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Fjord facts for kids

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Glacier in eastern Greenland
A glacier in eastern Greenland flowing through a fjord carved by the movement of ice

Geologically, a fjord or fiord is a long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created by a glacier moving over land.

Formation and characteristics

A true fjord is formed when a glacier cuts a U-shaped valley by ice segregation and abrasion of the surrounding bedrock. Fjords are found in locations where current or past glaciation (formation, movement and recession of glaciers) extended below current sea level. A fjord is formed when a glacier retreats, after carving its typical U-shaped valley, and the sea fills the resulting valley floor. This forms a narrow, steep sided inlet (sometimes as deep as 1300m) connected to the sea. The accumulation of glacial debris pushed down into the valley by the glacier is left underwater at the fjord's entrance, causing the water at the neck of the fjord to be shallower than the main body of the fjord behind it.

Illustration of how a fjord is created

This shallow threshold and the protection given by the valley's sides generally means that fjords are excellent natural harbours. Fjords often provide a home-port to fishing fleets, and in industrialised locations have come to be used for fish farming and shipbuilding.

Geirangerfjord (6-2007)
Geirangerfjord, Møre og Romsdal

As late as 2000, some of the world's largest coral reefs were discovered along the bottoms of the Norwegian fjords. These reefs were found in fjords all the way from the north of Norway to the south. The marine life on the reefs is believed to be one of the most important reasons why the Norwegian coastline is such a generous fishing ground. The reefs are host to thousands of lifeforms such as plankton, coral, anemones, fish, several species of sharks, and many more one would expect to find on a reef. However most are specially adapted to life under the greater pressure of the water above it, and the total darkness of the deep sea.

New Zealand's fjords are also host to deep sea corals, but a surface layer of dark fresh water allows these corals to grow in much shallower water than usual. An underwater observatory in Milford Sound allows tourists to view them without diving.


Fjord Norwegen
Fjord Norway
Eastern fjords - Iceland - panoramio (1)
Fjord Iceland
Greenland-iceportal hg
Iceberg in Scoresby Sund Greenland
Sognefjord, Norway
The Sognefjord, nicknamed the King of the Fjords

Fjords are found all along the coast of:

The longest fjords in the world are:

  • Scoresby Sund in Greenland—350 km (217 mi)
  • Sognefjord in Norway—204 km (127 mi)
  • Independence Fjord in Greenland—200 km (124 mi)
  • Matochkin Shar, Novaya Zemlya, Russia—125 km (78 mi)

Deep fjords include:

  • Skelton Inlet in Antarctica—1,933 m (6,342 ft)
  • Sognefjord in Norway—1,308 m (4,291 ft)
  • Messier Channel in Tortel, Chile—1,358 m (4,455 ft)
  • Baker Channel in Tortel, Chile—1,251 m (4,104 ft)

Freshwater fjords

Eidfjord in eine fantastische Landschaft eingebettet
Eidfjord village beneath the high terrace, the original ice-age delta. The river has carved a gorge through the terrace

When a river reaches a lake or the sea the water slows down and loses the power to carry sediment. The sediment is dropped at the mouth of the river. Some rivers drop so much sediment that waves and tides can't carry it all away. It builds up in layers forming a delta.

Some Norwegian freshwater lakes that have formed in long glacially carved valleys, are frequently named fjords. Ice front deltas developed when the ice front was relatively stable for long time during the melting of the ice shield. The resulting land-form is a narrow strip of land between the lake and the saltwater fjord. Such places are valuable sources of high quality building materials (sand and gravel) for houses and infrastructure.

Georgian Bay, Canada (Unsplash)
Georgian Bay, Canada

Some of these lakes were salt after the ice age but later cut off from the ocean during the post-glacial rebound. Some salt water fish got trapped in lakes that originally were part of the salt fjord and gradually became freshwater fish such as the arctic char.

Great Lakes

A unique family of freshwater fjords are the bays of the North American Great Lakes. Baie Fine is located on the northwestern coast of Georgian Bay of Lake Huron in Ontario, it is one of the largest freshwater fjords in the world. Huron Bay is located on the southern shore of Lake Superior in Michigan.

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