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Scoresby Sund – A Guide to the World's Biggest Fjord System

Scoresby Sund – A Guide to the World’s Biggest Fjord System

Michele D´Agostino image

Where is Scoresby Sund?

Scoresby Sund (also known as Scoresby Sound or Kangertittivaq in greenlandic) is the longest fjord system on Earth located on the east coast of Greenland high above the Arctic circle. It stretches about 350 km (220 miles) inland from the Greenland Sea. Scoresby Sund is known for its stunning natural beauty, with towering cliffs, icebergs, and glaciers, making it a popular destination for tourists and researchers interested in studying the Arctic environment.

Scoresby Sound is situated between Jameson Land to the north and Knud Rasmussen Land to the south. To the west, just beyond Milne Island, you’ll find the Renland peninsula. The terrain encircling the fjord is predominantly mountainous, characterized by steep, ascending edges. 

The entrance measures 29 kilometers in width, extending from Kangikajik (Cape Brewster) at the terminus of the Savoia Peninsula to Uunarteq (Cape Tobin). The southern portion presents an impressive, sheer wall of basalt, soaring between 1000 to 2000 meters (approximately 3,280 to 6,560 feet) in height, while the northern side is comparably lower and possesses more rounded features.

Scoresby Sund cruise

How to get to Scoresby Sund

The easiest way to get to Scoresby Sund is on an expedition cruise. Often expedition cruises visiting Scoresby Sund will start in Svalbard or Iceland before crossing the Denmark Strait. From Iceland it takes approximately 2 days of sailing to reach Scoresby Sund.

If a sea crossing is not of interest consider our Scoresby Sund Expedition Micro Fly and Cruise. The expedition starts within Scoresby Sund and all the time onboard will be spent exploring with no long sea crossing. Included in the expedition is a charter flight from Iceland.

It is also possible to reach Scoresby Sund by flying. Nordland Air offer a weekly flight between Akureyri in Iceland and Nerlerit Inaat/Constable Point (CNP) located inside Scoresby Sund.

When arriving at Constable point it is possible to take an Air Greenland helicopter flight to Ittoqqortoormiit the only inhabited settlement in Scoresby Sund.

The issue with flying to Scoresby Sund is that the air service has a very limited capacity and is often delayed due to fog. An expedition cruise offers a far better option as it will allow you to explore deep inside the fjord system.

Why Visit Scoresby Sund? 

Scoresby Sund is definitely worth visiting. Nowhere else on earth can you experience colossal icebergs floating through narrow fjords framed by some of the planet’s oldest and most majestic landscapes. The wilderness is truly untouched by humans and it offers the explorer a chance to connect with nature in a seldom explored place.

Here are 6 reasons to visit Scoresby Sund:

1. Outstanding Natural Beauty

Scoresby Sund is renowned for its breathtaking natural scenery, which includes towering cliffs, colossal icebergs, glaciers, and pristine Arctic wilderness. The fjord’s serene and untouched landscapes make it a popular destination for nature enthusiasts and photographers.

2. Discover one of the world’s most remote communities

You can be one of the few to discover the small settlement of Ittoqqortoormiit heavily influenced by Inuit traditions. For nine months out of the year, the settlement is completely isolated from the rest of the world due to the sea ice that surrounds it, making it a true symbol of inaccessibility. This is an opportunity to connect with a way of life vastly different from our own and gain a deeper appreciation for the diversity of human culture.

3. Get up close to colossal size icebergs 

Greenland is known for its stunning iceberg landscape. Visitors can witness icebergs reaching heights of up to 300 feet above sea level, displaying a range of shades from green to blue. The sheer magnitude and number of icebergs cannot be fully captured by media, and must be experienced in person to truly appreciate. 

4. Witness Arctic Wildlife

While there is no guarantee of encountering wildlife in Greenland, spotting it in its natural habitat is extra special. The region is home to various animals such as Musk Ox, Arctic Hares, and occasionally Polar Bears. The surrounding seas also harbor narwhals, which are often referred to as the ‘unicorns of the sea’.

5. Explore the world’s longest natural fjord and remote wilderness

For those seeking a true off-the-beaten-path experience, Scoresby Sund offers a sense of remoteness and solitude. The isolation and untouched landscapes provide a unique opportunity to disconnect from the modern world and immerse oneself in nature.

6. Behold The Northern Lights

Greenland provides an overwhelming sensory experience, with stunning scenery spanning 360 degrees from the coastline to the skies. Situated within the Arctic Circle and free from light pollution, it is one of the finest locations to witness the Northern Lights from September onward.

Scoresby Sund Map

Scoresby Sund historical map

Historical map of Scoresby Sund in the museum in Ittoqqortoormiit.

How to travel around Scoresby Sund

The best way to travel around Scoresby Sund is on a small ship expedition cruise. This will allow you to see many spectacular places deep within the fjord system that are otherwise very difficult to reach. There are over 200 miles of fjords and inlets to explore with colossal icebergs. The scenery is breathtaking and only accessible from the sea.

A small expedition ship with 12 guests offers lots of opportunities to explore places larger ships can’t reach deep inside the fjord. See more here.

Ittoqqortoormiit is a very remote community with no public transport. There is no boat hire or ferries operating locally. It is possible to undertake dog sledding expeditions and kayaking expeditions in the summer.

When to visit Scoresby Sund?

The best time to visit Scoresby Sund is during the summer months from late July until early October. Due to its location on the north-east coast of Greenland, the mouth of Scoresby Sund is blocked by sea ice for most of the year. During July the sea ice clears enough for ships to have access to the remote fjord. The weather within the fjord during July and August is mild considering how far north Scoresby Sund is located.

During the winter months Scoresby Sund is frozen and inaccessible to ships.

The best time to visit Scoresby Sund for Northern lights

The best time to see the northern lights in Scoresby Sund is between September and October when the darkness returns to the Arctic.

Scoresby Sund offers a breathtaking place to view the northern lights. Its unique combination of gigantic icebergs, mountainous landscapes and zero light pollution offer a stunning backdrop for experiencing the Aurora. See our Greenland Northern lights guide here >> or consider joining our Greenland photography tour here.

The Weather in Scoresby Sund

Our expeditions to Scoresby Sund take place in August and September. Here is an idea of what to expect. 

August in Scoresby Sund

In Scoresby Sound, August is part of the summer season, but even during this time, the temperatures remain relatively cool due to its Arctic climate. Here’s what you might expect for weather conditions in Scoresby Sound during August:

Temperature: The average temperature in August can range from around 0°C to 5°C (32°F to 41°F) although it is much warmer deep inside the fjord. While these temperatures are milder compared to the colder months, they are still quite chilly, and frost is possible, especially during the nights.

Daylight: August is within the period of polar day, meaning there is continuous daylight throughout the entire month. This provides ample time for outdoor activities and exploration.

September In Scoresby Sund

In September, Scoresby Sound is transitioning from the relatively milder summer conditions to the onset of colder autumn conditions as the Arctic region prepares for the return of polar night. Here’s what you might expect for weather conditions in Scoresby Sound during September:

Temperature: Temperatures continue to cool down during September. Average temperatures can range from about -2°C to 3°C (28°F to 37°F). It’s important to note that nighttime temperatures can drop significantly lower, and frost is likely.

Daylight: September marks the shift from polar day to polar night. At the beginning of the month, there might still be some daylight, but as the month progresses, darkness increases. By the end of September, the area will likely experience polar night, with little to no sunlight.

Wildlife in Scoresby Sund

Musk Oxen

Can often be sighted in the tundra areas throughout Scoresby Sund.

Polar Bears

Whilst it is rare to see a polar bear in Scoresby Sund, Polar bears live throughout the east coast of Greenland and can be spotted roaming the shores or swimming across fjords.

Seals

Various seal species inhabit the area, such as ringed seals, bearded seals, and harp seals. They use the ice and surrounding waters for breeding and hunting.

Arctic Foxes

These small mammals have a white coat in winter and a brownish-gray coat in summer. They scavenge for food and also hunt small rodents.

Arctic Hares

These hares have a white coat in winter and a brown coat in summer, helping them blend into their surroundings.

Whales

Scoresby Sound is visited by various whale species, including narwhals, beluga whales, and bowhead whales. They use the fjord for feeding and navigating.

It’s important to note that wildlife in the Arctic is highly sensitive. When visiting or exploring such areas, it’s essential to observe wildlife from a respectful distance to avoid disturbing their natural behaviors and habitats.

Due to its sheer size and the fact hunting still takes place, the wildlife is harder to spot in Greenland than it is in Svalbard. Whilst we do encounter animals on our expeditions, sightings are never guaranteed.

Scoresby Sund icebergs in fjord

Scoresby Sund FAQ

Can you see polar bears in Scoresby Sund?

Yes, it’s possible to see polar bears in the Scoresby Sound region although they are rare. Polar bears inhabit various parts of the Arctic, including the sea ice and coastlines around Greenland. Scoresby Sound provides suitable habitats for polar bears, especially during certain times of the year when the sea ice is present.

Polar bears are excellent swimmers and are known to use the sea ice to hunt for seals, their primary prey. They might be seen on the ice floes or along the coastlines, especially where they can find seal breathing holes or other sources of food.

Remember that polar bears are wild animals, and it’s important to observe them from a safe distance to avoid any potential conflicts and to minimise disturbance to the animals and their environment.

If polar bear viewing is your primary interest we recommend Svalbard as one of the best places to encounter Polar bears in their natural home. 

How Deep is Scoresby Sund?

Scoresby Sound is known for its impressive depth, making it one of the deepest fjords in the world. The depth of Scoresby Sound can reach well over 1,450 meters (4,760 feet) in certain areas. This considerable depth is due to the combination of tectonic processes, glacial activity, and the unique geological history of the region.

The deep waters of Scoresby Sound contribute to its stunning landscapes, including towering cliffs, icebergs, and glaciers that plunge into the fjord. It also creates an environment that supports various marine life forms, making it an area of interest for researchers studying the Arctic ecosystem.

What is the largest fjord system in the world?

The largest fjord system on Earth is often considered to be the Scoresby Sund (Scoresby Sound) in Greenland. Scoresby Sund is a massive fjord complex that stretches over 350 kilometers (220 miles) inland from the coast of Greenland. It is known for its impressive size, deep waters, and stunning natural landscapes, including towering cliffs, glaciers, and icebergs. 

When was Scoresby Sund first discovered?

Scoresby Sund was first explored and documented by the English whaler and explorer William Scoresby in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. William Scoresby, Jr., was a skilled sailor, scientist, and whaling captain who conducted extensive surveys and explorations in the Arctic region during his whaling voyages.

Scoresby’s exploration of the fjord system took place in the early 1820s. He made several voyages to the region and produced detailed maps and descriptions of Scoresby Sund’s geography, including its fjords, glaciers, and surrounding areas. His work was instrumental in expanding knowledge of the Arctic environment and contributing to the understanding of this remote and challenging terrain.

Scoresby’s contributions to Arctic exploration and geography earned him recognition and respect among his contemporaries and subsequent generations of explorers and scientists. The fjord was named after him as a tribute to his significant exploratory efforts in the region.

Where does Scoresby Sund get its name?

The fjord is named after the English whaler and explorer William Scoresby, who extensively surveyed the area in the early 19th century.

As a tribute to his exploratory efforts and his contributions to Arctic knowledge, the fjord system was named Scoresby Sund in his honor. The name “Sund” comes from the Scandinavian word for “strait” or “sound,” which is commonly used to describe narrow waterways between landmasses.  

Who lives in Scoresby Sund?

The settlement of Ittoqqortoormiit has a population of 345 as of 2020 and is considered one of the most remote settlements on earth. The name Ittoqqortoormiit translates to  “Big-House Dwellers” in the Eastern Greenlandic dialect. The settlement was formed in 1925 by 80 Inuit settlers.

Outside of Ittoqqortoormiit there is no permanent population in Scoresby Sund. 

Can you go to Scoresby Sund?

Yes it is possible to visit Scoresby Sund during the summer months. Consider joining a Secret Atlas Expedition Micro cruise to explore this wonderful place.

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