slog. In parts there are deep cracks beginning to open up – a prelude to the big spring thaw. I made a quick drawing while we were over the other side, but it’s difficult to draw when others are around.



Last night it rained – how mad is that! The temperature has too – it feels too warm – it’s been in the +s, only falling to just under 0°C at night. I’ve turned down the heating. Have we just become used to the cold I wonder? The bay view continues to change too. Overnight icebergs cruise in and then disappear – continuing on their journeys - with no destination in mind?



We too are spreading out. Roswitha and Tinor have left, Roswitha to return home to Germany, and Tinor to travel to the USA; Sonia leaves for Poland on Saturday.


I gave the Oqatssut school children a workshop in making solargraphic cameras, with translations from English to Greenlandic by their teacher and a couple of the older pupils, keen to try out their English on me – 300% better than my Greenlandic. We then trouped round in a little group putting them up and cheered every time we removed the tape from the pinholes. So there are now cameras set up beside each of their houses and Oqaatsut is well covered, and I have new friends!


Meanwhile.... I am currently in the busy metropolis of Ilulissat for a few days. I left Oqatssut on Tuesday by boat, and traveled through one hell of a lot of ice floating on the sea, with fantastically-shaped bergs towering over us. There was a lot of bumping over ice and reversing and then going forward, seeking clear routes through the ever-changing ice. Hats off to Andreas who skillfully navigated though it all.


Illussat glimpsed through the back window as we manoeuvre our way into the harbour (looks like one of my drawings).

It was an exciting trip; I managed to film quite a lot of it with my Go Pro before the batteries gave out in the low temperatures. I’ll be editing some of this later and will post extract (forgot to bring that bit of equipment with me to Ilulissat). I return to Oqatssut on Saturday for the last 3 and a bit weeks of my time in Greenland.

Here in Ilulissat I’ve been given accommodation in a block of student flats (I'm in the blue block with the crane above the building), and I have a flushing toilet and loads of running water!! And vegetables from the supermarket! This is all very, very exciting for someone who has spent the last 3 weeks without these things!


I’m working with a group of students at the college here. Students’ education is FREE in Greenland!!! Whatever ages you are; you (your family if you have one) can also live in a free student flat of your own! This is education as it should be…free for all (Boris Johnson - I hear you’re planning on cost cutting by reducing the numbers of nursery school staff required – what the fuck are you doing!!???). Even the canteen here is heavily subsidised – one price and one hot meal on offer each day. The students come from many areas of Greenland – small remote settlements and villages, even from Nuuk the capital, as the college here has more courses to offer. This stops everything being concentrated in one place, which, again, is just such enlightened thinking. I just despair of the British Tory government. 'Levelling up' is an absolute joke! When will people wake up!


Okay... meanwhile.. back in the classroom, we’ve introduced ourselves to each other (lots of swift translations from English to Greenlandic/Danish, and Greenlandic to English going on, although quite a few have a pretty good grasp of English), then they’ve each built camera obscuras out of cardboard boxes (and they worked!), and made pinhole cameras. There was a little crazy moment when I tried to cut up the photographic paper having first climbed into a cupboard – it being the only dark space we could find – but I overheated and started to feel claustrophobic and panicked, so we quickly gave this idea up. Plus there was no room for a student as well. Fortunately a room was found in the basement - where the lights didn’t automatically turn on as soon as anyone entered the area – so much for high-tech developments that have no consideration for art projects! I’ve also tried to do some experimental drawing with them, but not sure this has gone so well – maybe the ideas got lost in translation. However Flavia and I just ran a test on her solargraphic camera put up a month ago and we have an image.



The sounds of the dogs are still accompanying me; from where I am staying I can see a pack across on the rocks and snow. Ilulissat is a town built up the side of a hillside currently covered in snow although this is fast melting to expose the dark rocks beneath; there are a lot of wooden walkways with steps, and houses on stilts. Most people live in apartments, which I’m told are allocated by the municipality – you take what you are offered (there’s a waiting list). Cheap rents and bills. Ilulissat is a tourist town, with lots of people arriving and passing though. I've had very little time to wander about - been to Knud Rasmussen's house museum (lot of photos of Knud), but disappointingly the art museum is shut indefinitely. Will take more photos before I leave.




A lot of building work is going on in this town – local people need places to live, and probably also for tourists, since when the international airport is completed, it will be even busier. There were more explosions from the new site today as more of the hill is removed. I think I’ll be pleased to return to the quiet life of Oqatssut despite the lack of some services!


I spoke too soon about the snow disappearing – it’s snowing again. Sorry about the uninspiring view from the window but just to say that it's 11.45pm and its still light outside and I must go to sleep.





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