This East Greenland district is intersected by the arctic circle
(about 66,30 N) just 100 km. north of the town Tasillaq on Ammassalik Island.
In the middle of the summer the sun is visible for almost 24 hours, while
at Christmas the days are short and dark. Like the rest of East Greenland
the district of Ammassalik is brushed by a cold sea current running along
the coast from north to south, often carrying huge amounts of broken winter
ice from the sea around North Greenland and the North Pole.
This is called Great-Ice and for long periods of the year navigation is
extremely hazardous and often impossible. Until recent times the district
has therefore been largely isolated from the outside world.
thousand years ago Eskimos (“Sarqaq” and later “Dorset
people”) managed to reach the area - presumably from the North
- by rowing along the shore in boats made from skin. During periods
of unfavourable climatic conditions the isolated communities died out and
the area would be deserted until the next immigration. It would appear that
that the district was uninhabited during most of the most of the Middle
Ages, and that the most recent arrivals of Eskimos ( this time from the
tribe of the “Thule people”) happened came during the 14th or
During the 18th century there were Eskimo settlements along the whole of
the East Greenland coast, including the fjord area by Ammassalik Island.
However, during the 19th century the population fell drastically. First
to die out where the inhabitants of the long stretch of coast from the northernmost
point of the East Greenland coast to just north of Ammassalik. Subsequently
the settlements of the southern part of the east coast became deserted because
of death and emigration to the west coast of Greenland.
During the 18th century several Danish trading stations (colonies) were
established on the west coast of Greenland and the inhabitants gradually
became Christian. Due to the isolation caused by the Great-Ice no such colonisation
of East Greenland took place, and the area remained practically unknown
to anyone outside the local population.
In 1829/30 a Danish expedition led by W.A. Graah travelled along the coast
from Cape Farewell area to the southwestern part of Ammassalik district.
In 1884 the Greenland explorer Gustav Holm succeeded in getting from the
Cape Farewell area right up to Ammassalik Fjord with a small expedition
by sailing close to the coast. “The Women’s Boat Expedition”
as it subsequently was called, wintered on the east side of Ammassalik Island.
Gustav Holm listed a total population of 413 in the small settlements of
In 1892 a new Danish expedition to the area noted that the area noted that
the population had fallen to 294. It was envisaged that the tribe wood soon
perish soon perish and in spite of the very real navigational problems,
the government decided to establish an East Greenland “colony”.
The Trading and Mission Station of Ammassalik” was founded in 1894
in the bay named King Oscar’s Harbour/ Tasiilaq Tasiilaq. The health
and general nutrition of the population improved. The mortality rate fell,
and rate fell, and the population started to increase. In 1914 it reached
599 - and today there are nearly 3000 people in the borough of Ammassalik.
To see more historical photos from our district, have a look at the Danish
Polar Centre’s website www.dpc.dk
women’s boat and kayaks Ammassalik Island, Tasiilaq harbour,
baptised Tabita, to the right Ânôq, baptised Monika. Ammassalik
district, august 1906
- which means “the infallible” an outstanding seal-
and polar bear hunter and drum dancer. Ammassalik district, August
members of The Women’s Boat Expedition. Ammassalik Island, May
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