North of the Arctic Circle
Sisimiut is situated on the westcoast of Greenland, 100 km's north of the Arctic Circle.
The population of Sisimiut is 5.400 as recorded in the beginning of 2006. The Arctic climate of Sisimiut has a temperature range of up to 20 degrees Celsius in the summer and down to - 35 degrees Celsius in the winter. Sisimiut is the most northern icefree town in the winter and the most southern town for dog-sledging.
The main trade is fishing. Small and large trawlers and as well as cutters have their main port in Sisimiut. They fish shrimps, salmon, Greenland Halibut and cod. Hunting is also another mean of livelihood. Animals that are normally hunted are seals, walrus, Beluga Whale, narwhale, reindeer and musk oxen. The Royal Greenland factory is the largest within Greenland and is also the one of the most modern shrimp-shelling factories in the world.
History of Sisimiut
The earliest known inhabitants of the Municipality of Sisimiut were from the Saqqaq culture dating back about 4500 years. This group of people lived along the coast of Greenland approximately 1800 years before eventually disappearing.
The next culture group to emerge was the Dorsets. Of these people, there were two migrations; Dorset I from 500 BC - 200 AD, followed by Dorset II. We only find traces of Dorset I in Sisimiut. People of the Thule culture arrived around 1200 - 130 AD and, like the migrants before them, also came from North America.
From the beginning, the sea and the land have provided the livelihood for residents of Greenland: The main industries historically were based on whaling, sealing and caribou. The seal was especially important for survival in the Arctic. It provided, not only nutritious meat, but also fur for clothing and building material for kayaks and women's boats. The blubber was used as well. It was fuel for the lamps, which were both a source of light and heat.
The Danish colonisation of Greenland began with the arrival of Hans Egede in 1721 After some failed attempts to establish whaling stations in the area in the end of the 1720's the colony Sydbay (Ukiivik) at the mouth of the Isortoq-fjord was founded. This place was former used by the Dutch whalers as their resort.
Later it was decided to rename the resort Holsteinsborg after the leader of the Mission College Count Johan Ludvig Holstein. However, Ukiivik's importance began to decline after some years in 1759 a missionhouse was established in the whaling station of Asummiut.
In 1764 the colony was moved to present day Sisimiut and with the removal of the missionhouse, the present day tourist office, in 1767 the colony was gathered at one place. Already in 1773 the local people began to build the Berthel church (the blue church) and it was consecrated in 1775. This church is the best kept old church in Greenland and is still used for confirmation lessons and meetings for the parochial church council.
In 1801 a smallpox epidemic raged through the westcoast of Greenland, killing a large number of the inhabitants in Sisimiut. However, the community was quickly re-populated due to good hunting and fishing opportunities and until the end of the 1800's, when the big whales disappeared, the economy in the area was based on whaling. Later the exportation of fur and blubber from the seal and dried salted fish were the main sources of income for the community.
Even though a fish factory (1927) and a shipyard (1931) were established in Sisimiut - the first ones in Greenland - the development was very slow until the end of the 2.nd world war. The first hospital, now housing insurance company Kalaallit forsikring, was built in 1880, the second one, now housing a daycarecentre, was built in 1926. Present day hospital with approx. 30 beds was built in 1956.
The "new" church was built in 1926 and later extended. In the immediate vicinity of the church the old part of Sisimiut with the local museum and the tourist office is located Sisimiut is an important industrial and educational centre in Greenland.
The first real educational school, the industrial arts and crafts-school, was built in co-operation with the shipyard in 1946. Later the Knud Rasmussen folk high school was established. This school has a leading role in Greenlandic society, mostly focused on the cultural life of Greenland based on the history of the country. In addition to the school the women's high school (Arnat Ilinniarfiat) was established.
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