Welcome to Sisimiut, located 44 km north of the Arctic Circle.
The climate is arctic with temperatures down to –35 degrees Celsius in the winter and up to +20 degrees Celsius in the summer. The town is Greenland’s northernmost town with an ice-free harbour during the winter period and the southernmost with dog sledge riding and genuine Greenlandic Sledgedogs.
The municipality has the ideal surroundings for hiking, sailing, mountain biking in the summer and dog sledge, snow scooter rides and skiing in the winter. Anglers will find approx. 35 trout steams and lakes where you may sit in peace and quiet and enjoy the beautiful nature.
Hospitality is an important part of the Greenlandic culture. This is, of course, bound up in the historic part of our heritage, where we lived in small and comparatively isolated communities. The guest who came in from other places were more or less the only connections our ancestors had to the outside world and were therefore welcomed by the community.
The earliest signs of human activity in the municipality of Sisimiut are 4,500 years old. They originate from the Saqqaq culture the people of which lived in Greenland for 1,800 years. Subsequently people from the Dorset culture inhabited the district. This culture is divided into two periods: Dorset I (year 500 BC – 200 AD) and Dorset II. The people of the Thule culture – the ancestors of Sisimiut’s present population arrived to Sisimiut around year 1200 – 1300. Just like the former immigrants they came from North America. Their economy was mostly based on bags of whales, seals and reindeer. The seal in particular was important for their survival in the Arctic nature. Besides the nourishing meat, the skin was used for clothes and cover for kayaks and umiaks (women’s boats). Furthermore, the seals blubber was used as fuel for lamps, which both gave heat and light.
The Colony – Holsteinsborg
When Hans Egede arrived to Greenland in 1721, the Danish colonisation of the country began. After some unsuccessful attempts of establishing whaling locations in the district in the end of the 1720´s, a colony called Sydbay was established in 1756 at the locality Ukiivik of the Isortoq inlet. The locality was a former hangout for Dutch whale hunters. Later on, they decided to call the place Holsteinsborg after the priest of the mission hostel, Count Johan Ludvig Holstein. After some years, it became clear that the place was not ideal as a colony.
In 1759 a nonconformist chapel was built, by the whaling lodge in Asummiut. In 1764, the colony Holsteinsborg was moved to Sisimiut. When the nonconformist chapel (the present tourist office) was moved in 1767, the colony was finally gathered at one place. Already in 1773, the construction of the Berthel Church (the blue church) began. It was opened in 1775. The church is the oldest preserved church in Greenland and is still used, e.g. for educating candidates for confirmation.
In 1801, a severe smallpox epidemic raged at the Greenland West Coast, with fatal consequence for many people in Sisimiut.
However, due to the great catch possibilities, the district was soon repopulated. Until the disappearance of the large right whales in the end of the 1700s, the colony’s economy was based on whaling. Later on, the export of seal blubber and skin and dried and salted fish kept the economy running.
Although a preservation factory and a shipyard were established – the first of their kind in Greenland – in 1927 and 1931 respectively, the development of the town was very slow until the end of the Second World War. The first hospital (the present Kalaallit Forsikring (Kalaallit insurance)) was built in 1880 and the second one (the present kindergarten Âjo) in 1926. The present hospital, which holds 21 beds, originates from 1957 and was renovated in 1999. The new church, which is situated on a hillock, was built in 1926 and expanded in the 1980s.
Just below the church to the north you will find the old part of town. Here the local museum is situated in most of the buildings – in the old colony manager residence and the old house – the oldest building of the town constructed in Sydbay in 1756 and moved to the town in 1764.
Culture And Ecucation
Sisimiut whose number of citizens has doubled since 1960 is an important industrial and educational town in Greenland. The first actual educational institution – the technical school – was established in connection with the shipyard in 1946. Since then, Knud Rasmussenip Højskolia (folk high school) was among other things established in 1962. With an emphasis on the teaching on the Greenland’s culture and history it now plays a significant role in the Greenlandic society. The folk high school has been expanded several times since then. In 1967, “Arnat Ilinniarfiat” – the women’s high school – was established in connection with the school. Later on, the building and construction school, the language school and the interpretation education followed. HTX (higher technical examination) and the Arctic University are the latest addition of the educational establishments in Sisimiut.
There will be a great chance to experience the Greenlandic culture. Hikes to nature areas close to Sisimiut are arranged where you will see the Arctic flora and how people have used the various plants. A close insight into the Greenland art wares is recommendable by means of a guided tour where you among other things visit the kayak club, the art ware workshop and skin workroom. You can experience the Greenlandic culture simply by going to “kaffemik” (“Please, come to our house for coffee”) or by having a dinner and hear about the host’s daily life. It is most recommendable to experience the ancient hunting place on Teleøen, where the guide will tell you all about the life 4500 years ago.