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The Fjords of East Greenland

Secrets of the Scoresby Sund fjord system

Some areas of our planet are notable for their beautiful fjords: Norway, Alaska, Chile and New Zealand, to name a few. But the fjords of Scoresby Sund in East Greenland belong in a class of their own. For one thing, the enormity of this fjord system (38,000 km2) is unmatched in the world. For another thing, the environment is exceptionally wild and untouched—there are no roads outside the one permanent Inuit settlement (Ittoqqortoormiit, pop. 452) and only a handful of scattered cabins and historical huts remind you that humans ever set foot in this area larger than Belgium. But those aren’t the only reasons you’ll love these fjords. Read on to find out why Scoresby Sund is arguably the most interesting and attractive of all fjord systems.


Having carved some of the grandest and most spectacular fjords on the planet, the tidewater glaciers of Scoresby Sund are still adding beauty to their creation with the daily delivery of icebergs. These enormous blocks of ice drift around the vast network of inlets and channels, sometimes for decades, sculpted all the while by wind and water into fantastic forms. Fairytale castle-like bergs, complete with turrets and archways, can be encountered everywhere in the fjords. Similar icebergs exist in Antarctica, but nowhere else can one behold the aesthetic of blue and white icebergs juxtaposed with green, red and ocher mountainsides. Such views are nearly continuous throughout the fjords of Scoresby Sund.


Perhaps no living animal is more evocative of a primeval Ice Age wilderness than the muskox (Ovibos moschatus). These prehistoric-looking herbivores are perfectly suited to the hills and valleys on the northern coast of Scoresby Sund. While hiking across the tundra landscape, you can easily come across tufts of qiviut, the underwool of the muskox, highly prized for its unparalleled softness and warmth. You may also catch a whiff of their strong odor, for which muskoxen are named. Encountering a herd of these Arctic animals in the wild, stoically munching on hardy plants or engaging in battles for dominance, is an exciting and memorable experience.

Northern Lights

Located between 70° and 72° North, Scoresby Sund lies at the optimal latitude for the aurora borealis, otherwise known as northern lights. Two other conditions are required for good aurora viewing: dark nights and clear skies. September (late summer) is an ideal month to be in Scoresby Sund because the midnight sun no longer brightens the night sky—the darker the night, the more striking the appearance of aurora. The weather at this time of year can be surprisingly accommodating too, thanks to katabatic winds. Cold, heavy air over the Greenland Ice Sheet flows down toward the ocean, blowing away clouds and often leaving clear skies over Scoresby Sund. It is definitely worth staying awake for your chance to see the ethereal lights dancing across the sky and reflected in a tranquil fjord strewn with towering icebergs.

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