Disko Bay

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"Disco Bay" redirects here. For places often nicknamed "Disco Bay", see Discovery Bay (disambiguation).
Disko Bay
Qeqertarsuup tunua
Disko Bay is located in Greenland
Disko Bay
Disko Bay
Location in Greenland
Location Arctic
Coordinates 69°00′N 52°00′W / 69.000°N 52.000°W / 69.000; -52.000Coordinates: 69°00′N 52°00′W / 69.000°N 52.000°W / 69.000; -52.000
Ocean/sea sources Baffin Bay
Basin countries Greenland
Settlements Saqqaq, Ilulissat, Iliminaq, Qasigiannguit, Ikamiut, Akunaaq, Aasiaat, Kitsissuarsuit
Disko Bay
Icebergs in Disko Bay

Disko Bay (Greenlandic: Qeqertarsuup tunua; Danish: Diskobugten[1]) is a bay on the western coast of Greenland. The bay constitutes a wide southeastern inlet of Baffin Bay.


To the south the coastline is complicated with multiple waterways of skerries and small islands in the Aasiaat archipelago. Qasigiannguit and Ilimanaq are the main settlements in the southeastern inlet, just south of the outflow of Ilulissat Icefjord.

From the north the bay is bounded by Qeqertarsuaq, the largest island on the western coast. North of Ilulissat and west of Aluttoq Island the bay transforms into Sullorsuaq Strait separating Qeqertarsuaq from Nuussuaq Peninsula.[2]


Disko Bay has been an important location for centuries. Its coastline was first encountered by Europeans when Erik the Red started a settlement in 985 AD on the more habitable western coast of Greenland. The two settlements, called the Eastern and Western settlements, were sustenance economies that survived on animal husbandry. Soon after the Western settlement was established, the Norsemen traveled up the coast during the summer thaw and discovered Disko Bay.

Their interest in this bay was due to its rich resources: walruses for ivory, seals for their pelts, and whales for a variety of materials. These products became the main source of income for the Greenlandic settlers who traded with Iceland, the British Isles, and mainland Europe. Without these resources the settlements would probably not have lasted as long as they did.

It is uncertain when the Inuit first started venturing into Disko Bay, and Norse accounts describe the area as uninhabited when they first explored it. Norse accounts document an eventual trade arrangement with the Inuit who came from the north and west. For a time, both parties made peaceful use of the bay. Later accounts[citation needed][dubious ] report fighting and massacres on both sides. However, the primary reason for the abandonment of the Greenlandic settlements was the advent of the Little Ice Age that started in the 15th century. There was such an extreme shift in temperature that Disko Bay became inaccessible even in the warmer summer months, thereby destroying the livelihood of the Greenlandic Norse. Even the Eastern settlement, which was below the Arctic Circle, became too cold for habitation. From that time until Danish colonization in the 18th century, the Inuit controlled the Disko Bay area although English and Dutch whalers sometimes visited the area after it was charted during John Davis's third Greenland expedition in 1587.


  1. ^ Christensen, N.O. & al. "Elections in Greenland". Arctic Circular, Vol. 4 (1951), pp. 83–85. Op. cit. "Northern News". Arctic, Vol. 5, No. 1 (Mar 1952), pp. 58–59.
  2. ^ Nuussuaq, Saga Map, Tage Schjøtt, 1992

Literary references[edit]

  • Disko Troop, a central character in Rudyard Kipling's novel Captains Courageous, was born on a fishing boat in the vicinity of Disko Bay and subsequently named after it.


  • Brown, Berit ed. Nordic Experiences: Exploration of Scandinavian Cultures. Greenwood Press. Westport, CT. 1997.
  • Diamond, Jared. Collapse. Penguin Press Ltd. London, England. 2005.
  • Enterline, James Robert. Erikson, Eskimos, and Columbus. Johns Hopkins University Press. Baltimore, MD. 2002.
  • Haywood, John. The Encyclopedia of the Viking Age. Thanes and Hudson, Inc. New York, NY. 2000.
  • Ingstad, Helge. Friis, Erik trans. Westard to Vinland:The Discovery of Pre-Columbian Norse House-sites in North America. St. Martin’s Press. New York, NY. 1969.
  • Wahlgren, Erik. The Vikings and America. Thames and Hudson, Inc. New York, NY. 1986.
  • Wooding, Jonathan. The Vikings. Rizzoli International Pub. Inc. New York, NY. 1997.

External links[edit]

  • www.disko.gl Site with information and interactive maps of the Disko Bay area.