Sixteen kilometers west of Tasiilaq at East Greenland—a risky sail along a coastline battered by the winds and waves of the Atlantic—stands a settlement of eight houses and a chapel-cum-school, stiller and more silent than the surrounding rock.
Established in 1914 as a permanent fishing village, the settlement is perched on a small island at the mouth of the renowned Sermilik Fjord, probably the largest provider of icebergs in all of Greenland.
Rumor has it that it was here, from this fjord, that the famous iceberg that struck the Titanic began its fateful course.
In 1937, a building housing a chapel and a schoolroom for 11 children was built. The same year a shop opened to cater to the basic needs of the isolated island’s 40 inhabitants. Due to its remote location and difficult access, the population declined until gradually no one was left. According to local lore, the last villagers to leave the island were two brothers. One later murdered the other.
The settlement was completely abandoned in 1994. Some of the buildings are now used by hunters or travelers seeking shelter from the harsh weather.
As I photographed the interiors of the houses that were open, I had the strongest feeling that they had been hastily abandoned, as if their inhabitants had been under great pressure to leave as fast as they could.
Awash in the calm light of the dying sun and set against the backdrop of icebergs flowing down the fjord like models along a catwalk, this undulating landscape of soundless houses and burial grounds felt to me like a place of witness that filled me with a sense of reverence