Many people in the world get surprised when they hear that there are people living in Greenland. For them, the country only is a white blob on top of the world map. We can’t blame them: Greenland is not exactly crowded. 56,000 people live here. There is enough space for everyone. But most of the space is taken by the Ice Cap.
80% of Greenland is covered in ice. Some of the year the ice and snow cover close to 100%. Obviously, the ice has a significant influence on the life on the world’s biggest island. Intro
The Ice Cap
The Greenland Ice Sheet is the biggest ice cap in the northern hemisphere. It is about 1.726.400 km2 big. An addition, there are some ”smaller” ice caps with a total size of 76.000 km2. The area free of ice in Greenland is “only” about 338.000 km2.
The Ice Sheet is an ice cube of some size. Should it melt, it wouldn’t just make the glass spill over, but it would raise the global sea level by more than 7 meters. ”That’s a whole lotta ice”, as the Americans would say.
At its thickest, the Ice Sheet is more than three kilometers thick. It is so heavy, that about a third of it is pushed down below sea level by its own weight. If the ice melted, Greenland would be a ring-shaped country.
As mentioned, the Ice Sheet is under huge pressure due to its own weight. Therefore, there is a large number of glaciers all around Greenland, that push the ice out to the sea. The famous icebergs get born here, when they break off the Ice Cap.
You can experience the Ice Sheet many places in Greenland, but no place as easily as in Kangerlussuaq, where you can drive all the way to the edge and even walk up on top of the mighty Ice Cap.
South Greenland - green meadows, rugged cliffs, and hot springsRead story
North Greenland - dog sleds, northern lights, ice, and midnight sunRead story
West Greenland - gateway with capital and the Greenland Ice SheetRead story
The ice fjords
Ilulissat Icefjord is a unique natural phenomenon which has become part of the UNESCO World Heritage. The fantastic fjord with its icy waters and the huge glacier in its bottom has been described many other places. It is almost impossible not to have heard about it.
Nothing compares to sitting and watching the fantastic Ilulissat Icefjord. It is very important, though, that you keep a distance to the waterfront of the Icefjord. It can be live-dangerous to go down there. Sudden waves can reach far onto the shore. People have earlier been caught up by the waves in the cold water.
The other icefjords in Greenland are just as impressive as Ilulissat Icefjord. But the one in Ilulissat is unique because it moves so fast and because it is so easy accessible. We would like to mention some other beautiful icefjords:
Sermilik on the westside of Lake Ammassalik
The icefjords close to Paamiut and Nuuk
Qoorooq near Narsarsuaq
Bredefjord close to Narsaq
The beautiful Eternal Fjord near Maniitsoq.
Pack ice is a noticeable phenomenon – especially in Eastern and Southern Greenland. Pack ice occurs when ice in the Northern Sea breaks up in spring and summer and giant, flat icebergs flow down along the east coast and go around Cape Farewell – Greenland’s southern tip – to turn up along Southern Greenland where it will melt or drift to sea in the Baffin Bay eventually.
Pack ice – or drift ice – is frozen sea ice of salt water, unlike the freshwater ice from the Ice Cap. It packs tightly wherever it floats, and it can be incredibly dangerous to manoeuvre in it.
We cannot make it clear enough that it is dangerous to come too close to the ice – whether it is the Ice Cap or large icebergs in the water. Please be careful, as there are unimaginable forces of nature at work here. Having said that, and looking at it from a distance, the ice is a view you never will forget!