The landscape at the Arctic Station – University of Copenhagen

Arctic Station > About Arctic Station > Environment > Nature > The landscape at the A...

The landscape at the Arctic Station

View from Skarvefjeld towards Pjeturssons Moraine and the coastline. Foto: H.A. Thomsen. The gneissic bedrock at Qeqertarsuq is intensively sculptured by the Weichselian ice sheet. Very nice examples of roche moutonnée and sickle-shaped fractures can be found. About 1 km east of the station the Blæsedalen, a large U-formed glacial valley, extends more than 30 km towards the north, to Kangerluk, Disko Fjord. The braided river in Blæsedalen is named Røde Elv, the red river, because the water is red coloured from suspended sediment (disintegrated basalt). The river discharge fluctuates significantly throughout the summer season. The annual total discharge is c. 36x10^6 m3 and a mid- to late-summer run-off value is about 3-5 m3/sec.

The valley is approximately 2-3 km wide with steep walls in the plateau basalt showing the characteristic single basalt layers with reddish tuff and regolith in between. The mouth of Blæsedalen towards south is blocked by a 50-70 m high lateral moraine, Pjetursson’s Moraine (see photo above), created by an advancing glacier out through Disko Bay in the late Weichselian. Behind the Arctic Station, Lyngmarksfjeldet rises abruptly to about 600 m, in the uppermost part as a vertical wall in the basalt and further down as active talus with large rock glaciers. It is easy to climb the mountain plateau, where a local ice cap, Lyngmarksbræen, mounts to 955 m a.s.l.

Mud circles On a day trip three major valley glaciers, Lyngmarksbræen, Chamberlain’s glacier and Petersen’s glacier, can be visited. The area around Qeqertarsuaq is situated in the transition zone of continuous and discontinuous permafrost. A rich variety of periglacial phenomena can be studied: ice and sand wedges, stone polygons, mud circles and pals and pingo formations. The coastline is situated only 300 m south of the station along a 100 m wide sandy coastal barrier, Sorte Sand ('sort' means black in Danish and refers to the black coloured basalt sand).

Between the barrier and station a lagoon has developed. Towards the west the gneiss bedrock forms a skerry island coast and includes the natural and very well protected harbour of Qeqertarsuaq/Godhavn (protected against sea ice pressure, icebergs and large storm waves and swell from the southwest) ('Godhavn' = the good harbour in Danish). East of the station, at the mouth of Blæsedalen, and further eastward, the coast forms a cliff in basalt breccia (subaquatic lava deposits). Impressive formations of column basalt are found here together with sea caves, needles and arches. 9-10.000 years ago the relative sea-level was more than 90 m above the present one. During the upheaval large series of shingle beach ridges have developed. The area between Pjeturssons Moraine and the coastline ( 1 km) is a beach ridge plain.