Greenland's Continental Ice Sheet: A Beginner's Guide

1,800,000 square kilometers! For those of us on the imperial side of life, that is nearly or 700,000 square miles. That's a lot of ice. Majesterial, iridescent, translucent, sparkling how-does-that-blue-even-exist castles in the sea. Greenland holds 10% of all of the world's fresh water in all of that ice. Vast expanses of untouched frozen wilderness. An untold wonder, until now.  

The Greenland Continental Ice sheet

In most places on the earth, when it snows in the winter it simply melts again in summer: this is manifestly not the case in most of Greenland. In Greenland the snow falls  during the colder months and never fully melts, it just gets covered by more snow!

This brings new processes into play: the snow is slowly compressed over the last 2-3 million years to form an impressive ice sheet, a sweeping expanse nearly three times the size of Texas. This unique geological occurrence is not only magical to witness, it also holds millions of years worth of earth's most closely guarded secrets: the ice bares secrets that have yielded a wealth of new scientific knowledge and understanding, and some surprises. At it's thickest, it is as deep as 3200 meters. 


Why So Blue?

When water freezes, it usually solidifies with air bubbles in it This disturbs and disperses the light that passes through it. However, as  glacial ice is compacted over ever-larger layers, the air is pressed out of the ice. Light passes directly into the the ice and absorbs the whole visible spectrum. Only blue is reflected, and that is why it appears so blue!

 Dont have a Cow: Glacier Calving 

What is glacier calving? The Alaska Satellite facility describes it as follows: "Cows have calves, glaciers calve icebergs[!]" A glacial calf is a relatively tiny peice of ice (still huge) that breaks off the main ice cap and collapses into the sea, becoming an iceberg. Then, it sinks into the sea, disrupting the almost perfectly water and then "bounces" as it takes on its floating state, yielding hallucinatory changes in the perfect reflection in the water below, It truly is a dream-like landscape. Check out this home movie of some rightfully flabbergasted visitors here.

How can you get there? 

We usually say that Greenland has no roads, but in Kangerlussuaq, population 499, you can drive one of the only roads in Greenland that will take you to the edge of the ice sheet. It's a fairly rugged ride, that winds through breathtaking scenery and will deliver you directly to the cap and its glaciers. 

Sailing through the fjord by cruise boat or in a kayak in the early evening, under golden hour light is pure magic. While the boat offers the macro, up-close view, flying over the ice is also an overwhelmingly surreal adventure, giving a real sense of the shear expanse of the ice.

The hotels and hostels in Kangerlussuaq give you a chance to stick around and keep coming back. For the more adventurous, you can camp out on the ice and let the eerie, enchanting sounds of the glaciers and winds lull you to sleep.

We hope that you will come experience it first hand with us! Check out our website to find the tour that suits you best. Whatever you decide and whatever you do, be a pinoeer and never stop exploring!

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