In the remote Arctic city where locals use whale tusks as walking sticks

In the remote Arctic city where locals use whale tusks as walking sticks

On a dirt road in the remote arctic town of Qaanaaq in northwest Greenland, I pass a man with a sack full of minced wholemeal bacon.

He informs me that it is actually the blubber from a narwhal. This is one of the rarest whales in the ocean, characterized by a large tusk sticking out of its head and nicknamed it "Unicorn of the Sea".

Although they are extremely illusory creatures, the waters around Qaanaaq have a rich supply of narwhal and are a major food source for the largely self-sufficient Inuit community. Everywhere I turn, I see evidence of his prominence – and the next man I meet has a cane made from a narwhal tusk.

A view of the bay off Qaanaaq with small icebergs in the water

A view of the bay off Qaanaaq with small icebergs in the water

A view of the bay off Qaanaaq with small icebergs in the water

A resident of Qaanaaq shows his huge narwhal tusk

A resident of Qaanaaq shows his huge narwhal tusk

A local carries a walking stick from a narwhal tusk

A local carries a walking stick from a narwhal tusk

A resident of Qaanaaq shows his huge narwhal tusk (left) while another local makes a walking stick of one of them (right).

A male narwhal feeding on bait fish. This whale was called the "Unicorn of the Seas".

A male narwhal feeding on bait fish. This whale was called the "Unicorn of the Seas".

A male narwhal feeding on bait fish. This whale was called the "Unicorn of the Seas".

Another eatery I see shows me narwood trees drying on his carwash.

The dried guts are often used to make clothes because the durable material is waterproof, making it ideal for harsh environments.

Just as I'm leaving, he's stuck in his wooden porch and proudly comes out with a giant narwhal tusk well over 6 feet long.

On a previous expedition to the High Arctic, I tried a narwhal prepared in a traditional Inuit style with a piece of chewing gum and skin from the carcass.

A local man and woman perform a traditional dance with sealskin jackets in front of the small museum in Qaanaaq, providing the ultimate protection from the cold

A local man and woman perform a traditional dance with sealskin jackets in front of the small museum in Qaanaaq, providing the ultimate protection from the cold

A local man and woman perform a traditional dance with sealskin jackets in front of the small museum in Qaanaaq, providing the ultimate protection from the cold

The remote city of Qaanaaq was founded in the winter of 1953, when the United States expanded an air force base in a nearby area and forcibly relocated the population

The local delicacy – known as Muktuk – was a bit hard to swallow, with the pink and gray lumps having a rubbery texture.

Although not to my liking, seal and whale fat is a necessity for those living in the Arctic wilderness, as it is an extremely rich source of vitamin C and greasy fats.

The locals use every part of every animal they hunt as the next pair I encounter underline.

A local man and woman perform a traditional dance with sealskin jackets in front of the small museum in Qaanaaq, providing the ultimate protection from the cold.

The man also wears polar bear trousers, while the lady wears traditional kamik boots lined with the same fur.

In addition to seals and whales, land mammals are hunted down at a rate enforced by the Greenlandic government to ensure that the population remains vibrant in the face of climate change.

Pauline Kristiansen and Aleqatsiaq Peary are the ancestors of the American polar explorer Robert Peary

Pauline Kristiansen and Aleqatsiaq Peary are the ancestors of the American polar explorer Robert Peary

The city of Qaanaaq has about 620 inhabitants and is located near the Canadian Arctic

The city of Qaanaaq has about 620 inhabitants and is located near the Canadian Arctic

Pauline Kristiansen and Aleqatsiaq Peary are the ancestors of the American polar explorer Robert Peary (left). The city of Qaanaaq has about 620 inhabitants (right) and is located near the Canadian Arctic

The colorful blue church in Qaanaaq, where a male choir performs, performs performances and ceremonies

Again, no piece of the animal has been wasted, and I was told that the little bone with which the lady dances is actually a polar bear penis bone.

The man who tells me this is none other than Aleqatsiaq Peary, the great-great-great-grandson of the American polar explorer Robert Peary, who was claimed to be the first to arrive at the North Pole in 1909.

Peary and his expedition companion Matthew Henson brought both children and Inuit women, and the late Harvard professor, dr. Allen Counter dedicated his career to finding the lineage.

Aleqatsiaq's English is incredibly good. He tells me that he has seen many movies to teach himself.

35-year-old Smiley, who has a bad sense of humor, seems to be the man in town. I see him singing in the men's choir later in the church and then walking down the main street with his 83-year-old grandmother Pauline.

Aleqatsiaq Peary sings in the men's choir

Aleqatsiaq Peary sings in the men's choir

Robert E. Peary claimed to be the first to arrive at the North Pole in 1909

Robert E. Peary claimed to be the first to arrive at the North Pole in 1909

Aleqatsiaq Peary sings in the men's choir (left) and his great-great-great-grandfather Robert E. Peary (1906) (right). The American polar explorer claimed that he was the first to arrive at the North Pole in 1909

The colorful houses in Qaanaaq are characterized by the rugged landscape

The colorful houses in Qaanaaq are characterized by the rugged landscape

The colorful houses in Qaanaaq are characterized by the rugged landscape

The eight-year-old is the granddaughter of Peary and like her grandson she has a contagious smile.

Aleqatsiaq, who lived briefly on the Danish mainland and also in South Greenland, says he would never leave the remote city of Qaanaaq, which was founded in the winter of 1953, when the United States expanded and forcibly relocated an air force base in a nearby area Population.

The city of 620 inhabitants provides him with everything he needs, he said.

"I am glad that explorer Peary brought me here," he muses. "I think that especially when I eat the local food, I love fermented seals, we take out the gut and bury it in the ground for months before digging it out.

"I hunted a lot, but now I have Parkinson's so it gets harder." That's why I love music and sing. "

I am not sure if I could digest the local food in Qaanaaq, but I like the surroundings more. The place exudes a calm peace that gets under your skin.

I say goodbye and say goodbye to a place to return one day, only to hear the haunting sound of the wonderful male choir again.

  • MailOnline Travel ventured on a 17-day Midnight Sun Exploration trip to Qaanaaq on a trip with expedition cruise company Hurtigruten.
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