Located on the west coast of Greenland, 250 km north of the Arctic Circle, Greenland's Ilulissat Icefjord (40,240 ha) is the sea mouth of Sermeq Kujalleq, one of the few glaciers through which the Greenland ice cap reaches the sea. Sermeq Kujalleq is one of the fastest (19 m per day) and most active glaciers in the world. Its annual calving is of over 35 km3 of ice, 10% of the production of all Greenland calf ice and more than any other glacier outside Antarctica. Studied for over 250 years, it has helped develop our understanding of climate change and ice-cap glaciology. The combination of a huge ice-sheet and the dramatic sounds of a fast-moving glacial ice-stream calving into a fjord covered by icebergs make for a dramatic and awe-inspiring natural phenomenon.
The upwelling caused by calving icebergs brings up nutrient-rich water which supports prolific invertebrate life and attracts great numbers of fish, seals and whales that feed on the generated nutrients. 20 species of fish have been recorded in the area; the dominant species is the flatfish Greenland halibut which feeds mainly on northern shrimp and euphausid crustaceans. The halibut migrates seasonally in and out of the fjord, living both on the benthos and in the open sea. Warmer waters bring the Atlantic cod, ringed seal and Greenland shark to the area. All three species are hunted by man and feed on the halibut. Harp seals, fin and minke whales occur in summer at the fjord mouth with very occasional blue and Greenland whales. Beluga visit Disko Bugt in autumn and winter.
Land birds are few and also typical for the area; there are few mammals within the locality. Arctic fox is believed to be common, whereas Arctic hare occur mainly in the higher land near the inland ice. Reindeer live only to the south of the icefjord, and polar bears are very rare visitors.
Greenland has been inhabited for 4,500 years, settlers migrating from Asia via the Bering Straits and north-west Greenland in three main waves, known as the Saqqaq, Dorset and from 1000 BP, the Thule peoples. Their middens are shown in clear section at the Thule settlement of Sermermuit near Ilulissat. Norsemen inhabited south-west Greenland between AD 985 and 1450. During the 16th-18th centuries explorers followed by whalers inhabited the area. The nominated area includes the archaeologically valuable sites of Sermermuit, abandoned in 1850, and Qajaa on the south side of the fjord, abandoned earlier. The early settlers summered in tents but used stone and turf hovels in winter. The first local Danish settlement was in 1742 at Jakobshavn, now Ilulissat.
Freshwater Ecoregion of the World : #998 Greenland (unassessed)
Realised with the help of Peter Gobet of Bugaboo Sport