9. Disney’s Frozen in real life!!! : Travelling between the icebergs of West Greenland at midnight…

If, for a scientific experiment, you’d ask a large group of toddlers: “What color is the color of ice?” You’ll probably get an overwhelming group of toddlers answering: “White”. Maybe a few think of Italian gelato and mention pink or orange, but I’m guessing they will be in a slim minority.

I’m guessing lots of adults will answer that question with “white” too. And yes, I would also have answered “White”, before I visited Greenland. But that will not be my answer anymore if anyone would ask me that right now…

After a great day of hiking on the verge of the Kangia Icefjord near Ilulissat and after a great dinner at Hotel Arctic, I embarked on a polar expedition ship used to get travellers near to the icebergs. Around 22.00 hrs, the ship set sail and left the harbour for one of the very best travel adventures ever…

The icebergs gather at the end of the fjord, from where they start spreading over Disco Bay providing a great opportunity to sail among them.

After leaving the small harbour of Ilulissat, the ship turned south, towards the end of the fjord and immediately the icebergs came in to view.

Behind us the town of Ilulissat got smaller and on top of a cliff I could clearly see Hotel Arctic perfectly situated above the town and harbour, overlooking Disko Bay towards the icebergs that I photographed from my hotelroom window; the icebergs that we were now going to visit…

The waning light of the setting sun was getting more and more a red light, and that was what the icebergs in front of me were reflecting. Our captain said that we were very lucky because there were lots of low clouds hanging above us, which according to him, would considerably enlarge the spectacle we were going to witness. And he was right!

The tour I had enlisted on was an evening/midnight sailing among the icebergs. The actual midnight sun in Ilulissat lasts from May 21st to July 24th, so I was a little late for that (I took this trip on August 1st), but having said that, I can assure you that it doesn’t really matter. It might even be better that the sun is really setting, because it only sets a little bit and sky stays filled with twilight and never grows dark. So it adds an experience that you won’t have when the sun doesn’t set at all. I mean, as a photographer I love to experience as much as possible the variations in light and with a setting sun, there is more variation.

Sailing during the night with the sun still shining is a fantastic and unusual experience. Every day 40.000.000 (yes, 40 million) ton of ice flow out into the fjord.

The floating icebergs are gigantic, sometimes measuring more than 100 metres wide and long – and with a height of more than 100 metres above the water surface as well….

Did I mention that these giant measurements are only about 10 percent of the complete iceberg. The other 90 percent is under water. This is from where we get the saying: “The tip of the iceberg”… This is also what caused the sinking of the Titanic. The ship crew saw anย  iceberg too late and tried to avoid collission. Though this seemed to work, the under water part of the iceberg tore the ship open and although it seemed unsinkable, it eventually did…

The icebergs are a wonderful sight in every kind of weather (something I would experience in the upcoming travels through Greenland and of which I have to emphasize how true this statement is).ย In the sunshine the contrasts are very clear, mainly white and very clear blue where there’s some water on top of the icebergs surface. The blue shades are very beautiful when it’s cloudy and the midnight sun casts a unique glow on the icebergs during the night. They reflect that glow in many colors and the shades cast by clouds even multiply the color palette reflected…

Lucky us absorbing the ever intensifying color reflections, as the sun keeps setting ๐Ÿ™‚

The sunlight reflected from the icebergs became yellow and purple…

Getting myself in a picture with this magnificent backdrop…

… when looking in another direction, the reflected light got pink and blue…

Notice the tiny sea birds circling above the water and indicating the humongous size of the icebergs. These icebergs even dwarf the largest of whales…

I hope you also noticed the different stuctures of the icebergs. I’m not talking colors now, but how the surface is structured. Some icebergs have large cracks and a “scarred” surface, others look quite smooth, some are pure in color and in daylight quite white, others have stones or sand on their surface and they look dirty…

The reason for this is that icebergs have a lifecycle which is heavily influenced by their environment. Let me explain:

1st you need to know that icebergs are actually pieces of inland ice. On our planet there are two large inland ice areas. Latrgest is the surface of Antarctica, 2nd largest is the surface of Greenland. There are some smaller areas too where smaller icebergs are born, like the pieces breaking from the glaciers in Iceland. The icebergs in Greenland are the largest on the northern hemisphere due to the icecap being between 3 and 4 kilometers thick….

Actually the inland ice consists of multiple layers of snow which have been compressed by new layers of snow on top over a period of several thousands of years. The lowest layers of snow get compressed into ice. This causes the air being captured in tiny pockets in the ice. These arir pockets can bare a pressureof 4 to 5 atmosphere.ย  If you would pick a small piece of ice, broken from an iceberg near your ear, or when you put it into your mouth, it will sparkle like carbon oxide in a glass of coke, because the encapsulated air is freed because of the warm temperature of the air or sea water, causing the ice to melt. In thory, this ice could be over 200.000 years old. It is used as drinking water (privat and commercial) and it is used in the production process of alcohol.

The tip of the iceberg

Only 10 to 15% of an iceberg is visible above the water surface. If the water contains more salt, the iceberg will drift higher and show more of its tip.

Icebergs containing stones and sand will drift deeper in the water because of a larger density. The largest icebergs are over 1.5 kmยณ large. Most icebergs will reachย  about 50 metres above sea level, which is as high as a 15 floor skyscraper building. But in the Kangia icefjord you’ll find icebergs up to 150 metres above sea level! (a 45 floor Skyscraper). And that’s only the 10% above water level!!!

Sea ice, is something completely different. It is frozen sea water, which can get covered by layers of snow.

The water in Disco Bay is about 5 degrees above zero in Summer and freezes in winter, making it virtually impossible for ships to reach the area and thus isolating the community of Ilulissat for a couple of months…

On the picture beneath you’ll see pinks,., puples, oranges, blues and even an ice cave on top which turns green inside ๐Ÿ™‚

After a piece of ice has calved from a glacier, it falls into the water of the Kangia icefjord and after it spins and wobbles a bit it will find balance and starts to float towards the end of the fjord. The water in which an iceberg floats however is relatively warm, in winter, but specially in summer and this will cause the iceberg to melt under water and this proceeds until balance is broken and the iceberg will turn over.

  1. A jagged, craggy looking iceberg is an iceberg which has not turned over yet.
  2. An iceberg which did turn looks smooth on its surface because the sea water currents smoothened its surface.
  3. Filthy icebergs originate from the bottom or the edges of the inland ice/glacier and contain stones and sand caught in the ice.
  4. Because of the sea water melting the iceberg, most icebergs look craggy just above the water surface, where ice breaks off.

 

Enough science!

Enjoy these views like I did, purely because of their awesome beauty!!!

Rounding the edge of an iceberg meant preparing for yet another mindblowing panoramic view…

… getting ones breath back from the last view to stop breathing again at first seeing the new sight…

“Let the whole world be as I am.

Let winter rule always.”

From: The Snow Queen by H.C. Andersen.

 

“If you wake me up during summer,

I’ll make you suffer.”

From: The Snow Queen by H.C. Andersen

There were lots of seabirds circling the empty icebergs void of any lifeform and still this is not so extraordinary if you know how rich with fish these cold waters are. That’s why these large flocks of birds, but also seal colonies and whale families roam these waters. The food chain is very abundantly filled in these areas.

Ilove the above picture very much because it almost looks like a work of Abstract Art…

And the above pic brilliantly illustrates the steepness of the icebergs. Apart from the under water part of the iceberg which can cause significant damage to ships, pieces of ice calving from these steep ice walls can cause a lot of havoc to a ship too, meaning it is wise to not get to close to an iceberg…

Another yellowish-green cave on top of a giant iceberg…

Simply eye popping…

The bright yellows contra the deep purples and a blue somewhat clouded sky…

“If you’ve never stared off into the distance,

then your life is a shame.”

From: Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby by The Counting Crows

Some of the ice walls are pieces of art ๐Ÿ™‚

The town of Ilulissat …

…and as the sun was setting even more, some of the icebergs started to glow like…. like…like gold!!!

Now the boat sailed away from Ilulissat further south…

…and we got into an area of golden showers…

I can honestly say that I never saw anything more beautiful on this world … and that means a lot…

We had now left Ilulissat far behind and had reached what seemed to be…

… A photographers paradise ๐Ÿ™‚

I would love to ski from this slope ๐Ÿ˜‰

Textures in Nature or design by Nature are showing us some of the most beautiful images we’ll ever see, whether it is the symmetrics of a snow crystal, the patterns of red sand dunes shaped by fierce winds, or the shapes of icebergs moulded by wind and water or the reflections of sunlight on water…

The following pictures show icebergs originated from the verge of the glacier and the inland ice. These pieces of ice have been scraping stones and sand from the rocky bottom and this is part of the proces, explaining how fjords are shaped.

These icebegs have not turned yet, they are jagged on the top, indicating that no sea water was able to smoothen their surface…

Lots of intricate textures visible in these awesome icebergs…

The light got more pink now the sun was waning…

Is that a man looking down from that icecave towards our ship? ๐Ÿ˜‰

When I was sailing through this enchanted maze of gigantic icebergs, I really felt I had crossed the last frontier and had passed into the Wild…

“The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.โ€ย 

Alexander Supertramp

Quote from “Into the Wild” by Chris McCandles

I had already focussed a bit on the beautiful reflections of the icebergs in the water, but now that the sunwas getting really low on the horizon, the water attracted me and my camera as a magnet…

And then the captain stopped the motor and we started waiting for the sun to set…


This piece of ice from Disco Bay shows a clear top and a white bottom. White ice is containing lots of tiny air pockets/bubbles,and its origin is from inland ice where snow layers were compressed into ice. Black ice however is very clear and you can see through. I consists of pure, clear frozen water (without air pockets). It is actually sea ice and these two kinds of ice can combine. The origin of the name black ice is easily illustrated when you put the black ice in the sea. Then the ice becomes dark and nearly invisible to human eyes. The white ice stays quite well visible in sea water.

The water kept getting more beautiful in the waning sun light…

Depictions of abstract art or maybe vague reminders of Ssalvador Dali’s surrealistic watches…


The sun was now really stting behind the volcanoe mountains of Disco Island…

Then we spent a long time drifting between pastellike colors of mainly pinks and blues…

It was like sailing on another planet…

It was an otherworldly experience…

Then we returned to Ilulissat where we arrived at around 00.30 and then I returned to Hotel Arctic where drank a beer and went to my room for some beautiful dreams ;-).

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