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Ilulissat (population approx. 4,000) is the third largest settlement in Greenland. The town is located about halfway up the country's west coast, at 69 degrees north, about 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle. Illulisat is also widely known by its Danish name of Jakobshavn (or Jacob's Harbour). In direct translation Ilulissat is the Greenlandic word for 'The Icebergs'. Ilulissat is Greenland's most popular tourist destination on account of its proximity to the picturesque Ilulissat Ice Fjord - tourism is now the town's principal industry. Ilulissat was the birthplace of celebrated polar explorer Knud Rasmussen and his childhood home in the centre of the settlement is now a museum dedicated to him.
Inuit settlements have existed in the area of the ice fjord for at least three thousand years. The abandoned settlement of Sermermiut two kilometres south of the modern town of Ilulissat was once amongst the largest settlements in Greenland with around 250 inhabitants. The modern town was founded in 1741 by missionary Danish Poul Egede for trader Jakob Severin who had an established a trading lodge in the area.
Ilulissat ice fjord
The Ilulissat fjord runs west 40 kilometres from the inland icecap to Disko Bay close to Ilulissat town. At its eastern end is the most productive glacier in the northern hemisphere. The glacier flows at a rate of 20 metres per day, resulting in around 20 billion tonnes of icebergs calved off and passing out of the fjord every year. Icebergs breaking from the glacier are often so large (up to a kilometer in height) that they are too tall to float down the fjord and lie stuck on the bottom of its shallower areas, sometimes for years, until they are broken up by the force of the glacier and icebergs further up the fjord. On breaking up the icebergs emerge into the open sea and initially travel north with ocean currents before turning south and running into the Atlantic Ocean. Larger icebergs typically do not melt until they reach 40-45 degrees north (south of the United Kingdom and level with New York City).
- Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands, Lonely Planet, ISBN 0864426860
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