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Ice & Silence: Part I

Ice & Silence: Part I

Alex Jeffers
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Jöttnar photo blog   

- Scoresby Sund, Greenland - 


In the first edition of a two-part photo blog, sailor and photographer Iona Wallis describes a schooner expedition up the world’s largest fjord system, Scoresby Sund in East Greenland. One of the richest landscapes on Earth for climbers and explorers, it is named after scientist and clergyman William Scoresby, who first mapped the area in 1822. 



Basalt cliffs obscured by cloud at Volquart Boons Kyst. This area was covered with large amounts of basaltic lava about 55 million years ago, when East Greenland separated from northern Europe as part of a wider continental rifting process.




Icebergs and layered basalt mountains at Solgletscher




Topsail schooner Opal and gaff ketch Donna Wood cross paths in Rødefjord. Although Scoresby Sund has been a focus of European exploration since the 15th Century, adventure tourism is only now beginning to take hold. Previous travel in the area was mostly by local hunters from Ittoqqortoormiit, or by sailing and climbing expeditions.






The fjords of Scoresby Sund cover an area of 38,000 km2 and stretch 350km inland. The only remaining inhabited settlement, Ittoqqortoormiit (circa 400 inhabitants) is actually closer to Iceland than to its nearest Greenlandic neighbours in Tasiilaq, 800km to the south. Starting here and travelling clockwise around Milne Land, the main island separating the fjords, one encounters a huge diversity in geology, landscape and habitat. The barren basalt of the south coast gives way to the soft red canyons and iceberg accumulations of Rødefjord, then to the lush vegetated slopes of Harefjord, and to the gothic splendour of Øfjord. The scale is immense and absorbing at every level, from a small stone or dwarf forest underfoot to the vast Greenland Icecap and its myriad glaciers. In Scoresby Sund - a landscape many times greater than any human creation - one travels with the knowledge that there are only a handful of other people within the best part of a 700 kilometre radius.







View from the bow of schooner Opal as she sails west under the midnight sun towards Danmark Ø and the entrance to FÃnfjord [editor's note: these characters are not a formatting error; some Greenland place names are very unusual]. Although the wind was calm when this image was made, during the short summer cold Foehn winds often rush down into Scoresby Sund from the inland ice to the west.




 A large iceberg adrift offshore




Schooner Opal framed by the columnar basalt of Helgenæs peninsula 





"In Scoresby Sund - a landscape many times greater than any human creation - one travels with the knowledge that there are only a handful of people within the best part of a 700 kilometre radius"






Looking towards the wild and largely unexplored mountains of the GÃ¥seland peninsular 




Looking south towards GÃ¥seland




Ice calving from the hanging seracs of Solgletscher. Most ice falls from the main, elevated body of the glacier, which is often shrouded in cloud. The acoustics of the surrounding cliffs provide a dramatic forewarning as the serac cracks, before the ice thunders down with a hollow boom as if descending from a realm of vengeful gods.




One of many large icebergs that drift south through the summer months along Rødefjord; the bergs tend to congregate in the narrow passage between Røde Ø and Milne Land, making navigation treacherous




One of several sandstone canyons on the west coast of Rødefjord





The exposed bergshrund of a glacier spilling into the northwest end of Harefjord




Vibrantly coloured rocks overlook fragments of iceberg debris floating in a fjord




An Arctic Hare in the aptly named Harefjord. Hares in Greenland keep their white colour year round.




An iceberg encircled by 'brash ice', the nautical term for accumulations of floating ice made up of small iceberg fragments






- The second part of this photo blog will be published here on LEGEND next week - 


Iona Wallis sailed through Scoresby Sund in summer 2016 aboard schooner Opal. Originally a Baltic fishing vessel built in 1951-2, the ship was converted to a blue water sailing schooner in Denmark. From her new base in Iceland with North Sailing, Opal has found a new purpose as an expedition ship in the far North Atlantic and Arctic Circle. You can find out more about her on the North Sailing website




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