Defining Fjords

One of the most beautiful sights is the Fjord of Saguenay in the Saint Lawrence River in Quebec. The mountain is majestic. The statue, Our Lady of the Saguenay, stands on the ledge as if to protect the fjord itself. It is one of the most interesting and inspiring points when cruising the Saint Lawrence River. Even the whales come up river to enjoy the sight and abundance of life. So how are these amazing fjords formed and how did they come to be scattered about the earth?

Fjords form when sheets of ice gouge out a valley below sea level. It differentiates from other glaciated valleys because only the face of the valley is shown. The floors of the fjords are underwater.

To understand a Fjord we need to know a little about glaciers. Glaciers are large bodies of ice. To classify as a glacier the ice mass must be moving, or leave evidence of movement in the past. Glaciers are covering about 9% of the earth. They are made up of snow compacting into ice through a series of freezes and thawing. Glacial ice flows outward from the center of accumulations. Plastic flow, which is the main mechanism of glacial movement, happens when individual ice crystals in the center of the mass move a very small distance.

Another type of motion is the basal slip. This occurs when the glacier slides along its base. Both of these types of movement help us understand fjords. They are created as this movement brings the glacier to water.

Fjords can be made by nature only. These are created during glaciation periods. Fjords are formed as the glacier comes “running” down from the snow covered mountain and literally carves out the face, the fjord. The bottom of the fjord usually erodes out and that makes it easy for ships to navigate through the narrow inlets. The walls run diagonally and downward. The walls of a fjord are very steep and often very slippery.

Some fjords take on the form of an estuary. This is a water feature where fresh water and salt water mix. The unique combination of water hosts several animal and plant species that are excellent for that environment.

Fjords have truly become a tourist attraction and focal point of understanding the power of nature. The most famous fjords are probably located in Norway.

The largest and deepest fjord on earth, Sognefjord, covers more than 125 miles. It is called by some, the Witches Hand because of the extending fingers that seem to spread curl and form their own fjords. The waters you are sailing over are sometimes over 4000 feet deep. This is known as Viking country and it’s exciting to explore in Viking fashion, rowing about in the traditional Viking boat.

Never give up a chance to view, touch and experience a fjord. They are truly one of the many wonders of nature to enjoy.