Myers Avenue with church and congress centre
|State||Kingdom of Denmark|
|• Mayor||Albrecht Kreutzmann|
Kangerlussuaq (English: "Big Fjord" from Kalaallisut language), or Sondrestrom, is a settlement in western Greenland in the Qeqqata municipality located at the head of the fjord of the same name (Danish: Søndre Strømfjord). It is Greenland's main air transport hub and the site of Greenland's largest commercial airport. The airport dates from American settlement during and after World War II, when the site was known as Bluie West-8 and Sondrestrom Air Base. The Kangerlussuaq area is also home to Greenland's most diverse terrestrial fauna, including muskoxen, caribou, and gyrfalcons. The settlement's economy and population of 512 is almost entirely reliant on the airport and tourist industry.
Kangerlussuaq occupies an alluvial flatland on the far end of the 190 km long Kangerlussuaq Fjord, straddling both sides of the Qinnguata Kuussua river estuary. East of Kangerlussuaq there is a confluence of the two major regional rivers, the Qinnguata Kuussua and Akuliarusiarsuup Kuua. The valley of the latter forms large quicksand plains. Both rivers originate from the Russell Glacier. The edge of the glacier is easily accessible and is a major tourist attraction from the town, as is the edge of the ice sheet in the Isunngua highlands to its northeast.
Highlands such as Tarajornitsut bound Kangerlussuaq from the north and south. To the southeast behind lake Tasersuatsiaq, which provides fresh water to the town, is the vast highland of Ammalortup Nunaa, the original region artificially populated with 27 muskoxen.
While Inuit hunters certainly visited Kangerlussuaq, there appears never to have been an settlement at the location.
Kangerlussuaq was founded at the east end of Kangerlussuaq fjord as Bluie West-8 on 7 October 1941, under the supervision of Colonel Bernt Balchen of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF). Following the fall of Denmark to Germany in World War II, US forces assumed security for Greenland, building several bases including Bluie West-1 to the south in Narsarsuaq and Bluie West-8 at the Kangerlussuaq fjord.
The base briefly came under Danish control in 1950, but following mounting concerns about the Cold War threat, a new agreement saw the United States reopen Bluie West-8 under the name of Sondrestrom Air Base on 27 April 1951.
It served as one of the Distant Early Warning Line bases and a supply station for similar early warning facilities. Following the fall of the Soviet Union, the usefulness of the base was greatly diminished and the last U.S. Air Force personnel left the base on 30 September 1992. The base subsequently came under Greenlandic Home Rule and was renamed using the Kalaallisut dialect of the West Greenland Inuit.
This site and Bluie West-1 in Narsarsuaq remain Greenland's best-equipped airports. Almost all of the permanent structures in the town were built during the American occupation of the site.
The population of Kangerlussuaq dropped significantly after the liquidation of the Sonderstrom Air Base. Since then it has increased by more than 80%, although it has begun dropping again in recent years.
As the only civilian airport in Greenland large enough to support large long-range airplanes such as Boeing 747s, Kangerlussuaq Airport is Greenland's most important transport hub. Hotel Kangerlussuaq operates at the airport.
Kangerlussuaq Fjord is navigable in its entire length. There is a seaport at Kangerlussuaq, 20 km west of Kangerlussuaq Airport. It is fairly shallow and suitable for small ships only, mainly used by supply ships of the Royal Arctic Line, and unusable in winter. Cruise ships, such as Norway's Hurtigruten navigate the fjord, anchoring outside the port.
Kangerlussuaq has the largest road network outside any settlement in Greenland (not counting streets inside the settlement).
Construction of a road to Sisimiut (170 km) has been discussed for several years without resolution. The cost estimates have been between 250-500 MDKK, depending on road quality, but it has been considered expensive, and therefore the plans are delayed. The drive time would be much longer than the fly time, and there are also considerations to move the main hub of Air Greenland to Nuuk, closing Kangerlussuaq airport.
|Climate data for Kangerlussuaq, Greenland (1961-1990)|
|Average high °C (°F)||−14.5
|Average low °C (°F)||−24.4
|Precipitation mm (inches)||5
|Source: Danish Meteorological Institute|
There is an ionospheric and atmospheric research facility known as the Sondrestrom Upper Atmospheric Research Facility, situated at about 15 km (9.3 mi) west of Kangerlussuaq. It is commonly known around the town as Kellyville. It is operated by SRI International for the U.S. National Science Foundation and the Danish Meteorological Institute. This facility is host to more than 20 instruments, the majority of which provide unique and complementary information about the arctic upper atmosphere. The centerpiece instrument of the facility is an L band incoherent scatter (IS) radar with a 32 m (105 ft) fully steerable antenna. It has been operational since the ionospheric radar was transported from Alaska to Kangerlussuaq in 1983 and it continues to be in high demand by the scientific communities.
Kangerlussuaq has also hosted the Greenland Space Science Symposium in May 2007. The selection of Greenland as a place for the symposium celebrated the rich history of Greenland in using scientific instruments to provide a window into the geospace system.
- Statistics Greenland, Population in localities
- Qeqqata Municipality (Danish)
- Encyclopædia Britannica. "Kangerlussuaq". Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- Greenland Tourism a/s. Vandrekort Vestgrønland: Kangerlussuaq (Map). Cartography by Compukort, Denmark (1996 ed.).
- International Polar Year
- O'Carroll, Etain (2005). Greenland and the Arctic. Lonely Planet. p. 166. ISBN 1-74059-095-3.
- Qeqqata Kommunia - Kangerlussuaq (Danish)
- Danish Meteorological Institute (Danish)
- Meltwater from Greenland glacier wipes out key crossing. Scientists in Kangerlussuaq on western edge of ice sheet film runoff from glacier washing out roads and taking out a tractor 25 July 2012 The Guardian
- Greenland's ice sheet is melting fast – I'm not surprised. The ice sheet has been living on borrowed time for many years, with dire consequences 26 July 2012
- "About Sondrestrom". SRI International. Retrieved 2012-03-16.