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Villaen, Danmarkshavn

On 16th August 1906 the Danmark Expedition decided to anchor the expedition ship "Danmark" in a south facing bay close to Kap Bismarck. This place was named Danmark Havn and became the base of the expedition from where their travels and activities were sent out during the following two years. When not on travel, the major part of the particants had their quarters on board the ship, but four men - Bertelsen, Lundager, Koch and Wegener - lived ashore, where a winter house, "Villaen" [628-1], had been built. According to plan "Danmark" was to bring materials for two prefabricated houses, but the space upon the ship was too narrow and the largest house had to be left on Iceland, to where the materials had been shipped by a freighter. Even the elements for the small house had to be disassembled in order to get a place on the fully loaded ship.

In Denmark Havn Jens Gundahl Knudsen, who was a joiner, got the task of assembling the house. It was raised about 70 m from the shore and got only one room, measuring 5 x 5 m. The first winter was good and tight, but already the second winter snow began drifting in through the cracks in the corners and in the autumn of 1907 it was attempted to make the house warmer by raising a stone wall around it. The attick and two smaller provisions sheds were used for storing equipment, instruments, plant collections, paintings, tools etc. Villaen, that was equipped with different scientific measuring instruments, also had a telephone connection to the ship.

In the autumn of 1910 Ejnar Mikkelsen and Iversen P. Iversen saved their lives, thanks to Villaen and the depot, which the Denmark Expedition had left there.

In 1919 the East Greenland Company was permitted to use Villaen as trappers station. Four trappers were to winter at the location. In the summer of 1920 there was no resupply of provisions due to the shipwreck of "Dagny" and therefore the year 1920-21 became a struggle for survival. They hardly had any necessities and had to cease trapping already at Christmas time, because Robert Frørup and Ove Haaber Nielsen had become ill with scurvy. On 20th February 1921 the friends from Hvalrosodden arrived with the body of August F. Nielsen and on 9th March Robert Frørup also died of scurvy. The two men were buried at Danmark Havn. On 1st April 1921 the remaining five men left Villaen and drove to Hvalrosodden from where the weakened men set out for Germaniahavn. They all survived. Villaen has not since been used for wintering, but it still exists and is called "Danmarks Minde".

In 2006 it was agreed between Nanok and the Greenland National Museum and Archives (NKA) in Nuuk that Nanok on behalf on NKA should establish a report on the present condition of Villaen – or Danmarks Minde - in the 100 year of the arrival of the Danmark Expedition 1906-08 to Danmarkshavn. During preparation to this task it was realised, that the original Villaen was in some respect different from the present Danmarks Minde. In a manuscript for a lecture in 1943 left by Hans Ludvig Jensen he explains of his experiences, when he arrived to Danmarkshavn with "Dagny" in 1919: "On 1st August the ice loosened and we sailed to our old home Danmarkshavn. It was a miserable sight that waited for us. Our lovely house, which we in 1908 left in perfect condition still full of nice food, was now a miserable ruin. Windows and door were smashed. The roof was laying about 30 meters from the house. You could see that the roof had been on fire and it was marked from cuts with an axe. Inside the house was 1 meter snow. Outside the house lay a large pile of canned food, indeed a sad sight … It lasted three days for us to clean the house and 8 days to make another roof, but then it was again the old house, which became the home of three men for 2 years." It was never established, who had made these damages to the house. The present day Danmarks Minde is in every relevant respect identical to the house, which Hans Ludvig Jensen and his crew rebuilt in 1919 – as a trappers station. The Nanok crew was authorized to establish drainage of the house in 2006 in order to removed melt water from beneath the floor, but had not further authorization to initiate a thorough renovation before the report had been analyzed by NKA.

In the summer of 2017 Nanok, assisted by the crew of Telestation Danmarkshavn, made a drainage and thorough, but gentle, restoration of Villaen / Danmarks Minde in accordance with directions from the Greenland National Museum and Archives (NKA) in Nuuk.

Number in brackets [ ] refer to hut number in PS Mikkelsen: North-East Greenland 1908-60.  The Trapper Era. The Scott Polar Research Institute (2008).  

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