Ilulissat Icefjord (World Heritage)

By | September 8, 2021

The Sermeq-Kujalleq glacier flows into the sea in the ice fjord on the west coast of Greenland. The glacier, which is up to 700 m thick, moves at a speed of 40 m per day in the summer months, making it one of the few glaciers in Greenland that reach the sea.

Ilulissat Icefjord: Facts

Official title: Ilulissat Icefjord (Greenland)
Natural monument: Icefjord 40 km long and 7 km wide in Disko Bay in Greenland; partly 250,000 year old ice sheet; The mouth of the Kangia (also Sermeq Kujalleq), the most productive and fastest glacier in the Northern Hemisphere, into the Icefjord; Every year glaciers calve 35 km² of ice, 10 percent of all Greenland icebergs
Continent: Europe
Country: Denmark
Location: Ilulissat on Disko Bay in western Greenland
Appointment: 2004
Meaning: Extraordinary natural phenomenon with one of the fastest and most productive glaciers in the Northern Hemisphere; important for glacier research and research into climate change
Flora and fauna: Very nutrient-rich water, therefore numerous species of fish (including the Greenland halibut), seals and whales; many sea and land birds, including fulmar, seagull, ptarmigan, and peregrine falcon; only a few mammals, including the arctic hare, polar bear and arctic fox

Where icebergs are born – Ilullisat Icefjord

“Things of indescribable beauty in which the purest tones of light shimmer and sparkle”. With these words the American naturalist John Muir tried to describe the white giants of the seas over a hundred years ago: icebergs. In the Ilulissat Icefjord in western Greenland, they float majestically in the sea in an infinite number of sizes and sometimes peculiar shapes. No two icebergs are alike: Pointed or round protruding from the water, narrow and high or flat and wide crystal palaces, with arches and holes or even very flat, they shimmer in the most varied of color nuances in the light of the low-lying sun. Some are snow-white, others gray, look dirty, others glitter from green to deep blue – unforgettable images of cold, austere beauty. The darker their color the more tightly compressed the ice of the giants is: The blue stripes in the fantastic ice sculptures show that there was once a crevice here that filled with water, which then froze again. Ilulissat is the third largest city in Greenland on Disko Bay. “Ilulissat” means “icebergs” in the Inuit language. – And what could describe this place of the white ice pyramids more aptly? The life of the residents, the Inuit, depends on the ice here. There are no roads between the towns and villages. The Inuit have adapted to nature, there are more sled dogs than residents here and when a dog sled glides past the colorful houses that blend in with the fascinating area, you feel soaked in the magic of the ice in the middle of this landscape. The sparkling giants are fragments of the Kangia, which is also called Sermeq Kujalleq, one of the fastest and most active glaciers in the world and the most productive in the Northern Hemisphere: in one year it calves about 35 square kilometers of ice, which is about ten percent of all Greenland icebergs. It is a breathtaking spectacle when the Kangia calves when it flows into the sea, releasing gigantic blocks of ice into the forty kilometers long, seven kilometers wide and about 1500 meters deep Ilulissat ice fjord. The ice breaks with a tremendous crash, falls and then drifts slowly with the current south to the northern Atlantic. Check behealthybytomorrow to see Getting to Denmark.

Icebergs can cover up to fifteen kilometers a day and change direction very quickly – depending on the wind and current. There is now a constant ice alarm in the North Atlantic between January and July. Huge ice giants protrude from the sea, but almost ninety percent of the mass of an iceberg is hidden beneath the surface of the water; a considerable danger for ships, because the dimensions of the ice giants under water cannot be reliably estimated. The largest icebergs here are over a hundred meters high and weigh up to a million tons. After the “Titanic” accident in 1914, the international ice patrol, the Ice Patrol, was founded. The special team of scientists and marines is flying today between Newfoundland and Greenland, to observe the moving glacier boulders and to warn ships if necessary so that they can change their course in good time. However, if an iceberg threatens an oil rig, it has to be towed away.

The thunder, triggered by the breaking off of huge ice masses from the calving glaciers, can be heard more and more frequently and the number of icebergs is constantly growing. The residents react less with fascination than with concern. Here, where the icebergs are born, the ice melts earlier year after year and freezes over again later. Overall, the ice mass in Greenland has decreased by almost thirty percent in the past century. Because less ice covers the sea, the fishermen catch more fish – the water is very nutritious and a playground for numerous species of fish – but they also know that this fact is a sign of man-made global warming and ultimately threatens the existence of the Inuit. Many still live from hunting polar bears, walruses or seals, but when it gets warmer, the animals will soon seek cooler places in the north. The world natural heritage »Ilulissat Icefjord« seems to have become a very ephemeral legacy.

Ilulissat Icefjord (World Heritage)