On a temperate afternoon last July, I arrived at a Norwegian National Park visitor center called the Breheimsenteret. Located in western Norway, the visitor center is often used as a meeting place for glacier walks, white water rafting, and glacial lake kayaking. Some visitors say that the exterior of the building resembles a giant Viking helmet, making it easy to spot.
The Breheimsenteret is close in proximity to Jostedalsbreen, which is continental Europe’s largest glacier. Covering a total of 188 square miles, Jostedalsbreen is roughly 2.5 times the size of Washington, D.C.
As I looked into the distance to the right of the visitor center, I noticed a steep mountain landscape featuring a magnificent, snaking portion of ice down its center. This piece of ice, or best-known as Nigardsbreen, is one of Jostedalsbreen’s most famous glacial arms.
Nigardsbreen is easily accessible by car or on foot. There’s a narrow road, which begins near the visitor center and continues all the way near the glacier’s edge.
On this sunny day, the stark contrast between the light-colored ice against the dark, grey-colored mountains and the green vegetation below was mesmerizing. At this moment, I decided I needed a closer view. I grabbed my camera and started walking.
The Road to Nigardsbreen
While walking along the road, I captured some images of the local flora. Because of my undergraduate degree in biology, I often take interest in understanding local ecosystems and species’ interactions.
This particular mountain ecosystem has a lot to offer. To the left of the road, there’s lake Nigardsbrevatnet, and to the right, there’s a flourishing forest. As I walked along, I found a break in the trees and a short path that had full visibility of the glacier’s tongue. The tongue is the portion of the glacier that extends downward into the valley.
During my short exploration of the mountain ecosystem, I came across an abundance of green-colored lichen growing on top of the rocks. Despite their simplistic appearance, lichen is the mutually beneficial relationship of a fungus and algae or cyanobacteria.
While on the path, I stepped onto a small hill to get a few close-ups of Nigardsbreen. Cold winds were blowing from the glacier, making this vantage point particularly chilly.
I snapped a few photos, and then, I just stared at it for a bit. I was so used to seeing towering skyscrapers all around me in New York, but in this instance, I was fascinated by the change of scenery.
I also came across some wild crowberries growing along the rocks, which are edible berries. Crowberry shrubs can live up to 20 years and have the ability to grow in nutrient-poor locations.
Sadly the closer I walked, the more I noticed how dirty the glacier appeared, which is often an indication of melting.
Now, it was time to rejoin society. I reached the car park at the end of the road.
Looking back on this experience, I’m thankful that I was able to see Nigardsbreen while it’s still easily visible from the road. And after this trip, I understand the added value in experiencing firsthand what I read and study.