Ikateq: Debris and Discovery


Ikateq Airbase

Ikateq Fjord

East Greenland

August 28, 2015


If I had had a vote I would have voted “no.”

Since I didn’t have a vote, and without any discussion, our tour proceeds up Ikateq Fjord to visit an abandoned United States Airbase built during World War II.

On this occasion, dictatorship trumps democracy.

But why would we want to spend any time at an obsolete gravel airstrip and the adjacent forlorn remains of construction equipment and the rubble of overturned oil drums, discarded and left to rust and decay?

The scenery surrounding the airbase is as dramatic and pristine as any I have seen here in East Greenland.  Yet, is there something moving and compelling and even attractive about this detritus of the not so distant past?

The local population agrees.  Folks come here on an excursion with family and children.  The adults sit and chat and smoke.  The kids climb and explore and play atop the ghostly remains of a giant erector set.

No, it’s not “Six Flags Over Greenland.”  More like “Disney Debris.”

But the kids are having a great time, and I’m having a great time watching the kids having a great time.

Sometimes it pays to deposit my vote in my pocket and submit to the decision of the director.   After all, I already cast my vote when I signed up for the tour.   Now it’s time to play and explore.


Here’s one other less optimistic description:


Bluie East Two. It’s a United States base in a narrow strait which was a US army base during World War II and active from 1942-1947.

Strewn across the landscape are thousands of barrels that are still leaking fuel. To this day, this and other bases like it are yet to be cleaned up. Meanwhile the politicians argue about who should do the job. The Inuit call these barrels “American Flowers.”

It’s kind of a tragic feeling that catches you while wandering around in this man made garbage pile in the middle of this magnificent and silent nature.  Such a contrast. The surroundings are beautiful; there is a narrow stream that runs from a big lake down to the sea and photogenic high mountains (over 1200 m) on both sides.

Video URL: