Greenland scientists and explorers announced this Friday (27) that they had discovered the northernmost island in the world. The land portion is close to Oodaaq, until then considered the most northern point – or boreal – on the planet.
“It was not our intention to discover a new island,” Danish explorer Morten Rasch told Reuters news agency. “We just went there to collect samples.”
With 30 meters wide, the small island appeared due to a movement in the Arctic ice sheet. It has a small peak three meters high and is formed by the accumulation of mud and sediment that has broken off from the glaciers.
Map shows the approximate location of Qeqertaq Avannarleq, the northernmost island in the world — Photo: G1 Mundo
Initially, scientists thought they had reached Oodaaq – an island that had been discovered in 1978. It was only later, when verifying the exact location, that they realized they had visited another island, 780 meters away, in a northwesterly direction.
Christiane Leister, one of those responsible for financing the expedition, celebrated the discovery and said that she felt “like the explorers of the past”, who thought they had arrived at a place, but actually found a place “totally different”.
The researchers decided to call the island Qeqertaq Avannarleq, which means “the northernmost island” in the local language. To become part of Greenland, the Danish government still needs to recognize the territory, which can be done if the island remains visible even at high tide.
Christiane Leister, member of the expedition, on the northernmost island in the world — Photo: Julian Charriere/Reuters
Although it was exposed by the displacement of the ice sheet, scientists said the island’s appearance is not a direct consequence of global warming, which has reduced the Greenland ice sheet.
Last month, an arctic heat wave, with temperatures more than 10 degrees above those expected for this time of year, triggered an episode of massive melting of the ice sheet that covers the territory.
Between the 28th and 31st of July, the ice cap melted at about 8 billion tonnes a day, double the average summer rate, according to data from the Polar Portal, a modeling tool run by Danish research institutes.
The world’s northernmost island discovered near Greenland — Photo: Julian Charriere/Reuters
Rene Forsberg, a geophysics expert at the National Space Institute of Denmark, told Reuters that Qeqertaq Avannarleq, at this time, can be considered the “northern land in the world” point, but that may not be definitive.
“She meets the criteria of an island. This is currently the northernmost land in the world,” the scientist said. “But these little islands come and go.”
He also explained that the entire area north of Greenland is covered by a thick layer of polar ice – which can reach up to 3 meters high during the summer. In 1978, when Oodaaq was discovered, the ice sheet reached 4 meters.
Island appeared after a change in the Arctic ice sheet — Photo: Julian Charriere/Reuters
The discovery comes as the Arctic nations – the United States, Russia, Canada, Denmark and Norway – begin to fight for control of the region.
This is because, with the melting of part of the North Pole due to climate change, new navigation routes and fishing areas are beginning to emerge.
Several US expeditions, for example, have been looking for new territories in recent decades. In 2007, an island similar to Qeqertaq Avannarleq was found by explorers.
Northernmost island discovered by Greenland expedition — Photo: Julian Charriere/Reuters