After a much needed lie in and a brunch, we launched the tender and went to Itto across the bay. The settlement consists of about 150 buildings, all painted in brick red, ochre or blue with white windows, hugging the rocky headland and surrounded by patches of snow. It is a rugged, bleak landscape – an isolated and tough life for the 350 or so Inuit inhabitants. As we tied up at the quay two men were unloading fish and seal from a small boat.
There was a reasonably well-stocked supermarket, especially in alcohol, but also selling riffles and ammunition alongside the bread, milk, whale meat and Guillaume’s Haribo sweet fix. Even more exciting was the community shower block where we had a welcome freshen up.
The locals seemed very reserved and spoke very little if any English, but a man running a craft shop was talkative, explaining that his workshop was trying to keep alive the traditional crafts by making tourist souvenirs – seal skin gloves and musk ox bone jewellery.
The best mode of transport is by quadbike in summer, but snowmobile in winter – every house has at least one parked outside – but also by huskies and sledges. The dogs are kept together in compounds, the kennels spaced out on the edge of the snow. When a quadbike goes by they all howl in unison, perhaps they recognise the driver! Guillaume fell in love with a boisterous huskie puppy who had an injured paw. It was apparently a stray and we were told by the Danish policeman that it was going to be put down as it would never be a working dog. The puppy followed us about town and the crew had to restrain the skipper from taking it aboard Boreal!
Two Danish policemen are stationed in Itto for a year each, one had just finished his stint in West Greenland. They were very helpful as to buying diesel and general information about the community. Although the crime rate is very low indeed, they mostly deal with violence due to alcohol – understandable in the long dark winters, utterly isolated by snow and sea ice.
A little wooden hut served as a ‘corner shop’. Here Michele bought us all ice creams – a real treat.
The large red school building was closed for the holidays. Children were playing round the houses and on swings in the playground. They were obviously amused by our appearance and ran away laughing when we talked to them. People were shopping or sitting in the surprisingly warm sun, washing hung outside to dry along with mush ox skins and meat – everyday scenes in an extreme environment. For us, a fascinating insight into another world.