At the moment we are in the midst of a heatwave. Today it is 37C and the humidity is uncomfortably high. That leads me to think about cooler places in the world and reminds me of a recent trip to Greenland where I became fascinated with Icebergs. Thinking about those floating, sculptured mountains of ice has a cooling effect on the mind and brings back memories of a wonderful holiday in Greenland – a place I definitely want to return to.
Every year 10,000 to 15,000 medium to large icebergs break off or calve from Greenland glaciers. Our first encounter with these incredible lumps of frozen water cut through with green, turquoise or blue streaks was at Ilulissat, a lovely town on the west coast of Greenland.
Here we found the Ilulissat Icefjord which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. First we took a helicopter over the Icefjord and saw the massive collection of icebergs which have calved from the Sermaq Kullalleq glacier one by one and then we hiked along the raised pathway to the edge of the coast and really saw these icebergs colliding with one another as they found their way out to sea. There was a sound of popping air and crashing ice and it was awe inspiring.
Later, on a small fishing boat we cruised around some of these majestic natural works of art and felt the incredible power of these huge, beautiful sculptures.
Here you can see the immensity of this iceberg alongside the small dinghy. The tallest icebergs tower over the surface of the ocean and can correspond to a 15 storey building whilst others can be small, the size of a hut or smaller.
Whales play in these waters and are often observed slowly cruising between the icebergs.
The reflections are magnificent – at any time of day. We were told that only 10% of the iceberg is visible above the water – which means this one must be incredible below!
Smaller ones get in the way of boats and the zodiacs from our ship often had to gently push them out of the way as they floated with the current.
It is said that the iceberg that sank the Titanic was probably born in Ilulissat.
One day we cruised to Qagsserssuaq where there is a fantastic “garden of icebergs” . Here they are in all shapes and sizes and and some even had beautiful openings which would be tempting to sail through had we been in a smaller craft!
The ice cap is in a constant state of change and movement and every year it produces icebergs that are primarily formed in the sea from glaciers in the central and northwestern regions of Greenland. Imagine a slow transformation from snowflake to ice during a period predating modern history and thousands of years later, we marvel at these amazing structures. We heard constant cracking and rumbling echoes of icebergs calving wherever we went in Greenland – sometimes it sounded like a gunshot – and there is no telling where or when it might happen. There is an almighty crash and the lump of ice falls into the ocean. I wouldn’t like to think about being in a boat close by!
We watched this fishing boat dodge several icebergs which threatened to interfere with his fishing. It seems to be a way of life in Greenland.
Even hiking in the tundra, the inevitable sight of large and small icebergs were present.
Polar bears have to be cautious in the summer months and many take refuge on icebergs. We were lucky to find a polar bear and her cub on an ice floe having a meal of a freshly killed seal. Bearing in mind the female polar bear weighs between 150 to 250 kg this piece of ice must have been very dense. After observing the feeding ritual for some time, mother decided to have a rest and we moved on. It was good see these bears were fat and healthy as we had heard sad tales of the opposite before we arrived.
My next trip is to Iceland in May and hopefully there will be lots more of these amazing works of nature to observe and wonder at.