Place names of the Kangerlussuaq

The place names of any area are usually a blend of the area's history combined with its more notable natural features. The Kangerlussuaq area is no exception.

The name Kangerlusuaq itself, along with the name Apulileeq (The older spelling as found on latest edition of the topographic map is: Aputitêq = "Snowy Place") are the only pre-European names known to us, because there was no indigenous population at the time of the arrival of Europeans. These two names, as noted above were obtained by Gustav Holm, the first white man to reach Ammassalik, from an old man who had been born at Nordre Apulileeq, where the remains of his house can still be seen. All other names on the 1:250,000 map (published by the Geodetic Institut, Copenhagen) have been given by the various expeditions mentioned above: for example Skærgård, Kap Hammer (called after a captain who had sailed in West Greenland) and Kap Deichmann (after a member of the Amdrup/Hartz Expedition) by Amdrup; Uttental Sund (after a benefactor of the Scoresby Sund Committee) by Mikkelsen; Forbindelsesgletscher ("Connecting Glacier"), Basistoppen ("Base Peak"), Watkin Fjord (after the leader of the British Arctic Air Route Expedition, Gino Watkins, who was subsequently drowned at Tugtilik (Tuutilik), about 300 km to the south), Hængefjeldet ("Hanging Cape"), Brødregletscher ("Brothers Glacier", after the two Wager brothers) by Wager & Deer; and Bjørneskindsgletscher ("Bear Skin Glacier"), Wagertoppen and Hængegletscher ("Hanging Glacier") by  McBirney. Pukugaqryggen ("Crowberry Ridge") is a special case. This name was first used in the literature by the Wager & Deer expedition but originates from the Greenlanders who were present and collected berries here. It is a hybrid name, half Greenlandic, half Danish and extremely difficult for English speakers to pronounce correctly. Many other names on the map appear to have been given by cartographers in Denmark and several Greenlandic names which have crept in on later editions of the map seem to have been added artifically by a committee interested in localizing the place names. In fact,  the name Torssukatak for Watkin Fjord is unknown to the Greenlanders at Skærgård who call it Watkin kangertiva. Thomas Ignatiussen who died fairly recently, could remember Gino Watkins and other members of the British Arctic Air Route Expedition from his childhood when he had lived close to this expedition's base, and the name was certainly used by him.

In 1988, many new names were introduced by Platinova personnel for the routes used on the steep walls above Bjørneskindsgletscher: "Middag", "Midnat", "Bellevue", "Dru Couloir", "MacWager", "Solnedgangs Boulevard", "Peppermint Slabs" and "Solskins Buttress", reflecting the American, Danish and Swiss backgrounds of the climbers. Pukagaqryggen was invariably referred to as "Puku". Naturally none of these names are official and probably unlikely to become so, although they occur in the company reports.

Inuit place names in East Greenland are fraught with problems, that have not, to my knowledge, been dealt with. Thus, one must often choose between using an East Greenlandic name made to conform to West Greenlandic (the official language)  or to use the East Greenlandic name without alteration. Place name committees appear to have favoured the first of these alternatives, with the result that names used by local people are almost unrecognizable when one looks at a map. This problem is compounded by the introduction of a new official orthography in recent years, where, among other changes, diacritical marks have been replaced by doubled vowels and "dl" has been replaced by "ll". The result is that even without other errors, there are four possible versions of the name. Ammassalik is the new spelling for what was Angmagssalik. This name originally referred to the whole district, but gradually came to mean the town. However, with home rule, most towns adopted Greenlandic names, and the main town in the district of Ammassalik became known more widely by its original name of  Tasiilaq. A brief guide to the dialect of Inuit spoken on the east coast of Greenland has been written by Robbe & Dorais (1986).

Naturally, the people living semi-permanently at Skærgård have their own names for places, although no serious  attempt has been made until recently to collect them. I have learned a few of them over the years and some of them were officially accepted by the Place Names Committee (letter # 21977). In 1991, the work was continued by an expert (Grann, 1992).  Some of the results of these investigations are reproduced below:

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