A group of researchers who went out to collect samples off the coast of Greenland in July found themselves on a tiny, uninhabited and previously unknown island. Measuring 60×30 metres and with a peak of three metres above sea level, it has now become the new northernmost piece of land on Earth. Before this, Oodaaq was marked as the Earth’s northernmost terrain.
Serendipity for scientists
“It was not our intention to discover an island,” polar explorer and head of the Arctic Station research facility in Greenland, Morten Rasch, told Reuters. The group was travelling by helicopter to Oodaaq.
“We were happy to have found what we thought was Oodaaq island. But, like explorers of the past who thought they’d landed in a certain place, we found a totally different place,” said Swiss entrepreneur Christiane Leister of the Leister Foundation that financed the expedition. It turned out the scientists were actually 780 metres northwest of Oodaaq — and on a previously undocumented island.
Far out North
Over the decades, a number of expeditions have been searching for the world’s northernmost island. An island was found nearby in 2007 by Arctic veteran Dennis Schmitt.
The new island is made up of seabed mud and moraine, i.e. soil, rock and other material left behind by moving glaciers, and has no vegetation. “It meets the criteria of an island,” says Rene Forsberg, professor and head of geodynamics at Denmark’s National Space Institute.
The group has suggested the discovery be named ‘Qeqertaq Avannarleq’, which is Greenlandic for “the northernmost island”. According to Reuters, the discovery comes as a battle is looming among Arctic nations, the US, Russia, Canada, Denmark and Norway for the control of the North Pole and of the surrounding seabed, fishing rights and shipping routes exposed by melting ice due to climate change.
According to Forsberg, an advisor to the Danish government, the new island would not change Denmark’s territorial claim north of Greenland.
Global warming has had a severe effect on the ice sheet of Greenland. The new island, which was exposed by shifting pack ice, is, however, not a direct consequence of climate change.
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