Another factor very important to the distribution of plants is the aspect. Thus south-facing slopes are snow-free in summer and, when watered, become vegetated. North-facing slopes are usually covered with permanent snow and ice. This situation is clearly seen on either side of Forbindelsesgletscher, where the south-facing Pukugaqryggen ("Crowberry Ridge") has many green willows and crowberries clinging to the rocks, the other side is largely snow-covered. This factor is well-known to the Inuit, whose language makes a clear distinction between the sunny and shaded sides ("sarqaq" and "alangoq", respectively).
This is but
one example of the local effects which are important to climate here. Another
is the degree of exposure to cold fjord winds with their accompanying fogs,
and, as noted above, vegetation - especially flowering plants - is noticeably
sparser at sea level, where these conditions are frequent. The inner parts
of the fjord also differ from Skærgård in having a more continental
or high Arctic climate. Precipitation is much lower and fogs are absent
(except in rainy periods). On suitable slopes (i.e. south-facing) vegetation
is relatively abundant with characteristic high Arctic plants such as Arctic
poppy (Papaver radicatum) and the heather (Cassiope tetragona), which are
absent or sporadic on the coast.
The sea, however, is rich in mammals: the fjord or ringed seal, the bearded seal, the bladdernosed seal, the Greenland seal and the occasional walrus along with whales. Whales include large baleen whales, which I have not been able to identify, and toothed whales including the killer whale and most importantly numerous narwhals, which migrate into Kangerlussuaq in the summer and are an important quarry for Inuit hunters. Seals and narwhals are the primary quarry of the Inuit hunter.
Fish are sparse in the waters of the fjord and are limited to species such as polar cod or "uvaq" (Gradus ogae), sculpin (several species) and capelin or "ammassat" although these last do not seem to form dense shoals as they do further south. A small population of Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus) occurs in Vandfaldsdalen and Sødalen (Miki Fjord). None of these fish are of any importance in the local economy.
The most esteemed quarry from the hunters point of view is the polar bear, both from the prestige which is accrued by successful hunters and from the value of its meat and skin. In common with other Inuit communities, numerous traditions are connected with the hunting of bears and the distribution of parts of the animal. Numbers of bears seem to swing greatly, perhaps depending on the intensity of hunting. Whereas in 1986-87 about 50 were caught after a period of three years without hunting, in 1987-1988 this number fell to 14. As the number killed in 1935-36 was 28 (3 hunters) and in 1990-91 it was 22 with a similar number of hunters, the numbers do not seem to have fallen drastically. While no geologist has yet been attacked by a bear, there are at least two occasions when inquisitive animals have proved troublesome and it is advisable to be prepared for this eventuality.
A great blessing of the Skærgård area, resulting from the
uniformly low temperatures and almost constant winds, is that mosquitoes
are virtually non-existent, in contrast to the sheltered, well vegetated
valleys of Ammassalik to the south and the fjord country beyond Scoresbysund
to the north, where they can be unbearable.