Forming Norway’s Famous Fjords
Norway is synonymous with the many gorgeous fjords that feature along its stunning coastline. But what exactly is a fjord and how is it created?
Few Norwegian words have found their way into international vocabulary, but the word 'fjord' has managed to make it outside the borders of Norway. The word stems from the Norse word fjödðr for 'crossing' and from the verb 'to travel'. And travel them you can on an expedition cruise with Hurtigruten, the experts who call these stunning landscapes home.
Icons of the Norwegian Coast
Fjords exist in several countries, but the Norwegian ones have a particular tendency to impress. The landscape surrounding these fjords stretches from fertile, green hillsides to spectacular, towering mountains with breathtaking waterfalls. In the valleys above the fjords, you sometimes find glaciers that open into rivers of green, glacial water that flows directly into the fjord.
Sognefjorden, for example, is a well-known Norwegian fjord. Not only is it the longest and deepest fjord in Norway, but it is in fact the second longest and deepest fjord on the entire planet. Its greatest depth is 1,308 metres, but at the mouth of the fjord, it’s only 150-200 metres deep.
Another is Nærøyfjord, one of the world’s narrowest fjords. In 2004, it was titled 'the world’s top unspoiled travel destination' by National Geographic, and it’s even inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List together with the well-known Geirangerfjord.
There are many more fjords worthy of mention, enough to form several books. Hjørundford surrounded by the Sunnmøre Alps is a hidden gem, while Hardangerfjord is particularly attractive in spring, fringed by apple orchards in full blossom. We even love tiny fjords like Trollfjord up among the picturesque Lofoten Islands.
The creation of the Norwegian fjords is a story of powerful elements and forces in motion over a long period of time. The key to the creation of Norway’s fjord is the many glaciers that covered the country during glacial periods in the last 2.6 million years. The grinding of these huge masses of ice with meltwater worked together slowly and consistently over millennia, deepening valleys to finally create long, narrow inlets between the mountains eventually filled in by the sea.
The sea is also an important factor in the formation of the fjords. When the sea meets a glacier arm, a slow meltdown begins. Ice, meltwater, sand and rocks course into the ground, even deeper than sea level, using the immense pressure from the elements to push down and forward. Because of this, fjords are often deeper than the ocean surrounding them.
Fjord estuaries are often shallower than the fjords themselves, and this is typically where the gravel and sand end up and form an embankment. The embankment lies there as a clear reminder of the powerful forces that once created this magnificent landscape.