Northwest Passage (3)



Iceberg, Ilulissat Fjord (Estimated height: 100 feet)

Icebergs!  That’s why everyone comes to Ilulissat, Greenland 220 miles inside the Arctic Circle and the site of the Ilulissat Icefjord named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. The fjord is the “sea mouth” of Sermeq Kujalleq, one of the few glaciers through which the Greenland ice cap actually reaches the sea.  The melt water from most of the others flows to the sea via streams, rivers, or waterfalls.  Moreover, it is one of the fastest and most active glaciers in the world, producing more calf ice than any glacier outside Antarctica.


Detail of Reflections from Iceberg

We would be there for less than 14 hours but managed to arrange for a 2-hour cruise through a good part of the navigable fjord then a 3-mile (round-trip) hike to a promontory that overlooked the fjord.


Black and White Image, Iceberg in Ilulissat Fjord

For a close-up view of the icebergs, we joined about ten others on a small fishing boat and set out for the fjord under a brilliant blue sky.


Ilulissat Fjord (Estimated height: 75 feet)

Birds wheeled by the boat as we motored through the frigid water and we caught a glimpse of two humpback whales in the distance.  Occasionally, groups of harp seals popped up to check us out.


Humpback Whales, Ilulissat Fjord

The actual face of the glacier is many miles up the fjord and boats cannot get past the jumble of stacked up icebergs which are grounded, unable to float out to sea, until they have melted to a smaller size.  Those shown here are the smaller ones that have floated free.  Our walk would take us to an overlook of the fjord where the larger ones are stacked up on each other.  But the only way (for a tourist) to see the face of the glacier is by helicopter, something we did not have time for.


Fall Colors, Arctic Tundra overlooking Ilulissat Fjord

The walk, mostly along a wooden boardwalk, took us on a scenic route over the tundra which golden yellow in its fall colors.  The boardwalk was necessary to protect the boggy tundra which could not withstand the impact of frequent hikers. After about a mile we came to a steep hill that would afford us a spectacular view of the fjord.


Overlook of Ilulissat Fjord

Our vantage point in the image above is situated about 150 feet above the ice immediately below us. It was difficult to believe that the mountains of ice and snow in  the distance were icebergs that had broken free of the actual glacier which was still many miles up the fjord to the left.


Panorama of Ilulissat Fjord

The image just above is a six-image photomerge taken from the spot where the person in the previous image was standing and looking to the left.  It was hard to leave this spot, but we didn’t want to miss our ride back to the boat in order to continue a journey that had only just begun.


33 thoughts on “Northwest Passage (3)

  1. Absolutely beautiful images! Were the lighting conditions quite tricky for photography? Granted I am only an amateur photographer snapping my family life and travels but I know I find it quite hard to get true colours, avoid blow out etc when shooting in bright light with the white of snow or ice dominant in the composition. Whether you found it tricky or not, you’ve done a masterful job of capturing those incredible blues and the detail in the icebergs.

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    • Thanks very much, Laura. Shooting with bright white in the scene can be tricky, especially when there is a lot of it, or if the sun is really bright. I generally pay close attention to the histogram on the display and also to use the so-called “blinkies” indicator to tell me whether the bright spots are blown out. I also shoot RAW so there is a lot more flexibility in bringing out detail in the dark areas. Another challenge which I encountered for the first time in Antarctica is the need to push the ISO up in order to get a high shutter speed (wildlife) or depth of field (landscapes). The conditions are usually cloudy and you can’t always use a tripod. Hope this is a little helpful, thanks again for your comments.

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    • Thanks, Chris, I thought I had replied to your comment here, but apparently it didn’t take. Anyway, I thought of you guys often during the voyage; we had a large contingent of Aussies aboard, many of them with sailing experience. A great group of folks.

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  2. Robin, these shots are absolutely mind-bending! Gorgeous images and I love learning about it all Seems you’re having glorious weather too – yay! Clearly, I’ve missed parts 1 and 2 – I’m excited to now go and see them 🙂 Looking forward to more!

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    • Thanks, Stacy. Great to hear from you. Sorry I wasn’t able to participate in the OnePhotoFocus this last time, but….. Anyway, the weather in Ilulissat was one of the 3-4 days like that. The rest were cloudy, but clouds can often produce great opportunities as well. Overall the lowest temps we encountered were slightly below freezing, very little rain, no snow but often still wind. Stay tuned, we’re just getting started.


    • Thanks, Laura! Sorry for the late response, but as you will see from the next post, I have been dealing with an imminent deadline–at least it seems so…. But you are right. The scale of this region, with so few reminders of humanity’s presence on the planet is really hard to fathom.

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