Catching Dinner in Greenland
Scooting along just above the ice out in the wilderness 300km above the Arctic Circle and 60km from the nearest town of Ilullisat, Greenland, I found myself approaching the foot of a glacier on a frozen fjord of which 4 other tourist and I had been travelling for the previous hour with our dog sleds and guides. This was towards the end of our first day with our 15dogs and as you only occupy the sled with the local Inuit guide, and mine had ‘thank you’ as his full repertoire of English, it was a very peaceful journey.
I was busy drinking in the views of frozen fjords, glaciers, mountains and a clear sky growing orange with the sunset. As the dogs rambled along at a good pace I was enchanted by the dogs getting tangled, untangled and tangled again in the ropes and doing number one’s and number two’s while on the go! Even though we had been the whole day on the sled it seemed like something different every time, trying to find some pattern in their movements.
Eventually we came to a stop and we all got out and one of the guides started chipping away at the ice without telling us what was going on. After breaking through the 2 foot (60cm) thick ice we everybody peering at him wondering when we were going to start ice-fishing, he announced that we had a fish. After more chipping to make the hole bigger they pulled up a 4foot seal and not a fish. The seal was tangled in the net and had drowned. Apparently the last time a guide was at this spot one week earlier he had set the net, so the seal was fresh. Well fresh in the sense of he was maximum of one week in 2deg water. The eyes were bulging and as they untangled the net it looked if the seal was bloated. It turns out it wasn’t, that’s just the big lumps that they are.
When asked what were we going to do with it, the response was ‘dinner’! They put it on the sled beside my rucksack and that was my seat for the 1hr trip back to the hut. At the hut they were surprised when we all wanted to see them cutting it up. I must say that I wouldn’t be one for gruesomeness but when you are in a 20 x 20ft hut with 9 other people at 6pm and there is nothing else to do until the next morning, any bit of activity is a welcome distraction.
This was not the first seal the guide had cut up and he dismantled the jacket of blubber the seal had on in no time. And when I say a jacket, it was as close as. Even with 1.5inches off the seal all around it was still completely intact. The closest dogs were all going banana’s beside us as they knew what was going on. They eventually got a piece of the skin and blubber each and they didn’t open their mouths after that. They knew that was all they were going to get.
Then the gruesome bit came and he removed all the blood and the internal organs and paid special attention to the liver. To our surprise both him and 2 other guides there for the look, took out penknives and chopped off a bit of liver, a sliver of blubber and popped it in their mouth! This is only moments after it being cut out of the inside of the seal. ‘Very nice’ were the sentiments as they took some more.
Much to my own surprise and maybe partially by the constant invitations by the guides, I plucked up some courage and managed to have a bit of raw seal liver myself. Which if you take away what it looks like actually didn’t taste that bad. I would normally run from eating something like that but maybe the fact that I was starving myself and was close to barking like the dogs might have played a part! The next part of the seal we saw was cooked ribs for dinner on our plate beside the peas and carrots. Quite like beef but very tough and any blubber with it makes a hell of a lot of oil and turns your plate into a swimming pool!