Uummannaq or Ûmañak is a town in northwest Greenland (Denmark). It is located on the northwest coast of the island. Uummannaq is located seven hundred kilometers from the Arctic Circle, just north of Disko Island. Qaanaaq (Thule) lies several km further north. With a population of around 1,500, it is the largest of the northern ferry terminals in Greenland.
Uummannaq is located on the southern tip of an island of the same name in Uummannap Kangerlua. On it is the striking 1175 m high heart-shaped mountain Uummannaq, which gave the island and the place its name. The closest settlements are Qaarsut 20 km to the west and Saattut 24 km to the northeast.
Before the colonial era
Archaeological finds show that the area has been inhabited for thousands of years. On the mainland a few kilometers to the south, several 500-year-old mummies were found in Qilakitsoq in 1972, which are now exhibited in the Greenland National Museum in Nuuk. Before the colonial era, the island was populated on both the east and west coasts.
On April 7, 1761, the colony founded by Johan Henrik Bruun under the direction of Carl Dalager in Nuussuaq was ordered to move 90 km east to Uummannaq because of the poor location. The house, the provision house and the bacon house were moved from Nuussuaq to Uummannaq in 1763. The house was so small that the assistant had to move in with his Greenlandic wife in 1765 so that there was room for the new missionary. A school chapel was built around 1775. In 1777 a new provision house was built and the old one converted into a missionary apartment.
In the 1770s, the colony was economically unsuccessful, which was due to the large population to be fed and poor hunting yields. At the beginning of the 1780s the colony was considered to be abandoned, but the emergence of yarn fishing led to an economic boom, which soon made the colony one of the most important places in North Greenland.
Despite the arctic climate, the merchant and missionary ran a garden in the 1780s where they grew kale, root vegetables, spinach and cress.
In 1787 there was already a 74 m² apartment building for the merchant and assistant, a multi-storey building for the team, a provision house and a bacon house, each as a half-timbered building, a cooperage, a brewery, a blacksmith’s shop, a coal house and two material houses, all of which were built as peat-walled houses had been. In 1789 a merchant, an assistant, a cooper, a carpenter, two cooks and four workers were employed. At the beginning of the 1790s the first Udsted were laid out and the trade was further expanded. In 1796 the team already consisted of a carpenter, three coopers, two cooks, a blacksmith and six workers. The old provision house, which now served as the missionary apartment, measured only 35 m² and was leaking and very cold, and three missionary wives had already fallen ill and died in it. In 1794 the missionary apartment from Upernavik was moved to Uummannaq and replaced the old building, which now served as a team house. In 1804 a new bacon house was built.
In 1793, 58 people lived in the colony. In 1798 the population had risen to 70 people. In 1805 Uummannaq had 69 inhabitants. Uummannaq is the place of origin of the Greenlandic families Hammond, Leibhardt, Ramsøe and Fleischer.
During the war from 1807 to 1814, no ship reached the colony for six years. Most of the Udsted had to be abandoned and, like everywhere in Greenland, trade came to a standstill.
In 1835 a 75 m² church was built to replace the 60 year old school chapel. A little later, around 1840, the colony also received a new school. In 1849 there were 127 people in Uummannaq, spread over six to seven houses. From 1892 the former missionary apartment was used as a school before a new school was built around 1920. In 1905, 191 Greenlanders lived in Uummannaq alongside the Danish colonists.
In 1911 Uummannaq became the capital of a community that still included the Sermiarsuit residential area. There were three men on the town council. The community was in the 9th district of North Greenland. Uummannaq was also the seat of a parish and the district’s chief catechist also had his seat here. Since 1905 Uummannaq was also the seat of a district doctor.
In 1915 there were 12 Danes and 206 Greenlanders in the colony. The population consisted of 23 employees, 25 hunters and 5 fishermen. At that time the Greenlanders lived in 35 houses. The public buildings in the colony also included the church from 1835, the school used as such since 1892, the pastor’s apartment from 1895, the hospital from 1880, the doctor’s apartment from 1907, a provision house from 1856, a store with provisions from 1861 Magazine from 1853, two sheds for coal and barrels from 1886 and 1901, a kerosene house from 1908, a powder house from 1873, a bacon house with a potion maker from 1860, a cooper and carpentry workshop from 1852, a forge from the same year, a bakery from 1848 , a brewery, the colonial administrator’s apartment from 1871, the commercial assistant’s apartment from 1910 and the team house from 1904.
The area around Uummannaq was the location for the film SOS Eisberg by film pioneer Arnold Fanck from 1932/1933. Leni Riefenstahl, Sepp Rist, Ernst Udet, Gibson Gowland and Walter Riml played the leading roles. At the same time, the North Pole was created – Ahoy! by director Andrew Marton with the assistance of Guzzi Lantschner and Walter Riml; the female lead was occupied by Jarmila Marton. The film is considered a parody of SOS Eisberg and received rave reviews at its premiere, but has been lost to this day despite an intensive global search in various archives.
1950 Uummannaq became the seat of the new municipality Uummannaq, the second largest in Greenland by the number of associated villages after Upernavik municipality. During the administrative reform in 2009, it was incorporated into Qaasuitsup Kommunia and has been part of Avannaata Kommunia since 2018.
Before it was officially founded, Uummannaq was a whaling town because the sea here is rich in narwhals and belugas. With the colonization came a concentration on the seal hunt. Today fishing is paramount in Uummannaq. In addition to black halibut, striped sea wolf, redfish, cod, sea hare and capelin are also fished on a smaller scale and processed in the local fish factory of Royal Greenland. Tourism also plays a bigger role in Uummannaq. Dog sledding and whale watching are among other things offered for tourists. The area is also interesting for hiking and climbing tourists. In addition, the ice golf world championship took place regularly from 1999 at Uummannaq.
Infrastructure and supply
The port of Uummannaq is located in the southeast of the city and consists of two smaller quays at a water depth of about 4.20 m. There are also several moorings for smaller fishing boats on the coast. The sea is navigable from June to December. There is no space for an airport on the small mountainous island, which is why the airport for the region was established in Qaarsut in 1999. From there a helicopter connection leads to the Uummannaq heliport. Most of the developed road network in Uummannaq is paved.
Nukissiorfiit supplies the place with electricity via a power station and with drinking water via water pipes from the two lakes Tasersuaq and Tasersuaq Qulleq. Oil stoves ensure the heat supply. The garbage is dumped and incinerated in the north of the city and the sewage is discharged into the sea. TELE Greenland is responsible for telecommunications in town.
Uummannaq has a kindergarten with a crèche and a children’s home. The children’s home run by the Faroese Ann Andreasen is very well known and, among other things, a central part of the feature film Inuk. Numerous reports have already been made about this in Germany. The Edvard Krusep Atuarfia teaches about 250 students up to the tenth grade and also houses the library and a youth club. Uummannaq has a branch of the Piareersarfik vocational center and is the seat of the Piniarnermut Aalisarnermullu Ilinniarfik, the Greenland hunting and fishing school. For the elderly there is the Utoqqaat Illuat nursing home. In the city there is also a hospital and a dental practice, a municipal office, a police station, a fire station, several pubs, cafes or bars, three shops, including a Pilersuisoq branch. Uummannaq’s historic city center with buildings from the colonial era is worthy of preservation. There are a total of 28 buildings worth preserving in the city. In addition, the granite stone church built in 1935 by the Danish architect Helge Bojsen-Møller is protected as a landmark of the city and the largest stone church in the country as an architectural monument.   Uummannaq has been the home of Santa Claus in Denmark since 1989, which is why the city is home to his official home.
There are two football clubs in Uummannaq. The FC Malamuk Uummannaq is one of the clubs with the most participation in the final round of the Greenlandic football championship and was able to become Greenlandic football champion in 2004. In 1968 UB-68 Uummannaq was founded, which was able to qualify several times for the final round, especially in the 1980s.