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Located on the west coast of Greenland, 250 km north of the Arctic Circle, Greenland’s Ilulissat Icefjord is the sea mouth of Sermeq Kujalleq, one of the few glaciers through which the Greenland ice cap reaches the sea. Sermeq Kujalleq is one of the fastest and most active glaciers in the world. It annually calves over 35 km3 of ice, i.e. 10% of the production of all Greenland calf ice and more than any other glacier outside Antarctica. Studied for over 250 years, it has helped to develop our understanding of climate change and icecap glaciology. The combination of a huge ice-sheet and the dramatic sounds of a fast-moving glacial ice-stream calving into a fjord covered by icebergs makes for a dramatic and awe-inspiring natural phenomenon.

Ilulissat is a coastal town in western Greenland about 250km north of the Arctic Circle. It's known for the Ilulissat Icefjord and for huge icebergs shed by the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier. The Ilulissat Icefjord is since 2004 on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Hans Egede’s arrival in Greenland in 1721 marked the new colonial style whereby wooden houses were sent up from Scandinavia as timber kits. The colourful tradition of the characteristic, brightly coloured houses began here. The colours were practical and indicated the function of the building: Commercial houses were red; hospitals were yellow; police stations were black; the telephone company was green and fish factories were blue. The establishment of Home Rule in 1979 signalled a shift towards architecture which linked old and new expressions. A wide range of colours were used, and purple, pink and orange also appeared in the urban landscape.

Floating iceberg in the Disco Bay.  Ilulissat, Greenland

A fishing boat cruises near two "Tabular" icebergs off the coast of Ilulissat, Greenland. Tabular icebergs are very solid and often break away from ice sheets or ice shelves. Many show horizontal banding from the layers of ice that built up as the sheet formed.

On cloudy days during the summer the shades of grey are endless. Floating icebergs near Ilulissat, Greenland.

On cloudy days during the summer the shades of grey are endless. Floating icebergs near Ilulissat, Greenland.

The Ilulissat icefjord seen from inside the cockpit of a Sikorsky helicopter is a jaw-dropping experience. The almost 70 km long glacier drains 6.5% of the Greenland ice sheet and produces around 10% of all Greenland icebergs. Some 35 billion tonnes of icebergs calve off and pass out of the fjord every year.

Icebergs breaking from the glacier are often so large (up to a kilometer in height) that they are to tall to float down the fjord and lie stuck on the bottom of its shallower areas, sometimes for years, until they are broken up by the force of the glacier.

A massive iceberg floats away to open sea at the mouth of the Sermeq Kujalleq, one of the few glaciers through which the Greenland ice cap reaches the sea. Ilulissat, Greenland.

To give you an idea how big this iceberg is... In this 600% crop of my picture you can spot the red fishing vessel that we boarded a few days before to photograph the icebergs from the sea.

Magnificent view from the helicopter. A "Drydock" iceberg which is eroded to form a little U-shaped harbor. This little drydock-harbor holds two massive icebergs together. It's just a matter of time before they break and reshape. Ilulissat, Greenland.

Dragon Castle. Disco Bay, Ilulissat, Greenland.

A fantastic variety of shapes result from both the formation and deterioration processes of icebergs. Like snowflakes, no two icebergs are exactly the same, but there are certain basic categories of shapes that are used for iceberg observations. These are called "Tabular" Icebergs.

Gigantic "Tabular" shaped icebergs float into the Disko Bay.  Ilulissat Glacier,  Greenland.

Disco Bay, Ilulissat Greenland

A "Dome" shaped iceberg floats towards open sea during the midnight sun. Ilulissat, Greenland

A seagull flying in front of the enormous icebergs, Ilulissat icefjord, Greenland

A seagull flying in front of the enormous Dome-shaped iceberg, Ilulissat icefjord, Greenland

A gigantic "Pinnacle" iceberg floats along the coast of Greenland.  A Pinnacle iceberg has one or more spires.

Slightly overcast weather during the summer when the sun never sets creates magnificent tones of white and grey colors

A Dome shaped iceberg in Ilulissat, photographed at 2 o'clock in the morning. It is a very difficult feeling to describe, the closest I can get is “pleasantly disconcerting”. Imagine a time that you have known for your entire life to be a time of pitch darkness, and then you find yourself in Greenland and you find yourself awake at 2 o’clock in the morning gazing at this magnificent, iridescent glow over all the land. Even if you have experienced this phenomenon 2 or 3 times in a row, it never ceases to amaze. Life barely slows down and there is a seemingly endless hive of activity. Disko Bay, Greenland.

Seagulls at play during the midnight sun. Ilulissat, Greenland.

80 kilometers north of Ilulissat on the west coast of Greenland  -and the world famous ice fjord- is the Eqi Glacier, a wall of ice that´s up to 200 meters high and 4 kilometers wide, and one of the biggest and most active glaciers in all of Greenland.

The 4 kilometer wide Eqi glacier seen from the ship. Eqi, Greenland

In front of the 4 kilometer wide and 200 meter high Eqi glacier, that cruise ship looks like a small toy.  Eqi, west coast, Greenland

© 2021  Dominic Verhulst   All rights reserved