The Greenlandic hunting culture and the Bowhead Whale

Kane Khanh | Archeaology
January 31, 2024

The hunting tradition in Greenland

Review of Stone and Man | Julianehåb, Greenland, Europe - AFAR

Why are whales hunted in Greenland – can they be eaten?

The Inuit cultures in Greenland have been dependent on natural resources (such as fish, birds, and land and sea mammals) since they first migrated to Greenland between 4 and 5,000 years ago. Historically, sea mammals have played a central nutritional role for a population in a country with very limited possibilities for agriculture.

Are whale products used today?

The Whale, A Large Stone Carving On A Creative. From A Local Located Street  Corridor Downtown Qaqortoq Greenland's Whaling To Feel The Power Of The  Great Whale. The Strength Of The Rock

The amount of agricultural land in Greenland has not increased, and most food products are still imported by ship. As a result, local sources of food, such as whale meat, are still an important and much-loved part of the food culture in Greenland.

Products made of whale?

Inuit cultures have managed, throughout generations, to create and perfect unique products out of materials from the animals they hunt, such as kayaks, ulo (the women’s knife), umiaq (the women’s boat), soapstone lamps, harpoons and bird spears, as well as skin clothes of very high quality. Products from whales were used in these, such as their strong bones and their long jawbones. Their baleen and blubber were burned in soapstone lamps to create light and a source of warmth in tents or in turf huts.

Do people still hunt in Greenland?

Today, many children still catch their first grouse or seal when they are still in their first years of school. The first catch is a huge event, which is celebrated to the same extent as birthdays. Neighbours and family members are invited to a kaffemik (a traditional gathering in a Greenlandic home). The hunt for the bigger whales, such as Humpback Whales, Minke Whales and Fin Whales, is for commercial hunters who have a licence and can sell the meat afterwards. All three whales are still a beloved delicacy in Greenland.

The Greenlandic hunting culture and the Bowhead Whale | Visit Greenland

Is whale hunting affected by climate changes?

Ice fishing in Northern Greenland is affected by climate changes, which have already led to shorter periods with ice, much thinner ice or even no ice at all in the winter, and more unstable weather. This challenges hunters’ movement on the ice, ice fishing, seal hunting and hunting of the big whales.