In late August I had the pleasure of spending 10 days in the small but picturesque town of Ilulissat, Greenland leading a workshop for LofotenTours. The workshop itself was small and intimate with a group of only 3 people and lasted for a week, leaving me with 3 days to explore some of Greenland by myself.
With its approximately 4,500 inhabitants, Ilulissat is the third largest city on Greenland. While there are roads, the distances are short and from one end of the road to the other, there are no more than 6 kilometers; meaning that the area we explored is relatively small.
Most of the photography is done within a short walk or taxi ride from the hotel and the main focus is the Kangia Glacier, known as the Ilulissat Icefjord). This amazing site is what makes Ilulissat such a unique place; the glacier goes into the fjord and covers it in majestic icebergs.
While it’s beautiful to explore this area (especially by boat), I left Greenland with mixed feelings. This is, without doubt, one of the most unique places I’ve explored and it was great fun but I couldn’t help feeling somewhat sad about the situation over there. It was a conversation I had with our captain Kai that stuck with me and made me realize just how much Greenland is changing.
It’s one thing to sit behind a computer and read about climate change and global warming but it isn’t until you actually visit a place affected by it that you understand the magnitude of it. Sure, I have seen some of it in both Norway and Iceland but this visit to Greenland really struck me.
Here are some of the scary facts Kai brought up in our conversations about the Ilulissat Glacier and life of Greenland. I referenced this website to make sure I got all the number right.
- The glacier moves 40 meters every 24 hours. This is double what it was ten years ago.
- The glacier calves around 46 cubic kilometers of ice every year. To put that in perspective, that amount of melted ice would be the annual consumption in the USA.
- The largest icebergs calved by the glacier are 1.5 cubic kilometers of ice, or 30 football fields for my American friends. The layer of ice is as high as Mount Everest. It would take the entire population of Denmark seven years to consume that amount of water.
- Perhaps most telling, 20 years ago the temperature used to average around -40c, while today it rarely gets colder than -20c.
- 10 years ago the icebergs were about 90 meters high, while today they are about 25 meters.
Hearing this from a person born and raised in this town and seeing myself just how quickly the glacier moves was frightening. Though it is beautiful to see the ice and scenery change almost on a daily basis, I couldn’t help thinking about what that actually means.
I’m just happy that I’ve been able to visit this place and I can’t wait to return again. Who knows, maybe future generations won’t be able to see this for themselves…
Christian Hoiberg is a Norwegian landscape photographer and the creator of Capture Landscapes, a website devoted to helping artists improve your landscape photography. His images can be found on his website or Instagram.