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Qaanaaq is Greenland's most northern town. You get there by helicopter from Thule Air Base (Pituffik) by flying straight north for about 45 minutes. The ride is spectacular! As you fly along the rocky coast line over icebergs and fiords the ever present icecap extends off to the east as far as one can see.

The number of inhabitants is about 650 and is slowly increasing. Most families here live in small single wooden houses painted in many different colors. There are no blocks with apartments.

The view from Qaanaaq over the very beautiful fiord is priceless. Because of a ridge on the sea bottom many giant icebergs usually are stranded right outside town. Every iceberg has its own shape and beauty and provides an ever changing beautiful backdrop to the shoreline. The fiord is covered with sea ice normally from mid October until late July.

Houses are usually provided by the government for a reasonable rent and are assigned based on family size and occupation position. They are all with modern facilities except there are no flush toilets. Municipal service handles garbage and toilets several times a week. Some people prefer to build their own houses. To speed up the private construction of new houses, conditions for building are very favorable: You pay, once, 10% of the materials value, but you have to build it yourself or hire someone to do it. These houses are very popular especially in the settlements. They arrive in summer by ship ready to be raised. Such a house can be raised in two or three months.

The dogs in Qaanaaq are everywhere and far outnumber human inhabitants. The Greenland huskies are close to the wolf in behavior and they are not kept as pets. So normally they are not very social to people and can be dangerous. According to law they must be chained to prevent accidents. The only exclusion is bitches with small puppies. The puppies must be chained when they get 6 months old.

The town is not commercialized but one of the local attractions is the "Polar Grill". In the season one can drop in and have a hot dog or a roasted chicken.

The Greenland trading company "Pilersuissoq A/S" has three department stores in Qaanaaq. One store is for clothing, shoes, books, papers and magazines.

The hardware store offers the most common furniture, stoves, refrigerators and freezers, radio and TV sets. Items used for hunting, sailing and dogsledging are sold here as well. If one wants to buy wine, beer or anything else with alcohol, this is the place to get it also.

The third department store is a small supermarket mostly for food. Almost at any time of the year you will be offered fresh fruit, cheese, eggs and so on, but when it is brought in with helicopter prices are quite high. Also products from the small local production department are sold in this store usually as frozen food. These are meat from whale and seal, birds and fish. The local bakery production of bread and cakes are sold here every day "fresh from the oven". Generally prices are very high in Greenland because of the transportation costs.

Qaanaaq has a well equipped and functional hospital. Usually there is only one doctor, a nurse and several health workers employed. The dentist visits the town two times a year and usually stays for about two months. All treatments in the medical centers in Greenland are free.

The hospital was built in the beginning of the 1950's when Qaanaaq was established. The totally renewed hospital, as it looks now, was finished in 1996 with up to date facilities for surgery, a modern dental clinic and accommodation for patients from the settlements around Qaanaaq.

Some times emergency evacuations are needed to Qaanaaq. It is usually by helicopter, boat, snowscooter, or dogsledge. If weather is bad, it is usualy necessary to use the old "ambulance" - a big sledge with a tent raised on it. Depending on weather and ice condition, it will be pulled by dogs or snowscooter.

All municipal administration is gathered in the Qaanaaq City Hall. The total annual budget for the district, including the settlements of Savissivik, Moriusaq, Qeqertat, and Siorapaluk, is about 5 million US dollars.

This includes kindergartens, schools , social security and care of elders. These services are partly financed by income taxes. Income tax is 43% in 1999.

The city council has seven members chosen by democratic election in the district. There is a new election every fourth year. The council meets 4 to 6 times a year in the City Hall of Qaanaaq.

The church is situated on an area just east of the school. The church was put in use in november 1954 only one and a half years after the Inuits were forced to leave the Uummannaq settlement near the Thule Air base. The official Greenland religion is Protestantism.

Usually there are services every Sunday and on special occasions like Christmas and Easter. There is one priest serving the whole district, assisted by lay catechists usually serving in the other settlements.

The altar piece showing Jesus with Inuit children is a painting specially made for the church in Qaanaaq. Originally Jesus was painted without stockings. They were added on later to fit into local tradition.

Qaanaaq is a high tech society. There are all kinds of communications to and from the outside world through satellite. This includes the daily broadcasting from Radio Greenland sending TV and radio on one channel. Other channels can be seen with the right (and expensive equipment). However, due to Qaanaaq's position in the high north, it is hard to get the signal from the satellites positioned over the equator.

Qaanaaq's position is far above the Polar Circle. For about four months every year the sun can not be seen in the sky. This does not mean that it is impossible to work outside. In winter the weather is usually extremely dry and clear. With endless numbers of stars and the moon shining on the snow and ice it is not at all dark. Only the colors have disappeared.

In fall and spring there is a short period where things seems to be more normal in changing between day and night except the colorful sunrises and sunsets last for hours.

In summer there is "midnight sun" for almost 4 months, and the weather usually is very good for long periods as precipitation is normally like in a dessert climate. Although the sun is set for a long time in winter, Qaanaaq may average as many hours of sunshine in a year as the rest of Greenland.

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