Geocaching has a special way of introducing us to incredible places and showcasing important history, all while getting us outside. Situated on Greenland’s western coast, the Ilulissat Icefjord, provides a unique opportunity for scientists and geocachers alike to witness glacial movement up close. Capturing immense beauty and telling a pressing story about global climate change, this spectacular Arctic destination is the location of our Geocache of the Week: Ilulissat Icefjord (GC20EV9).
Geocaching is all about the joys of discovering something beyond the expected. This magnificent EarthCache more than 150 miles (240 km) above the Arctic Circle certainly qualifies as a location beyond the everyday. Added as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, the Ilulissat Icefjord has been studied for over 250 years, in large part due to the sheer volume of glacial ice moving through the fjord and its proximity to a local settlement. For those who make the trip north, this destination will surely amaze you with its beauty, as well as inform you about climate change’s impacts on our world.
To start your visit to the fjord, begin at the Ilulissat Isfjord Center. Although entirely optional for logging the EarthCache, the museum provides a setting to learn about Inuit culture, the history of the region, and glacial movements dating back centuries. After passing the museum, prepare for a short half mile (.8 km) walk to the fjord to complete the logging requirements for the EarthCache.
Along the walk, take in the views of the glaciers from a distance. Even from this vantage point, the true scale of the glaciers is hard to comprehend. On the massive island of Greenland, the Ilulissat Icefjord is responsible for about 10% of all released glacial ice, the largest amount of any single location outside Antarctica. The glacier visible to us today, Sermeq Kujalleq, is one of the most active glaciers in the world, moving approximately 120 feet (40 m) each day.
After completing the walk to the coordinates of the EarthCache, it’s time to sharpen your senses to answer the questions about your surroundings. To log the cache, observe the signs warning you to avoid the beach. Although the beach may appear to be the perfect location to view the glaciers moving into the Arctic Ocean, glacial calving, the process where pieces of ice separate, can be particularly dangerous to humans on the beach.
Yet perhaps the most interesting geologic formation local to Ilulissat is the underwater mountain at the mouth of the fjord. Created long ago by the glacier, rock formations beneath the surface of the water trap the calved icebergs until pieces begin to melt. As seen in the image below, small icebergs, instead of large formations, float on top of the water.
After taking in all the information needed to answer the logging requirements, linger a bit longer to see if you spot any wildlife. Observe the picture below to see if you can spot the whale! Although rare, whales are known to visit the area in warmer months, making the incredible scenery seem even closer to magic. Before you depart, be sure to take a celebratory photo with your group! While an optional logging requirement for the EarthCache, the photo will live on as a memory of this destination’s special charm.
With each step along the path back to Ilulissat, the view of the glaciers will slowly fade. Although you’ve left the icefjord behind, the stunning views and glacial history from GC20EV9 will surely be one of your favorite destinations on your Greenlandic adventure.
Continue to explore some of the most amazing geocaches around the world. Check out all of the Geocaches of the Week on the Geocaching blog. If you would like to nominate a Geocache of the Week, fill out this form.