Last month, a group of scientists and explorers visited what they believe is the northernmost island on the planet. It is a small land mass in northern Greenland, revealed by changes in the ice sheet.
The discovery comes at a time when several countries with regions of the Arctic – the United States, Russia, Canada, Denmark and Norway – are battling for control of the Arctic, the roads made available thanks to melting ice.
In this case, the discovery was spontaneous. “Discovering a new island was not the goal,” Morten Rasch, director of the Arctic Research Station, located in Greenland, told Reuters. The group just wanted to “collect samples”.
At first, the group thought they had reached Oodaaq Island, an island discovered by a Danish team in 1978. Only later, when they checked the exact location, did they realize they had visited another island, 780 meters northwest.
“Everyone was thrilled to find what we thought was Oodaaq,” said Swiss businesswoman Christian Lister of the Leicester Foundation, which funded the campaign. “It’s a bit like the explorers of the past, who thought they had come to a place and actually discovered a completely different place.”
The group wanted to name the small island, about 30 meters long and with a maximum height of three meters, as “Qarkataq Avanarlek Island”, “the northernmost island” in the Greenland language.
Several North American expeditions in recent decades have searched for the largest northern island in the world. In 2007, veteran explorer Dennis Schmidt discovered a similar island relatively nearby.
But although it appears now, revealed by changes in the ice sheet, scientists say this is not a direct result of global warming, which caused the shrinkage of the Greenland glacier.
Rene Forsberg, a professor at the National Space Institute in Denmark, explained that the northernmost region of Greenland has some of the thickest polar ice in the region. However, in the summer it is two to three meters thick, while in the 1970s, when Forsberg participated in the expedition that discovered Oodaaq, it was four meters thick.
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