Many people think of the fjords when they hear the word Norway, and that’s not really strange at all. We have many beautiful fjords in Norway where you can see dramatic nature where the enormous mountains go right into the water to create the fjords.
There’s just something special about fjords, and I’m sure many of you readers want to see one for yourself. But what’s the water in the fjords like? Can you swim in them, or drink from it? And is the water in the fjords even freshwater?
The water in the fjords is a mix between freshwater and saltwater, so you should not drink it. It is generally considered safe to swim in the fjords, but you can expect a freezing experience unless you visit in the middle of the summer!
The water in the fjords are a type of brackish water. The ocean provides it with lots of salt water, but at the same time fresh water comes down from large rivers from the mountains and glaciers. This makes it so that the salt concentration is lower at the end of a fjord compared to further out towards the sea.
Despite being close to fresh water at the end, it is still not really healthy to drink it, and you can still taste the salt in it.
Why can the fjord water become green or light blue?
You might have seen photos of fjords with green or light blue water, and this can sometimes happen, especially during spring or summer.
The water in the fjords can sometimes become green because of algae blooms where algae dominates the surface layer of the water column. This occurs when there is very little current in the water, allowing the algae to grow very quickly.
The algae responsible for the green water in the fjords is called Emiliania huxleyi, and typically blooms at a point during the spring to early summer. Some fjords have a higher chance of these algal blooms than others, and Hardangerfjorden is known to often become deep green each spring.
The light blue colors in the fjords come from glacier water, and has nothing to do with algae. The water in the glaciers has a high mineral content, and you can sometimes see the sediment particles with your own eyes if you will a water bottle with it (but don’t drink it).
All this sediment gives the water a light blue color, and sometimes the glacier water can color a big part of the fjord to be light blue. This is not actually the case, because in reality only the top layer is glacial water, but it looks light blue nonetheless.
You will usually also see this light blue color during early spring whenever a lot of snow melts at the same time and floods the fjords.
Swimming in the fjords
You can generally swim in the fjords, but keep in mind that they are often very cold. The closer you are to the end where snow melt and glacial water comes in, the colder the water will be.
The fjords can be kind of nice during the peak of summer, but don’t expect more than 19 – 20 °C even at the warmest days. Most of the time it will be closer to 15 °C during summer, and close to 4 – 5 °C during the winter half of the year.
Whenever you go swimming in the fjords, remember that it is often a steep fall that appears very quickly. The slope is just as steep underwater as it is in the mountains just above you. So you should be a confident swimmer if you plan on swimming in the fjords. Children are not advised to swim in the fjords unless you know that it is a safe area.
There are some designated swimming spots in fjords, and a few beaches and places where you can safely swim, even with children.
Drinking from the fjords
Some people seem to think that it is a good idea to have a drink of fjord water, but this is brackish water that is a mix of saltwater and freshwater. Why would anyone drink that? Drinking saltwater or brackish fjord water can be dangerous to your body.
If you want to have some water straight from nature while seeing the fjords, look for a small stream or river that runs down towards the fjord. This is usually melted snow water, and can be safely consumed. It is not advised to drink from the stream if you believe that it could be glacial water.
Fish and animals that live in the fjords in Norway
The Norwegian fjords are home to many different animal species, and you will see a unique wildlife if you have the patience to look closely. Some of the most characteristic animals you can see from time to time are orcas, white-tailed eagle and harbour porpoise. These are all rare, but can be found in many of the fjords of Norway.
No one knows exactly what you can find at the bottom of most of the fjords in Norway, and the ocean floor is largely unmapped. There are known to be sharks living down in the fjords, including the gigantic basking shark, but these are all considered to be harmless for humans.