The story doesn't start till
1941and is partly American
Kangerlussuaq - or Søndre Strømfjord, Sondrestrom Air Base and code
name Bluie West 8, as the place has often been better known - was
founded on October 7th 1941, under the supervision of Colonel B. Balchen
of the United States Air Force (USAF).
Earlier that year, on April 9th 1941, Greenland's
security was entrusted to the USA by the Danish Ambassador, Henrik
Kauffmann, in Washington, as Denmark itself was unable to ensure
Greenland's security and supplies to the country under the German
occupation of Denmark.
The USA set up a number of military bases and weather
stations in Greenland during the Second World War, including the
military base Bluie West 8 at Kangerlussuaq. During the war, Bluie West
8 soon became one of the most important stopover sites for flying
missions between the USA and its allies in Europe, owing to the fine
flying conditions for which Kangerlussuaq became known.
he gateway to
After the war, in 1950, Bluie West 8 was handed back to Denmark, and on
April 27th 1951 the base reverted to the USA when Denmark and the USA
signed a new defence agreement, whereby the Americans opened Bluie West
8 up under the name of Sondrestrom Air Base.
In the period between November 15th 1954 and October 1st
1965, SAS also began making use of Søndre Strømfjord for stopovers on
the route between Copenhagen and Los Angeles.
The non-stop route linking Copenhagen and Søndre Strømfjord
had thus been created and, besides being an American military base, the
airport became the gateway to Greenland. In 1960, the civil aspect of
the base was established with a transit hotel as annex.
During the post-war period, which saw the onset of
the cold war between the two world powers, the USA and the USSR, DEW
(Distant Early Warning) radar stations were set up by the Americans from
1958 until far into the 1970s: the DYE-2 and DYE-3 stations on the
inland ice, DYE-1 at Sisimiut and DYE-4 at Kulusuk. Sondrestrom's main
mission since that time has been to supply the DEW stations, with both
Greenlandair and USAF collaborating on the supply work.
When the disarmament between the USA and the USSR started in 1989,
the Pentagon decided to close down the DEW stations for the period
1990-91, soon followed by the decision to shut down the American base.
On September 30th 1992, USAF left Søndre Strømfjord and on October 1st
1992, the entire airport came under Greenland Home Rule and was given
its first Greenlandic name, Kangerlussuaq, as its official title.
Kangerlussuaq Airport is operated by the Airport Authority under
Greenland's Home Rule (Mittarfeqarfiit).
A peaceful place
Until the Second World War, the Kangerlussuaq area had never been
populated, though the fjord has always been the Greenlanders' summer
sealing and fishing grounds. Ninety kilometers from the town of
Kangerlussuaq lies an altogether unique part of this fjord: Paradise
Valley, which today is a Grade 1 scheduled area. Here, there are many
ancient monuments such as tent rings, kitchen middens and burial sites
from the whaling expeditions of bygone ages. The valley is extremely
lush, with tall mountains and an incredibly lovely meandering char
stream called Arnangargup Kuua. Large numbers of reindeer and musk ox
can be seen along the stream and in the valley.
Today, with a population of approx.
475, Kangerlussuaq Airport is civil area, under Sisimiut municipality . The
resident population is directly or indirectly employed in connection
with airport operations, and Kangerlussuaq has both a kindergarten
and a school. There are some 50 pupils aged from 6 to 13, complete with
their own recreational facilities, and some 45 infants in the nursery
section. Their free time is devoted to the wealth of natural experiences
which the area offers and the recreational facilities available to local
residents, tourists, conference participants and airport guests alike.