Manslaughter in Moriusaq

The situation, while uncommon, was not unheard of. A man goes out on a drinking binge and his intoxication takes over. He takes out a gun and haphazardly starts firing shots at the three people nearby. The three others are armed but opt to call the police rather than take matters into their own hands.

Normally, the police would quickly respond on scene. But this call for assistance came from the village of Moriusaq, pictured above, an isolated collection of shacks on Greenland’s western coast, located over 50 miles from the nearest “large” municipality, Qaanaaq (population 626). In 1980, Moriusaq had 80 residents, supported by a bountiful hunting industry — including the slaughter of narwhals and polar bears — but the population has dwindled in the decades since. Due to its isolation, Moriusaq lacks basic infrastructure and services. There’s a general store and a multi-functional (church, school, small library) rec center in the village, but with the population eroding, services in both have been suspended for years. (Strangely, it has its own heliport, apparently still in use.)

It should not be surprising, then, that Moriusaq’s residents do not have a full-time police service ready for dispatch (to say the least). So instead of departing for Moriusaq, the police advised the sober trio to fire back at their inebriated companion, aiming for his legs.

They followed the instructions — but missed. One of them hit the drunken rampager in the chest, killing him. And with that bullet, Moriusaq’s population crumbled 25%. That’s right: the four people involved in the incident made up the village’s entire population. The man who fatally wounded the deceased was taken into custody for a week, then released; it is not clear whether he returned to Moriusaq after.

As of this writing, the population of this increasingly tiny village is down to two people.

Bonus fact: The first ever around-the-world helicopter flight was in September, 1982, taking nearly the entire month. The vehicle, the Spirit of Texas, was piloted by H. Ross Perot, Jr. (with a man named Jay Coburn), son of the former U.S. Presidential candidate. (It did not make use of the Moriusaq heliport, clearly.) Perot Jr. donated the Spirit of Texas to the Smithsonian, where it is on display today.

From the Archives: Distorted Worldview: Greenland is big — but not as big as you’d think.

Related: “This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland” by Gretel Ehrlich. 25 reviews, 4.5 stars.

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