Discover the Scoresby Sund Fjord System in East Greenland
Scoresby Sund from high above
Last summer, I was lucky to get a glimpse at it, but just from high above through the window of an airplane en route from Copenhagen to San Francisco. What I saw through the little window was a wonderland of water, huge icebergs and steep mountains, a magnificent structure that looked like a bare tree with many long branches surrounded by snow and ice. For about 15 minutes, I could not take my eyes off this tranquil image – until the cloud cover took it away from me.
Aerial photo of an East Greenland glacier in the Scoresby Sund
Scoresby Sund & William Scoresby
The main structure of Scoresby Sund is about 110 km (approx. 68 mi) long, with a large number of islands and numerous side fjords, of which the longest extends to about 345 km from the coastline inland. Some of the fjords further inland are up to 1,450 m (4,760 ft) deep. The Scoresby Sund region of Greenland was first mapped in 1822 by the English explorer William Scoresby. The overwhelming beauty of the vast fjord system, including the high walls and cliffs made of basalt, as well as the multi-faceted flora and fauna fascinated the explorer, just as it does any traveler who visits this part of Greenland today.
The town of Ittoqqortoormiit is the only permanent settlement in this remote area, and it is very small. The name of this town with about 490 native Greenland inhabitants, the Inuit, translates into something like “those who live in big houses”. Even though the sea ice blocks ship access to Ittoqqortoormiit for up to nine months of the year, it is important for its existence. Here people are still hunters, which is not surprising considering the abundance of animals and fish in this area.
Flora & Fauna around Scoresby Sund
During their Greenland travel, visitors have many chances to encounter all kinds of animals, such as arctic birds, seals, Atlantic walruses, Greenland whales, and maybe even the rare beluga whales. During the spring when the sea ice is still thick the days are getting longer. The fauna in the region of Scoresby Sund is unusually rich for Greenland. This has to do with several factors: the availability of open water in the wide fjord mouth, areas of persistent open water that do not freeze in winter, rather fertile land, and protection from the winds by the high basalt mountains reaching up to 2,000 m. The long summer days invite travelers to leave the boat and see polar bears, musk oxen, arctic foxes, lemmings and many other animals native to Greenland. For the most adventurous Greenland traveler, there is the world’s largest National Park, starting just north of Scoresby Sund, with the highest mountain in all Greenland, the 3,694 meter tall Gunnbjørn’s Mountain.
Flora of the Scoresby Sund © Troels Jacobsen | Oceanwide Expeditions
Add Scoresby Sund to your bucket list!
Scoresby Sund is definitely a must-see for any Greenland traveler, mainly because it is very different from other parts of the country. If you plan to travel to eastern Greenland to explore this desolate but breathtaking area, you can get there by plane, or by ship, which is the best way to get in touch with the nature, wildlife and culture of Scoresby Sund. My bucket list does include this extraordinary, unique travel destination, and I hope to be lucky enough to observe the amazing Northern Lights – preferably from an expedition vessel or schooner.