A harsh climate, considerable distances, and impassable terrain necessitate an extra focus on safety, when you visit the World Heritage Area Ilulissat Icefjord.
Every year a large number of people visit the Ilulissat Icefjord in order to appreciate the natural environment. Fortunately, accidents in the mountains are rare. However, Arctic nature can be unpredictable. Even so, most accidents can be avoided if you take the necessary precautions before going on a trip.
In the local part of the World Heritage Area there is an efficient track bridge which offers safe and easy passage. During summer the track bridge is also ideal for wheelchair users and people who bring strollers. Please be aware of the fact that the track bridge and the surrounding rocks can be slippery when it rains and snows. The rest of the World Heritage Area is barren and you cannot expect to meet people who will be able to help you in an emergency. There is no satellite coverage for mobile phones with the exception of the area closest to Ilulissat. For this reason even minor accidents on shorter trips in the area can become serious.
A Harsh Climate with Great Distances
The Arctic weather is capricious and can change very quickly. In a matter of minutes, sun and clear skies can give way to wind, rain, snow or fog. Search and rescue operations will most likely involve the use of helicopter. This is costly, and if the situation is self-inflicted, the person in distress may have to pay for the action taken. If the weather happens to be bad, you also run the risk of endangering the lives of the rescue personnel.
In 2008 two tourists were caught in fog a few kilometers outside town and strayed for five days before they were found. Fortunately nobody sustained serious injuries.
Calving Icebergs Can Be Fatal
Calving icebergs constitute an invisible danger, which may cause enormous tidal waves of up to 15-20 meters above the surface of the sea. These tidal waves take everything with them in their wake. Moreover they are difficult to see and hear, so one rarely gets time to react before it is too late.
Hence it is extremely dangerous to walk or camp near the Icefjord coast, especially on the beach at Sermermiut and near the mouth of the Icefjord. In 2003 a group of camping tourists barely survived a tidal wave created by calving icebergs.
Sailing close to the icebergs can also be extremely dangerous, particularly if the boatman does not know the local conditions.