The town of Uummannaq – “the heart-shaped” – is located on a small island (12 km2) in Uummannaq Fiord, some 460 km north of the Arctic circle. The town was named after the nearby mountain, which towers above the town at a height of almost 1,200 metres, dominating the townscape. Uummannaq is the municipality's second largest town, after Ilulissat and has 7 associated settlements in the district: Ikerasak, Illorsuit, Niaqornat, Nuugaatsiaq, Qaarsut, Saattut and Ukkusissat.
Uummannaq is a tourist destination visited by major, international cruisers and small cabin cruisers from Ilulissat. The area offers a wealth of recreational activities, e.g. climbs in the mountains on the Nuussuaq peninsula, hikes to Spraglebugten Bay, the Blue Lake and the mountains – albeit parts of the island are impassable. You can go dog sledge or snowmobile riding to the large icebergs in the area, or try ice fishing. Uummannaq also provides easy access to one of the seven settlements and abandoned dwellings, including the old winter dwelling of Qilakitsoq, which is known for its mummies.
Prehistoric finds and ruins are testament to the fact that the area has been inhabited for thousands of years. Uummannaq Island became a whaling site in the 1700s. Merchants and missionaries followed, and in 1763, the town was founded as a colony by factor I.H. Bruun.
The urban area extends along the mountain and the entire southern coast, since the only developed belt lies between steep slopes by the shore and the protection zone around the water catchment area. As is the case in many other towns, the oldest district is near the port. The town houses are painted in a variety of colours and are scattered about the hilly rock terrain. Since 1982, urban development has mainly extended towards the northeast, including construction of contracting sites, cemetery, soccer field and dumps. However, further development in this direction is limited by the mountain and the vast distance to central town functions. Since 1992, residential areas have been established towards the northwest. Future urban development will also take place towards the northwest, on the western foreland towards Spraglebugten Bay, where residential and industry areas are zoned.
Uummannaq is to maintain a local centre offering school, administration, sports and specialty stores. Its position as a town of education for youth and higher education is to be strengthened. Great housing is to support this position, and zoning of new residential areas is needed to meet the demand caused by migration from settlements to the town.
The town's other potentials relate to the expansion of fishing and fishing industry, reopening of the mine in Maamorilik, as well as development opportunities related to tourism. An infrastructure boost – including more port facilities, boat connections as well as better utilities – is considered a precondition for realising the town’s full potential.
The municipality’s overall vision and objectives guide the physical development along with the citizens’ wishes. Consequently, the outcome differs across towns and settlements as shown here:
actions_uummannaq.pdf (795.5 KB)
There were 1,255 people in Uummannaq in 2017, which corresponds to 12% of the municipality's total population. The population went up until 2000, and has dropped by 14 per cent since then.
In 2010, there were 576 homes in Uummannaq, 40 of which were owned by the Government of Greenland, corresponding to seven per cent. 79 per cent are single-family houses, 13 per cent are semi-detached houses, and eight per cent residential multi-storey buildings. The number of single-family houses has gone up by around 40 from 2000 to 2010, whereas the number of semi-detached houses and residential multi-storey buildings remains virtually unchanged. In 2010, the town dormitories had room for seven, and the town retirement home had room for 42. In 2017, the town numbered 467 households, corresponding to an average household size of 2.7 persons.
In recent years, residential development has primarily extended towards the west, towards Spraglebugten Bay. This trend is expected to continue in the coming years. The remaining capacity of the zoned town plan areas is estimated at around 185 homes.
The primary trade is fishing (especially for the Greenland halibut) and sealing. The fishermen trade their catches with Royal Greenland, which operates a fish factory in the port. The fish factory is the largest work place in town, employing 80 persons in peak season. The industry and port area has room to extend the factory.
Industrial areas for major craftsman’s businesses and enterprises as well as port facilities are scattered along the coast, but workshops are also located in urban areas that area zoned for other purposes. The northernmost areas – on both the west and east coasts – hold a large amount of available space, corresponding to around 111,000 m2. Nonetheless, infrastructure is lacking on the western side. Furthermore, the town is home to several contractors, an electrical contractor, motor repair shops, as well as a municipal workshop.
Tourism is of increasing importance to Uummannaq, but is challenged by the difficult access conditions. Another challenge is the small availability of overnight accommodation, following the closing of Hotel Uummannaq.
The unemployment rate in Uummannaq in 2015 was 7.8% in the town and 6.7% in the associated settlements. The image of the Uummannaq district is similar to the unemployment in the Ilulissat district (7.7% in the town and 6.7% in the settlements). The unemployment rate is therefore slightly lower than both the municipal average (9.1%) and the national average (9.1%). In terms of number of jobs, the largest trades are public administration and service (391), trade and repair (264) and fishing (177). In total, the town numbered around 1,011 jobs in 2010 and there is a high demand for skilled labour.
Uummannaq features a helistop which offers routes to the Qaarsut airport, from where you can continue to Ilulissat. The helistop includes a terminal building with waiting facilities, check-in facilities and a hangar for the settlement helicopter.
Uummannaq and the fiord are not serviced by liners since neither Disko Line nor Arctic Umiaq Line (AUL) operates in the area anymore. This means that all transport by boat is by private boats. Plans are being made to establish boat services between Qaarsut and Uummannaq
The town’s system of roads consists of primary roads, secondary roads and paths. The primary roads make up the overall links between the eastern and western residential areas, and are preferably two-lane. The secondary roads are internal roads within districts. Several roads are paved. To this should be added a number of paths, steps and footbridges. The sledge season usually runs from February to May; however, it depends on the winter weather, since all sledge driving is on sea ice. During sledge season, the primary means of transport are dog sledges and snowmobiles.
The port can hold ships with a draught of up to 4.2 metres and consists of two small quays – a schooner quay and an unloading platform for fish. A new quay has been designed, offering a depth of eight metres in direct continuation of the existing facilities. Naalakkersuisut has designated two port authority areas at Uummannaq harbour; a larger area throughout the harbour on the north side, as well as a small area south of the port facility. In front of the hospital is a pontoon bridge for boats and dinghies, which can also moor at Brædtet north of the port. Navigation is difficult due to icebergs, but the port is usually navigable from June to December. An area for a future port has also been zoned by Spraglebugten Bay.
The major technical supply plants in Uummannaq are scattered along the coast, primarily in the eastern part of town. Power, water and heat are provided by Nukissiorfiit. Located at the heart of the town, the power plant is oil-powered. Water production is based on surface water that is extracted from two lakes and distributed to consumers via a network of electrically heated frost-proof and pre-isolated pipes, water tanker trucks and bottling houses. Most houses have running water by means of a pipe or water tank. The heat supply is based on oil-burning. Day-time refuse is deposited at the dump north of the site where it is burned in the open. The dump location causes problems and nuisances to the citizens. An iron dump and a receiving facility for chemical waste are located there as well. The town is not sewered. Night soil is collected three times a week and discharged into the sea from a ramp along with grey wastewater. At the eastern coast, an area is reserved for storage of material, sorting of stone and gravel, and an explosives store. Major technical supply plants also include tank installations on the southernmost tongue of the island, close to the port.
Telecommunications is handled by TELE Greenland, which operates a number of facilities and poles on the mountain north of town. These are established within the water protection zone, but are also protected by separate protection zones.
Institutions and shops servicing the entire town are concentrated in the central district north and west of the port. The town includes a municipal office, police station and fire station, a cafeteria, fast-food place, bar and Brædtet. The three grocery stores are located centrally in the town and in the western and eastern districts. Uummannaq is a health-care centre and the hospital has 17 beds. The town also boasts a dental clinic.
Uummannaq furthermore offers a combined day nursery/kindergarten and family day care. On 1 August 2013, the former kindergarten Dr. Ingrids Børnehave was converted into a recreational club, and all child care services were gathered in Nuunu. The town also includes a retirement home – Utoqqaat Illuat – and a children’s home, which acts as a 24-hour care facility with room for 23 children and youths aged 0-23 years. A boarding school will be established in the former hotel to replace the old boarding school, and will have room for some 50 pupils.
In the long term, urban development – including new service functions – is to take place to the west where an area has already been zoned for public purposes such as institutions, teaching, hotel, shops and homes. The unbuilt area has around 20,000-23,000 m2 of available space.
Atuarfik Edvard Kruse elementary school numbers around 250 pupils in forms 1 through 10 and a remedial class. It also houses the town library, and nearby you find the after-school centre and a youth club.
Educational offers also include the local vocational school (Piareersarfik) as well as Greenland’s fishing, sealing and whaling school (Piniarnermut Aalisarnermut Ilinniarfik), which has a limited number of places. Every year, 15 students are admitted to the two-year vocational programme. Plans are being made to establish a course centre.