Anders Bekeken

100 Places To Remember: Ilulissat Icefjord Greenland

Geschreven op 14-5-2010 - Erik van Erne. Geplaatst in Natuur Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

100places to rememberA Highway of Glistening Icebergs. It is said that you can tell what will happen on the rest of the planet by observing the Arctic. The Ilulissat Icefjord is a massive wall of icebergs that have broken off from the Jakobshavn (or Sermeq Kujalleq) glacier. They stretch 60 kilometres from the town of Ilulissat to the ice-cap of Greenland. It is one of the most beautiful and impressive places in the world but the tongue of the glacier has retreated by 7 km since 1992.

The glacier forms part of Greenlands inland ice, which covers more than 80% of the island and is 3 km deep at its thickest point. This is one of the fastest warming places on Earth. The latest research shows that in 2007, warm air temperatures and ocean currents led to 240 cubic kilometres of ice melting into the sea that is 97% more than the average melt-off between 1995 and 2006.

As the climate changes drastically, so, too, do peoples lives. As the sea ice is no longer permanent at the Ilulissat Icefjord, local people can no longer use their sledge dogs to hunt seal. Their homes are threatened by storms and their traditional travel routes are becoming hazardous. The polar bear has moved further north, and the narwhal is less abundant.

With the sea ice melting and snow cover diminishing, rays from the sun are absorbed into the sea and earth instead of being reflected back into the atmosphere. This exacerbates global warming, causing the ice to melt faster. It is as if the world is wrapped in a self-heating electric blanket.

The melting of the inland ice contributes to the rise of sea levels, causing salt water intrusion and flooding of coastal areas around the world. Were the whole of the Greenland ice to melt, the oceans would rise by 7.2 metres.

Like most Greenlanders, the 5,000 inhabitants of Ilulissat have been hunters and fishermen for generations. Parents teach their children how to use traditional hunting tools and methods. It is a major event when a child captures its first seal or reindeer, and a kaffemik or traditional social gathering is held to mark the occasion.

Most of the population of Ilulissat make their living from shrimp and halibut fishing and tourism. Greenlanders are entitled to do a limited amount of whaling, so the hunting of porpoise and Beluga whales continues to offer a significant source of income for some. Due to the sea ice melting, dog sledges once an essential element in hunting and ice fishing are now often used for taking tourist on rides across the inland ice.

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