Qoornoq-ghost-village-greenland (Image: Greenland Tourism; the abandoned ghost village of Qoornoq)

Few communities on earth are as remote as the tiny fishing and mining settlements scattered across Greenland, the world’s largest island which, while culturally and politically associated with Europe, is physiographically part of the North American continent. Among them is the semi-abandoned fishing village of Qoornoq – a cluster of colourful, uninhabited buildings in the Sermersooq municipality of southern Greenland – and Qaarsut, located further north.

Qoornoq Ghost Village

The ghost village and its surrounding area boasts a rich and diverse history, reflecting ancient Paleo-Eskimo inhabitants dating back as far as 2200 BC, who were later followed by Norse settlers. Archaeological ruins excavated in 1952 uncovered the remains of a Norse farm containing ancient tools and the remnants of pre-Inuit houses.

As if the haunting modern ruins of an old ghost village aren’t intriguing enough for those who make the journey to Qoornoq, the remains of several abandoned railways also pass near the deserted fishing community. One of them, an abandoned narrow-gauge line, was used during the 1950s to transport fish wagons, using a simple diesel-hydraulic locomotive. The other offered a passenger service understood to have been operated by Bublapedian Railways.

When the last permanent resident abandoned the fishing village in 1972, Qoornoq fell into a state perhaps best described as hibernation. The traditional Greenland houses remain in good condition today, maintained by the families of their former residents who still return to the homes by boat during summer months.

Qaarsut (Historic Mining Community)

Qaarsut-greenland (Image: Oiving; Qaarsut, an isolated former mining community)

Travelling north of Qoornoq into the Qaasuitsup municipality of western Greenland is Qaarsut, which is understood to be the location of the country’s first coal mine, which operated from 1778 to 1924. Viewed from above, the isolated mining community reflects a traditional Greelandic coastal community, a seemingly-random scattering of colourful homes, fishing boats and other infrastructure amid breathtaking terrain.

Official records state that the number of inhabitants in Qaarsut at 192 in 2011. But as teacher and blogger Chris Paton observed:

“Qaarsut had a lot more space and the odd dust-ball floating between the houses or over the top of old foundations gave it a ghost-town like feeling. The lack of people, save the old man sitting on a bench by the wash house, only reinforced the image.”

Related – 10 Incredible, Remote Places of Christian Worship