“Seeing all the icebergs out there is just so impressive! Those beautiful ice sculptures that are given to you by nature… it is just gorgeous!”
Greenlanders once used icebergs to distinguish the seasons and even to identify towns, a testament to their steadfast presence and to the intertwined character of Greenlandic culture with our country’s powerful nature. Media stress that the ice in Greenland is melting, and while this is absolutely true, as long as the Greenland Ice Sheet exists, icebergs of all sizes and shapes will fill these Arctic waters.
ICEBERG CAPITAL OF THE WORLD
Many of the picturesque icebergs along Greenland’s west coast calve from two North Greenland glaciers, and as luck would have it, they share the same name!
The largest collection of icebergs in Greenland exists at the Ilulissat Icefjord, thanks to one of the fastest glaciers in the world called Sermeq Kujalleq. True to its “iceberg capital of the world” nickname, Ilulissat is home to thousands of icebergs that can be seen year round by hiking, sailing, or flightseeing.
“It was great to be near the glacier and icebergs and listen to the bubbles – all the old oxygen coming out of the ice, like there are millions of years in front of you!”
“We were going in a boat to see icebergs; we were going in another boat to see icebergs; we were going to look at icebergs from the air; we were going to walk to see icebergs. But every way was different! It was indescribable!”
A bit further north, another Sermeq Kujalleq glacier gives travelers in Uummannaq quite an impressive iceberg display. Here, one really can tell the seasons based on the changing icebergs. An eastern horizon with a thin white glow is the spring view while summer sees a harbor packed with towering icebergs finding their way to sea. And as the winter sea ice forms, any straggling iceberg gets frozen in place until next year, creating a great icy maze perfect for dog sledding and ice fishing.
ICEBERG HUBS IN GREENLAND
In East Greenland, the Sermilik Fjord stands just around the mountain from Tasiilaq, and it is particularly loaded with icebergs during the spring thaw. With so much ice to navigate, getting to the nearby village of Tiniteqilaaq by boat can be more of a thrilling icebreakers trip than smooth sailing! But not to worry – the alternative is a breathtaking helicopter charter that puts the entire fjord full of icebergs into view.
South Greenland is a special place for iceberg watching for not one, but two, phenomena! Blue ice is rampant in South Greenland, and it appears so vibrant against a backdrop of lush green hills. Also, large sheets of pack ice are truly unique to South Greenland towns like Nanortalik and Qaqortoq. Unlike a freshwater iceberg that calves from a glacier, this is frozen ocean water that has traveled all the way from the east coast.
There are two types of ice in Greenland’s waters – freshwater icebergs that calve from glaciers into the sea and saltwater pack ice that forms at sea.
- Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has the largest concentration of icebergs in Greenland.
The portion of an iceberg visible above water is only about 10% of the total iceberg.
Icebergs can be white or blue and even have dark stripes.
- Blue icebergs have very little air inside while white icebergs have many air bubbles or a snowy surface. Dark stripes in icebergs come from dirt that glaciers pick up as they move from land to sea.
ICEBERGS UP CLOSE
Sailing tours are the most popular and comfortable way to see icebergs, but in this one of a kind environment, why not satiate your adventurous spirit and meet an iceberg in a unique way? Take the rare opportunity to kayak through Greenland’s icy waters and to charge yourself with strong Arctic energy with every iceberg you pass.
Or really take the road less traveled and SCUBA dive alongside icebergs in Greenland. Seeing the foot of a massive iceberg and being within arms reach of extraordinary aquatic life are experiences of a lifetime. At the day’s end, when you look out at the icebergs in the water and know that you have experienced them in a way that few others have, you just might have to pinch yourself to believe it’s real.