Sisimiut (Danish: Holsteinsborg) is a town in west-central Greenland, situated on the coast of the Davis Strait, about 320 km (200 mi) north of Nuuk. It is the administrative center of Qeqqata Municipality and the second largest city in Greenland, with a population of 5,460 people in 2010.
The place where the city of today is located began to be inhabited 4,500 years ago. The first inhabitants were the Inuit peoples of the Saqqaq culture, Dorset culture, and later the Thule people, whose descendants make up the majority of today’s population. Artifacts from ancient settlements can be found throughout the region, favored in the past for their abundant fauna, particularly the marine mammals, which provided livelihoods for these ancient hunting peoples. Sisimiut’s modern population is a mixture of Inuit and Danish peoples, who first settled in the region in the 1720s under the leadership of the Danish missionary, Hans Egede.
Today, Sisimiut is the largest business center north of the capital Nuuk and is one of the fastest growing cities in Greenland. Fishing is the main industry in Sisimiut, although the city has a growing raw material industry. KNI and its subsidiary Pilersuisoq, a state-run warehouse chain in Greenland, are headquartered in Sisimiut. Architecturally, Sisimiut is a mix of traditional, single-family houses and collective housing, with apartment blocks created in 1960 during a period of expansion in Greenland’s cities. Sisimiut is still expanding in the area north of the port, on the shores of Kangerluarsunnguaq Bay, reserved for a suburb with modern housing that will be built in the 2010s. Sisimiut has several basic and vocational schools that provide education to city dwellers and of small settlements in the region. The new Taseralik Culture Center is the second cultural center to be established in Greenland, after Katuaq in Nuuk.
The city has its own bus route, and is the country’s northernmost partially ice-free port, a transport base for west and northwest Greenland. Supply ships leave the commercial port for small settlements in more remote regions of the Uummannaq fjord, the Upernavik Archipelago, and to distant Qaanaaq in northern Greenland. The city’s airport is served by Air Greenland, offering connections to other cities on the west coast of Greenland, and through Kangerlussuaq airport to Europe.
Sisimiut is located on the west coast of Greenland, about 50 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle and halfway between Nuuk and Disko Bay.
The city is located at the tip of the peninsula between the two fjords of Kangerluarsuk Tulleq in the north and Amerloq in the south. Behind the town is the local mountain Nasaasaq (Kællingehætten), which at 784 meters forms a barrier between the town and the rest of the peninsula. Kangerluarsunnguaq Bay divides the city. There are also numerous islands in front of the city, of which Qeqertarmiut is the largest.
The city is the end point (more frequent direction of travel) or starting point of the Arctic Circle Trail, which is well known in the trekking scene and runs through the west Greenland coastline at its widest point between Sisimiut and Kangerlussuaq.
Until the colonial days
The oldest traces of settlement go back to 2500 BC. BC and come from members of the Saqqaq culture. Subsequently, the area was inhabited by the Dorset culture. In the 15th century, European whalers came to the area and traded with the now resident Inuit.
After Hans Egede founded his mission station on Håbets Ø in 1721, attempts were made to found another settlement in 1724. This was the place Nipisat 15 km south of today’s Sisimiut. The trading post was burned down by Dutch whalers as early as 1725. In 1729 the trading post was rebuilt and left in 1731, whereupon the whalers let it burn down again. The whalers used the place Ukiivik 33 km north of today’s Sisimiut for the barter with the Kalaallit.
In 1756 Jørgen Holm and Anders Olsen founded the colony Sydbay in Ukiivik, which was soon named after Niels Egede Holsteinsborg, named after Johan Ludvig von Holstein, the chairman of the Missionskollegiet, which was responsible for the Danish Mission in Greenland. In 1759 Niels Egede founded a mission lodge in Asummiut, which he wanted to call Missionens Ønske. Because of the poor fishing and trading opportunities in Ukiivik, the colony was moved in 1764 to the place of today’s city, across from Asummiut. In 1767 the mission box was also moved to Sisimiut and thus united with the colony. In 1773 the church in Sisimiut, still standing today, was built, part of which was paid for by the Greenlanders in the form of whale blubber and whale whale.
The population subsequently grew rapidly, but around 400 people died in a smallpox epidemic in 1801. But the city quickly recovered and grew throughout the 19th century.
In 1850 the colony had a church, school, missionary apartment, two houses, a provision house, a brewery, a forge, a bacon house and a provisions store.
From 1911 the Holsteinsborg colony also formed its own municipality, to which the Isortoq residential area still belonged. It was part of the 11th district electoral council of South Greenland.
In 1918, 293 people lived in Sisimiut, including eight Europeans. Among them were 24 people who actually lived in Isortoq, which was abandoned for a short time this winter. Among the Greenlanders were 19 hunters and 10 fishermen. The colonial administrator, the commercial assistant, a headmaster, three carpenters, three coopers, a gunsmith, a blacksmith, a baker, a boatman, a cook, a colonist, a nurse and a midwife were employed in the public services, as well as the pastor and two in church services Catechists.
In addition to 32 Greenlandic houses, there was a house from 1846 in Sisimiut in 1918 that served the colonial administrator and assistant, a house probably from 1756 that housed the bakery and the carpentry workshop, a food store and shop built in 1852, a food house from 1844, and a bacon house with cooperage from 1896, a liquor factory from 1853, a hospital from 1906, a brewery, a forge, a salmon house, a fish house, a material house, three coal sheds, a boathouse, a prison, a wash house, a powder house and a petroleum house, the church from 1773, the pastor’s apartment and the school. The pastor ran a catechist school which replaced the training at Grønland’s seminarium for catechists in small living spaces.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the conversion from whaling to fishing and fish processing began, so that in 1924 the first fish factory in Greenland was built in Sisimiut. Seven years later, the country’s first shipyard was also built here.
When Greenlanders began to move from the small villages to the cities in the 1960s, Sisimiut grew to the size it is today. In the course of this development, the cityscape was increasingly shaped by large prefabricated buildings.
From 1950 to 2009, Sisimiut was the main town of the municipality of Sisimiut, to which Itilleq, Sarfannguit and, since 2002, Kangerlussuaq belonged, before the municipality was merged with the municipality of Maniitsoq to form Qeqqata Kommunia as part of the administrative reform.
In the beginning whaling dominated in Sisimiut, as the two whale bones in the center of the village still testify today. Sisimiut was the first place in Greenland with a fishing industry at the beginning of the 20th century. Today shrimp production predominates in the city, but catching sea hare, cod, striped sea wolf, and white and black halibut also plays a role. The largest fish factory in the country is now in Sisimiut. The city is also the headquarters of the trading company KNI. Sisimiut is also a popular tourist destination and one of the most important educational centers in the country with numerous educational institutions.
Infrastructure and supply
Sisimiut has a large port area, which has a mooring length of 1.3 km by means of several quays. There is also a leisure harbor further east for private boats with eight jetties. For the future there is also the possibility of building an even larger port about 8 km northwest of the city on Kangerluarsuk Tulleq. In 1998, Sisimiut Airport was built on the site of the former Asummiut settlement. A road connects Sisimiut with the airport, which is 3 km to the north-west. Overall, Sisimiut has an extensive road network. After considering building a road between Kangerlussuaq and Sisimiut earlier, a contract for the planned construction was signed with the Danish construction company Mt Højgaard in mid-June 2020. The first to be built is 21 kilometers from Kangerlussuaq to Lake Tasersuaq. The road should consist of a mixture of gravel and asphalt. It would be the first to connect two inhabited places in Greenland.
Nukissiorfiit secures the power supply via a hydropower plant and an emergency diesel power plant. The drinking water is supplied via several lakes, the water of which is treated in the waterworks in the east of the city. The city’s rubbish is dumped and then burned. Two thirds of the houses are connected to the sewage system. The wastewater is mostly discharged into the sea.
Three Brugseni branches, one from Pisiffik, three from Spar, one from Torrak, one from JYSK and one from Pisattat supply the residents with goods and goods.
Sisimiut consists of several parts. The oldest part of the city is south of the port. This is where the Bethel Church, built in 1775, is the oldest wooden church in Greenland. It and the entire area around it with numerous colony buildings up to 250 years old are now part of the Sisimiut Museum.
Residential areas can be found south of the historic city center, northeast of it, in the east of the city and west of the historic area on Tømmermandsøen (Carpenter’s Island). The youngest residential area is being built on the other side of the bay on the way to the airport and is to be expanded by hundreds of houses to the east over the next few years.
There are kindergartens for around 430 children in Sisimiut. The city’s two primary schools together teach around 790 students. There is also a private school and a special school in Sisimiut. The city is also home to a grammar school (GUX), the only technical grammar school in the country (THX), the Sanaartornermik Ilinniarfik (construction and plant school), the Ilinniarfik (iron and metal school) in Nuuk and the one in Sisimiut The Teknikimik Ilinniarfik (KTI) is located in the raw materials school. The branch office ARTEK of Danmarks Tekniske Universitet is also located in Sisimiut. In 1962, Knud Rasmussens Højskole was opened in Sisimiut, the country’s first university, which today is one of the two Greenland universities alongside Sulisartut Højskoliat. There is also a language school and the Kalaallisuuliornermik Ilinniarfik, which has been separated from the KRH and teaches the making of the national costume. In the city there is also a retirement home and numerous apartments suitable for the elderly.
To the east of the city is a large ski area that plays a role in the city’s tourism. Sisimiut also has the only outdoor swimming pool in the country. In the city there is also a meeting house, a sports hall and the Taseralik cultural center.
Dozens of buildings in Sisimiut are worthy of preservation or are under monument protection.
Sisimiut is home to several football clubs. The SAK Sisimiut, founded in 1951, won the Greenland Football Championship in 1974. In 1968 S-68 Sisimiut was founded, which at the end of the 1980s was able to qualify several times for the final round of the championship. In 2018, FC Asummiut Sisimiut was founded and took part in the championship for the first time in 2019.
In Sisimiut there is a maritime-subpolar climate with an average temperature of −3.8 ° C, which means that it is a little colder, especially in winter, but also significantly drier than in Nuuk all year round. Due to the polar days and nights, the summers are rich in sunshine, while they hardly rise in winter.