Aasiaat

Aasiaat was founded in 1763 as the colony Egedesminde by Niels Rasch Egede in the south-western corner of Disko Bay. He named the town in memory of his father, the apostle of Greenland Hans Egede, and during the eighteenth century, the area around Aasiaat was the centre of the European whaling industry.

Archaeological investigations have proved that the Aasiaat area has been inhabited since the 500 BC, while settlements in our time can be dated to around year 1200, when hunters had various dwellings depending on the season. 

The oldest parts of the town are located by the port and Transit Island to the west. Since the 1980s, the town has developed, spreading from the old heliport south of the city along the coastline, eastwards to the shrimp factory. The structure of the town is characterised by east-west running parallel roads. 

Aasiaat has three settlements: Akunnaaq, Kitsissuarsuit and Ikamiut. 

Town/settlement objectives (priority areas, development goals etc.)

Aasiaat is to continue to grow both as a centre of education, by virtue of the location of Northern Greenland’s GU (gymnasium) and the strong cultural youth life in the town, and as a supply base for the oil exploration activities at the license blocks in Disko West. The town’s central function for the northbound boat traffic is to be reinforced. In the planning, we focus on expanding offshore-related onshore business and industry and derived functions, i.e. centre and housing areas. Furthermore, an extending the infrastructure (port and airport) will be relevant, as well as ensuring the inhabitant’s possibilities for cultural and leisure activities in and around the town. This includes planning of welcoming urban spaces and port environment. 

The municipality’s overall visions and objectives are control instruments for spatial development, in accordance with the public requests. Therefore, it is specified in various ways in the towns and settlements of the municipality, as to be seen here:  indsatsomrader_aasiaat_uk.pdf (58.7 KB)

Population and housing

Aasiaat is the second largest town in Qaasuitsup Municipality with a population of 3,142 in 2013, distributed over 1,325 households (approximately 2.4 persons per household). After having experienced a decline in the population for a number of years, the trend has now changed, so for the past five years, the population has increased. Since 2008 (2,853), the population in Aasiaat has increased by more than ten per cent.  

The number of family homes has been stagnant for the past ten years at approximately 1,250 homes, consisting of 43 per cent single-family houses, 12 per cent semi-detached two-family houses and 45 per cent residential multi-storey buildings. However, during the past five years, dormitories for 250 students have been built, while the retirement home has had room for around 60. 

Almost half (44 per cent) of the family homes are publicly owned. 

The town plan leaves room for approximately 825 houses. 

Industry and port facilities

The dominant industry is various kinds of fishing: shrimp, crab and trawl fishing. A shrimp factory is situated close to the airport and a ship yard. TELE Greenland has a TELE-POST centre in the town (telecommunication, IT and mail services) and Aasiaat Radio is a hub for the coastal radio service in Greenland. 

The tourist industry has become increasingly important in recent years and there are five official accommodations in the town. The tourist industry offers, e.g., whaling safaris and in the summer months, it is possible to get very close to whales, which have moved close to the shores. The tourist office in Aasiaat offers kayak trips into the archipelago and dog sledge trips to one of the settlements. The excursions take from a couple of hours and up to a couple of days, including overnight accommodation in huts or tents. 

The employment rate (43 per cent) is a little above the municipal average. The main trades in terms of number of jobs are: public administration and services (514), commerce and repair companies (323) and transport (175). In total, the town has 1,350 jobs. 

Aasiaat port is an Atlantic port and supplies the entire Northern Greenland with feeders. Both Diskoline and Kystruten (Arctic Umiaq Line) call at Aasiaat. The port has a 110 metres long quay, is eight metres deep and covers some 12 hectares, including a large container section. Specific attention has been paid to the offshore industry: Being located near exploration fields and offering extension of its port facilities, Aasiaat is relevant as a base for supplies and localisation of offshore-related industries. This is part of the existing planning, which zones areas for industry and housing. In the long term, it will be possible to create new port services with adjoining industries at Tupilak Island.  

The town plan leaves room for building some 1,650,000 m2 for industry and port purposes.  

Infrastructure and technical supply plants

The airfield was opened in 1998 and is a 799 metres long asphalt runway for fixed-wing aircrafts and helicopters. There are two daily arrivals/departures to/from Ilulissat and Kangerlussuaq. For some time, efforts have been made to extend the runway to 1,299 or 1,799 metres, which would enable the airfield to receive jets, which could be necessary in relation to the offshore industry. 

Aasiaat has a well-developed system of asphalted roads. The main traffic in Aasiaat runs between the port area and the town centre, past the areas at the cemetery, and from the shrimp factory to the airport west of the town. 

The system of paths is composed partly of footpaths between the different areas, partly of the pavements along part of the system of roads. Overall, the town can be said to have an integrated traffic system with mixed traffic. 

Power, water and heat are supplied by Nukissiorfiit, while Tele Greenland is in charge of telecommunications.

The water supply is based on surface water, transported via a network of electrically heated frost-proof and pre-isolated pipes and bottling houses. However, there is a wish to use Saqqarliip nunaa as a water lake instead of the lakes on the outskirts of town. The power production is based on diesel generators. The heating supply is provided partly by private oil-fired burners and private central heating systems, and partly by district heating. The combined heat and power plant located east of the Atlantic quay was built in 1991 and most recently extended in 2011.

Refuse collection services include day-time refuse and night soil. Day-time refuse is burned at the incineration plant. Other non-combustible waste is deposited at the dump, which also acts as receiving facility for hazardous waste and scrap iron. 

Approximately 82 per cent of the town’s domestic wastewater is connected to the sewage system. The untreated wastewater is discharged into the sea. For unsewered areas, night soil is collected at houses and pumped into the sea, while kitchen sewage is discharged to the mountain sides, from where it slowly leaks into the fiord. 

Telecommunications are operated by TELE Greenland, which has installations in the eastern part of town (D20, south of A5). The coastal radio services in Greenland were merged into Aasiaat Radio in 2011. 

Service and public functions

Public and private service functions are concentrated in the town centre by the port, where the largest shops, the post office, hotel, restaurant, church and municipal administration are located. A more local grocery supply also exists, with small shops in the local districts. The town also offers kindergartens and day nurseries, a larger library, youth club, sports centre and a soccer field. One of the municipality’s two regional hospitals is located in Aasiaat and covers the Disko health-care region. The regional hospitals have the overall responsibility for planning and provision of health-care services in the region, and they gather professional expertise and specialists. The town also has a retirement home, which is being extended.

Education

Aasiaat is also the educational centre of North Greenland, having four schools: an elementary school for pupils aged 7-16 (Gammeqarfik), a handicap school for moderately mentally handicapped and late developed children and young persons (Ado Lyngep Atuarfia), a vocational training school (Piareersarfik) and a gymnasium for North Greenland (GU-Aasiaat).

In connection with the education facilities, there are a number of dormitories and boarding schools scattered around the town. Due to shortage in housing, pupils also board with private families.

Cultural and leisure facilities

The area known as “the Colony” has been designated a special preservation-worthy area (section-2 area), and it includes the old colonial settlement and the new administrations buildings with the Whale commander’s house (B-26), the managers’ houses (B-24), the shop (B-32), the post-office (B-30), the assistant’s house (B-43) and a single-family house (B-25). Preservation interests are also related to the church hill, the school area, Transit Island, the old cemetery and a number of  individual houses: the Headmaster’s house (B-145), Brøndlunds Mindehus (B-442), the District Medical Officer’s house (B-18), the museum (B-404), the village hall (B-405), the church (B-627), Former Brædtet (meat and fish market) (B-1180), personnel quarters (B-36), four old warehouses (B-200, B-201, B-207 and B-208) and four self-builders’ houses (B-396, B-399, B-414 and B-474).

According to the Greenland Parliament Act no. 11 of 19 May 2010 on listing and other cultural heritage preservation of cultural relics and monuments, the following buildings have been listed: The museum (the Colonial managers’ house B-24), the tourist office (the Whale commander’s house B-26), the boarding school (the children’s school B-144), the elementary school (the boarding school’s sports facilities B-146), and the library (the girls’ school B-156).

In the winter months, it is possible to go cross-country skiing on designated tracks, and to go snowmobile and dog-sled riding along established routes. The sports centre provides numerous facilities for indoor sports all year round. There is also a ski lift at Tupilak.

Founded in 1978, Aasiaat Museum is a local history museum located in the former Colonial Manager’s house. It houses a permanent exhibition on Greenlandic history featuring discoveries from the palaeo-Eskimo cultures and Dorset I and II, an exhibition on Aasiaat’s history as educational centre along with temporary special exhibitions. The village hall is decorated with 24 paintings by Per Kirkeby.