Saturday, 16 July 2011


Ivittuut: view from the tea house in the abandoned mining settlement

We were not due to arrive in Ivittuut until 14:00.  That left plenty of time in the morning for lectures.  In fact there were no less than seven lectures between 09:30 and 13:00 in three different rooms, in three different languages, by four different lecturers.
As we approached the old mining site of Ivittuut we scanned the grassy slopes for Muskox.  It was well known that this is an area they frequent.  Sure enough we spotted at least ten of the wooly beasts.  Two of them were close enough to the shoreline for everyone to get a good look at them.
As we dropped anchor, our Expedition Leader Anja spotted a muskox walking towards the very museum we wanted to visit!
The Expedition Team went to shore first to establish a safety perimeter.  The team was watching not only for muskox but also for Polar Bears.
Apparently the muskox that was heading to the museum was a regular visitor and was somewhat used to people.  He continued straight to the back yard of the museum and seemed to be content to browse on the Willow shrubs. 
After about an hour the muskox had finally had enough of people and with a snort, bolted off towards the hills.
Ivittuut:  Cryolite (white) and Siderite (brown)
Ivittuut is an abandoned cryolite mine and was most active during world war II. After Denmark was occupied by Germany in the 2nd World War, Denmark was no longer able to defend or to supply Greenland.  An agreement was made with the United States that the U.S. would take over those responsibilities for the duration of the war.  As partial payment the united states were allowed to mine for cryolite.  At the time, cryolite was highly valued as an essential ingredient in the process of making aluminum.  Since then cheaper alternatives have been found.  In addition, after the war there wasn’t the heavy demand for aluminum. Eventually the mine was shut down.

Today there is an amazing rock and mineral museum with fine examples of many minerals from Greenland.  The old buildings still stand.  It was really great to wander around the abandoned houses.  We could see white chunks of cryolite and sparkling brown siderite everywhere!