There is no downplaying that this gallery of enormous ice sculptures is a spectacular sight. But just as the majority of an iceberg lurks unseen beneath the water, there is more to the Ilulissat Icefjord than its natural beauty. It tells a profound story of the planet’s history, and it is humbling in a time of climate change debate.
There are a handful of ways to experience this wonder of the world, and we like to think we came up with the perfect combination of experiences to fully grasp the scale and significance of the Ilulissat Icefjord.
“The Ice Fjord was fantastic! You can take pictures, but they will never get it the same as when you stand there and look at it. It was just fantastic!”
“When I was up high looking down at the Ice Fjord, it was one of the most beautiful places that I have been to! I was wondering why, because we have traveled quite a lot. At other places, there is a lot of manmade stuff that has come in. Here, it just seems so natural!”
For most things in life, it is best to start with an overview, and the Ilulissat Icefjord is no different. This icefjord, one of the northernmost UNESCO World Heritage Sites, is a massive collection of icebergs that have calved from the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier one by one. It is necessary to first get a bird’s eye view so you know exactly how grand of a scale the Ilulissat Icefjord has.
Unless you arrive to Ilulissat on the coastal ferry, your first sight of the Ilulissat Icefjord will actually be from the window of an airplane. It’s a nice view, but get an even better look by flightseeing with a helicopter or fixed-wing plane. These smaller aircraft fly slower and lower all the way to the glacier wall, and with only a handful of seats, everyone has the best view in the cabin. You might even feel the rumble of the glacier calving beneath you, and then it really feels like an adventurous ride!
SAILING IN ILULISSAT ICEFJORD
After seeing the full picture of the Ilulissat Icefjord, one must get down to the water’s level to see the parts that create the whole. A 41-foot masted vessel may seem large sitting in the harbor, but once you start sailing between the skyscraper icebergs, taking minutes to get past a single one, the Ilulissat Icefjord comes into a different perspective.
Ice looks best during the ‘golden hour’, and in the land of the midnight sun, this happens late into the evening. After dinner, take a midnight cruise in the Ilulissat Icefjord and marvel at how the icebergs change from white and blue to shades of orange and red when struck by the midnight sun.
The Ilulissat Icefjord is filled with icebergs that calve from Sermeq Kujalleq, the fastest moving glacier in the world (40 meters daily).
- The Ilulissat Icefjord is the same area as 66,000 football fields. It reaches 6 km wide and approximately 55 km long, but it is growing longer as glacier retreat occurs due to climate change.
“We sat at the World Heritage Site up at the top of the hill. We could be sitting there still just drinking in the beauty! And the lovely thing was that there was a bit of mist, so you would turn around and turn back, and it would be a totally different perspective. It is just beautiful!”
HIKE ALONG ILULISSAT ICEFJORD
Once you have had the thrills of hovering just overhead the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier and sailing through the maze of icebergs it creates, it is time to reflect on the Ilulissat Icefjord. Take the raised pathway to Sermermiut or hike along the marked Blue Route trail to claim your own plot of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Without a headset or the low chugging of a boat engine, the sounds of the Ilulissat Icefjord are suddenly clear – popping air as it escapes from the ice, icebergs colliding with one another as they find their way out to sea, and waves crashing on the rocky coastline. When you are sitting still, you can finally detect how the Ilulissat Icefjord really is full of life.
CLIMATE CHANGE ‘GROUND ZERO’
Climate change becomes more of a hot topic each day. The Ilulissat Icefjord, and the Greenland Ice Cap that produces it, are increasingly in the spotlight. We Greenlanders are thankful for the growing interest in an issue that we live with and adapt to constantly, but even more so, we are proud to be at the center of important research with global implications.
Visiting the Ilulissat Icefjord is not only about seeing a large calving glacier or melting icebergs before it’s too late. It is a unique opportunity to be active in the climate change conversation here at ‘ground zero’ and to let your experiences in Greenland inspire your life back home.