Throughout its entire length of thousands of miles, the coast-line of Greenland is almost a continuous series of long, deep, narrow fjords and bays separated by long, narrow, peninsulas and headlands, and bordered by innumerable skerries, islets, and islands -probably the most extensive development of fjords and skerries in the world.
Generally, these fjords and the sounds between the islets are bordered by such high steep cliffs that landing upon them is impossible, but in some localities the shore is a low, sloping foreland that in most places leads rapidly up to steep slopes or cliffs. Many of the fjords are so narrow and cliff-walled as to be veritable canyons, into which the sun can shine only when they open out toward it.
A barrier of ice lies along most of the coast of Greenland. The heavy ice of the Arctic Ocean is swept along the north and east shores of the island and even around Cape Farewell, and northward hundreds of miles along the west coast. This Arctic ice-pack is of heavy solid fields and floes, and numerous great bergs. The Smith Sound Region becomes relatively open in summer. Baffin Bay holds three great fields known as the south pack, the middle pack, and the north pack respectively, which bear in upon the Greenland shore whenever the wind so drives them.
For ten months of the year, from September first to July first, practically the entire coast of Greenland is inaccessible because of the ice that freezes over the sea throughout the entire extent of the coast. Only for a few hundred miles along the mid-west coast, from Godthaab northward to Proven, is the open season longer, but here it sometimes begins in May and continues to November. The entire east coast, except for a small extent about Sermilik Fjord, at the mouth of which is situated the Angmagssalik, is often icebound even in summer. From Cape Farewell northward almost to Godthaab, and from Upernivik northward to Cape York, the coast is more or less icebound also, much of the summer. The Smith Sound region is relatively free of ice for the two summer months, and some of the outermost headlands like Cape Alexander are free of ice throughout the year.
Four kinds of ice form the barrier to the coast -- the Great Ice from the Arctic Ocean; the West Ice from the Arctic Archipelago; the Winter Ice formed in the fjords, bays and sounds of the Greenland coast itself; and the ice-bergs, the discharge of the glaciers debouching upon the sea from the ice-cap.