Last month, scientists set foot on a small island off the coast of Greenland that they said was the northernmost point on land in the world and revealed the change in ice cover.
The discovery comes as a battle looms between Arctic nations – the United States, Russia, Canada, Denmark and Norway for control of the Arctic, some 700 kilometers (435 miles) north and the ocean floor, with fishing rights and shipping routes exposed. By melting ice due to climate change.
“Our intention was not to discover a new island,” Polar explorer Morten Rush and head of the Arctic Station research facility in Greenland told Reuters. “We just went there to collect samples.”
Scientists initially believed that they had reached Oodaaq Island, an island discovered by a Danish research team in 1978. Only then, after checking the exact location, did they realize that they had visited another island at an altitude of 780 meters northwest.
“Everyone was thrilled that we had found what we thought was Udaq Island,” said Swiss entrepreneur Christian Lister, founder of the Leicester Foundation which funded the expedition.
“It’s a bit like the explorers of the past, who thought they landed in a certain place, but actually found a completely different place.”
The small island, about a hundred feet wide and about ten feet tall, is made of mud from the sea floor as well as moraine – soil and rock left over by the movement of glaciers. The team said it would recommend the name “Qeqertaq Avannarleq,” which means “the northernmost island” in Greenland.
Several US missions in the region have researched the northernmost island in the world in recent decades. In 2007, Arctic veteran Dennis Schmidt discovered a similar island nearby, and although it has experienced a shifting ice sheet, scientists said the island’s appearance now is not a direct result of global warming, which has weakened Greenland’s ice sheet.
The area north of Greenland has some thicker polar sea ice, said Rene Forsberg, professor and chair of the geodynamics department at the National Space Institute in Denmark, although he added that it is now 2-3 meters thick in summer compared to 4 meters in the beginning. It was visited as part of the expedition that discovered Oodaaq in 1978.
Any hope of extending territorial claims to the Arctic depends on whether it is in fact an island or a bank that can disappear again. The island must remain above sea level at high tide.
“It meets the standards of the island,” Forsberg said. “This is the northernmost land in the world right now.”
But Forsberg, an adviser to the Danish government, said he was unlikely to change Denmark’s territorial claim to northern Greenland.
“These little islands come and go,” he said.
The discovery was first reported on Friday by the Danish newspaper Weekendavisen.
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