A Drizzly Day in Ilulissat and Massive Icebergs

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August 22nd 2019
Published: August 23rd 2019
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Today Jan gave us a walking tour of Ilulissat. It drizzled for awhile but stopped after about an hour. First we went to the harbor. Ilulissat exports supposedly 75%!o(MISSING)f the world's market for shrimp. They also hunt whales here, but tourism seems to be a large industry. Temperature today low to mid 40's.

From Wikipedia: Ilulissat, formerly Jakobshavn or Jacobshaven, is the municipal seat and largest town of the Avannaata municipality in western Greenland, located approximately 350 km (220 mi) north of the Arctic Circle. With the population of 4,541 as of 2013, it is the third-largest city in Greenland, after Nuuk and Sisimiut. The city is home to almost as many sled-dogs as people.

In direct translation, Ilulissat is the Kalaallisut word for "Icebergs" (Danish: Isbjerge). The nearby Ilulissat Icefjord is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has made Ilulissat the most popular tourist destination in Greenland. Tourism is now the town's principal industry. The city neighbours the Ilulissat Icefjord, where there are enormous icebergs from the most productive glacier in the northern hemisphere.

Next stop on the walking tour was homes of notable people who settled here (Jacob Severin, Knud Rasmussen). We walked by the old helicopter landing which was the only air travel till they built the airport. The sledge dogs are kept in this area. Jan said there are fewer dogs than years ago because it cost alot for food and upkeep. We walked to Semermiut, an area that was settled during different time periods dating back to 600 B.C. Jan told us that the different settlement periods in Greenland coincided with warm time periods, and when the climate got colder, the people left.

From Wikipedia: The pre-colonial history of Sermermiut was pieced together by a series of archaeological excavations during the twentieth century. The area became an area of archaeological interest at the start of the century, although the results were not well documented. A 1953 dig identified that Sermermiut had been used by Saqqaq, Early Dorset and Thule cultures. Another dig in 1983 dated the start of the Early Dorset settlement at around 600–200 BCE.

Jan knew where there was an Inuit burials and showed us. The skulls are under flattish rocks. After looking at the burial area we walked closer to the icebergs.

These icebergs come off the most productive glacier in the northern hemisphere, Kangia. The glacier is located 60 km up the fjord from Ilulissat and produces some of the world's largest icebergs. It is stated that the glacier is the fastest ice stream in the world, producing 35 km3 calf ice per year at 20 meters/24 hours. I found a YouTube of a piece that calved off that was the size of Manhattan. The fjord the ice pieces flow down is 1000 meters deep, but once they get to Ilulissat, they get stuck in 200 meter deep water. The icebergs I'm looking at have been there since May. Once they melt enough to get unstuck, they will start floating south (like the one the Titanic struck). This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We were on our own for the afternoon and just walked around town, had lunch at a cafe, went shopping and back to the hotel. At lunch I talked to 2 guys (1 from Boston, 1 from Austin) who are on a ship that is traveling through the Northwest Passage to Alaska. I guess that's a popular thing to do because this is the 2nd ship doing this.

In the evening we had a sunset boat trip to the icebergs. Seeing the icebergs up close and also spotting humpback whales. I know I've said it before but these icebergs are huge. Our guide said most of them had flipped over because they were smooth. The jagged ones haven't flipped yet, but the large one are stuck and haven't moved much. We found one with an arch. The evening light was great for photography.

The whales were far from the boat and difficult to photograph. Mostly I saw the spouts, a little of them surfacing, and once in awhile a tail.

The guide explained the difference of the white, opague ice with lots of air trapped, and the clear ice which is very dense, has been compressed, and not as many air bubbles. The clear ice actually looks blue when looking at a glacier. She said this is because the blue wavelength is what comes back to our eyes.

We had a nightcap drink with Jan, presented him with a group tip, and went to bed. Tomorrow we're going back to Iceland.

Additional photos below
Photos: 50, Displayed: 25


Red outline is the World Heritage SiteRed outline is the World Heritage Site
Red outline is the World Heritage Site

On the top right side is Eqi Glacier where we were for 2 nights.

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