Photographer's Note

After about an hour ashore in Tiniteqilaq, we set out on the second stage of our fascinating journey (see previous post for story on first stage) and headed east along the Ikasartivaq Fjord. We joined the much larger Angmagssalik Fjord after about half an hour and hit some rough water and much colder winds. Heading north we had a rough ride until we able to turn north-east into the more sheltered waters of the Ikasak channel, then across a stretch of water called Ilivinga on the map, and into the Ikateq channel.

That took about an hour, and as we were traveling through the Ikateq channel, admiring the beautiful wilderness scenery, we noticed rust red blotches appearing on the mountain slopes of the northern shore of the channel. A few dozen blotches turned into a few hundred, and then they were everywhere. Our seal hunter skipper turned the boat towards the shore, and as we approached closer we could see that the blotches were rusty 44 gallon drums – thousands of them strewn across the landscape.

Our hunter told us that this was the site of an old US Air Force base that was established during World War 2 after Germany had occupied Denmark, and the Americans thought that Germany might attack the US from the north through Greenland – so the base was set up to provide a line of defence.

After the war the Americans abandoned the base and left an old hanger (see Workshop photo), a couple of dozen trucks and jeeps, and thousands of drums of aviation fuel – some empty and some still full. In the years after the war, as the drums rusted, the fuel leaked out into the Ikateq channel and the surrounding fjords. Our hunter told us that for many years the waters were polluted and had an adverse effect on their hunting.

Today, however, there is no fuel left in the drums and Mother Nature has restored the waters to their former pristine glory, but the drums are still an eyesore in such a beautiful landscape. Few people visit this place (it is cut off by the sea ice for much of the year) so I suppose it is a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

My first reaction was that the US ought to send a barge to clean up the mess, but as I walked alone around the collapsed hangar, and took photographs of the trucks and jeeps (I will post some of those later), I thought that perhaps this ‘ghost town’ should remain as an open air museum for future visitors to see. It’s an amazing place and I felt privileged to be one of the relatively few people to have visited it.

I tried to get some additional information on the base through an Internet search, but could find nothing. Nor could I find any photographs of it anywhere on the Internet (none on TrekEarth for sure) so perhaps this is one of the first to be posted.

The mountain on the left with the rather strange looking divided and ‘tilted’ peak is Mt Sarqakajik (I think I have the spelling correct - the map was hard to read) and is nearly 4,000 ft high. The mountains on the other side of the channel are on an island called Qianarteq.

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Additional Photos by David Astley (banyanman) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1231 W: 108 N: 2568] (7797)
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