Throughout our stay in Nuuk Aventura has been tied up alongside Kisaq, a 20-metre workboat, strongly built and perfectly suited for these waters. The owner, Anders Pedersen, a former Danish Coast Guard officer, has been based in Greenland for the last 30 years. Most of his work is for the government, such as taking technical staff to service medical equipment in remote settlements, and occasional tourist charters in South Greenland’s spectacular fjordlands. Anders and his wife Ellen adopted us from the moment of our arrival, and gave us much valuable local advice as well as practical help throughout our stay. As it is compulsory to have a gun in Arctic Canada to protect against possible attacks by polar bears, I asked Anders’s advice where to buy one.
‘Jimmy, you said you’re going to buy fuel before you leave. You can buy it at the fuel station here in the harbour. They also sell ammunition.’
‘At the fuel station?’ ‘Yes… why not?’
So we took Aventura across the harbour to the fuel station, tied up to its dock and filled up our two tanks as well as an extra 200 liters in plastic jerry cans. The total of 940 liters should give us an estimated range of 1500 miles at moderate revs. The first thing I saw as I entered the shop to pay for the fuel was an entire wall displaying every conceivable type of gun possible. I explained to the young assistant what kind of gun I needed, and he showed me half a dozen rifles suitable for the job. As I didn’t seem able to make up my mind, he said:
‘If I were you I’d buy this one, a military rifle former Soviet Army issue. It’s very reliable, and the steel-tipped bullets it uses are the best should it come to it. Also, it comes with the original bayonet.’
I took the fatal looking killer blade although the last thing I wanted was to try it out in a closed-armed combat with a polar bear four times my size. I produced a credit card and my passport as an ID for the gun.
‘No need for that,’ the man said, pointing at the passport. ‘But do I then need to go to the police to register the gun?’
‘No, here in Greenland anyone can have a gun, and, in fact, everyone does.’
I walked to the boat with the gun on my shoulder, the bayonet afixed, and a box of ammunition in my hand, half waiting to be called back. But it didn’t happen. When I went to say goodbye to Anders, I expressed my astonishement at how simple it had all been. I also asked if there is much crime given the ease of obtaining a gun.
‘None to speak of. Greenland must be one of the safest places in the world.’
Armed and well provisioned, we are ready to leave Nuuk tomorrow, first to explore some highlights of Greenland’s spectacular west coast, and then sail acoss Baffin Bay to Lancaster Sound and the Northwest Passage.