Fjords: Echoes of a glacier
There are few sights out there as awe-inspiring as the fjords. Here's a look at how these impressive basins were formed
...and glaciers go
Of course, the valleys didn't become the formations of today until the ice melted.
Carbon emissions from volcanoes slowly warmed the Earth's atmosphere, causing glaciers to melt and retreat back toward the still-cold poles. Many of the glaciers only traveled across land, and the resulting dry valleys make up much of the Northern Hemisphere. In coastal areas like New Zealand, Chile and Norway, however, glaciers were likely to go all the way across the land and into the nearby sea. These are the glacial paths that carved the fjords.
The sea follows
As these glaciers melted, the sea water filled the bottom of the valley left behind. Fjords tend to be deepest further inland. There's an easy experiment you can do at home to picture why. Get a cup of flour, and use your finger to make a single line through it. Where your finger started will be deeper than where your finger stopped, because the flour you pushed out of the way settles at the end of your path. The same concept applies to the debris carried by glaciers.
The sea life in fjords is absolutely fascinating. Far down in the cold depths of the fjords are coral reefs. The depth of these reefs makes them much harder to study than their tropical alternatives, so scientists simply don't know as much about them. We do know, however, that fjords hold some of the largest reefs on the planet. The organisms that live at the bottom of these waters are suited to the cold, high pressure and total darkness that defines their environment.
Exploring the fjords today
Travellers who want to get a glimpse of these impressive geological formations are in for a treat when they take a Hurtigruten cruise to Norway. The vast majority of our cruises take you through the fjords on one end of the pole or the other.
There are three major fjords in Norway your cruise will likely traverse. In the north the Trollfjord, which is one of the narrowest fjords in the world, is only 800 meters across at its widest point. Further south along the western coast of Norway are Geirangerfjord and Hjørundfjorden.
The Chilean fjords reign in the Southern Hemisphere. On Hurtigruten's cruises to Antarctica, travelers will explore these valleys on their way to the white continent. Although these fjords are, in essence, the same geological phenomena as their northern counterparts, the plant and animal life will stand in stark contrast, making them an experience unlike any other.
Whether you're looking to learn more about the culture and heritage of the Scandinavian countries, or hoping to explore the untouched land surrounding the south pole, make sure you check out some fjords along the way.