Arctic ‘Ghost Island’ Qeqertaq Avannarleq Discovered in 2021 Is a Filthy Iceberg

A study expedition found a 30-by-60-meter island off the northern coast of Greenland in 2021. Named Qeqertaq Avannarleq, it is not an island but rather a grounded iceberg covered by a coating of dirt, pebbles, and mud deposited on the ice by nearby glaciers. Icebergs with a unique covering of dirt and stones may be semi-stationary ice islands, with a lifetime of up to many years. The origin of the new "islands" is likely floating glacier tongues in the so-called Cape Washington region.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India, portal publishing news and current affairs. He holds an M.B.A in International Business from the Maharishi University of Management, Iowa, USA. Twitter: @chackojoseph *views are Personal.

A study expedition comprising Swiss, Danish, and Greenlandic scientists found a 30-by-60-meter island off the northern coast of Greenland in 2021.

Considered to be the northernmost piece of land on Earth, the”ghost island” in the Arctic is, in fact, a “dirty iceberg,” according to research conducted by the Technical University of Denmark.

Its name, Qeqertaq Avannarleq, means “the northernmost island” in Greenlandic, which was given by the scientists who discovered and considered it to be land.

Kevin Hamilton, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Hawaii, wrote for ‘The Conversation’ that the island was small and gravelly, and it was deemed a candidate for the title of the most northerly known land mass in the world. However, a mystery was afoot in the area. He noted that several other tiny islands were found in the region and subsequently vanished just north of Cape Morris Jesup. Cape Morris Jesup is the northernmost point of Greenland and the world’s biggest island, about 712 kilometres from the North Pole.

According to Hamilton, several scientists speculated that the filthy iceberg was an uplifted rock bank by sea ice.

The “Oodaaq” island, discovered in 1978 under the polar ice cap off the cape, was the first of these small, quickly vanishing islands. Several other “ghost islands” have been located by subsequent expeditions.

This time, a fresh expedition in the summer of 2022 extensively explored the newly discovered island.

The researchers found that Qeqertaq Avannarleq is not an island but rather a grounded iceberg covered by a coating of dirt, pebbles, and mud that was likely deposited on the ice by the nearby glaciers.

According to Rene Forsberg, a professor at DTU Space who also participated in the 2022 trip, many of these “northernmost islands” have been located throughout the years, only to be revealed to have vanished over time.

New research demonstrates definitively that all of these purported “islands” are, in fact, icebergs. This applies to the recently discovered ‘Qeqertaq Avannarleq’ and the 1978-discovered ‘Oodaaq’. According to a translation of a DTU press release by Forsberg, their typical thickness is 20 to 30 metres, with a thin layer of soil and pebbles on the surface.

The team journeyed to a number of the adjacent little islands, including Qeqernaq Avannarleq, in order to collect GPS data and measure ice thickness and water depths using laser scanning methods.

Due to the 2 to 3-metre thick semi-stationary sea ice, sea depths have never been recorded in the region previously. Surprisingly, the new depth measurements revealed that all the alleged islands were located between 25 and 45 metres deep. Forsberg noted that this showed that the reported little islands are, in fact, grounded icebergs with a unique covering of dirt and stones. They may be characterised as semi-stationary ice islands, with a lifetime of up to many years.

According to the experts, the origin of the new “islands” is likely floating glacier tongues in the so-called Cape Washington region, which is 40 to 50 kilometres west of Cape Morris Jesup at the northern point of Greenland.

Since Robert E. Peary made the first discovery while heading to the North Pole along Greenland’s northern border, Coffee Club Island or Inuit Qeqertaat in Greenlandic continues to have the distinction, despite recent discoveries.

Inuit Qeqertaat is located closer to the beach than the contested icebergs. At 83°39’55” North, 30°37’West, a small, roughly spherical, storm-ravaged island stands around 30 metres in height. It was called Kaffeklubben Ø  by Danish explorer Lauge Koch in 1921; however, American explorer Robert E. Peary possibly saw it in 1900 during an expedition.

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