Scientists have discovered a new island off the coast of Greenland, which they say is the northernmost point in the world. It was found almost by accident, through the displacement of ice floes.
"It was not our intention to discover a new island," said Morten Rasch, polar explorer and head of the research facility at the Arctic Station in Greenland, "We went there just to collect samples."
The scientists initially thought they had reached Oodaaq, an island discovered by a Danish team in 1978. Only later, when checking the exact location, did they realize they had visited another island 780 meters to the northwest.
"It's a bit like explorers in the past, who thought they had landed in a certain place, but actually found a totally different place."
Smallest northernmost island in the world
The small island, about 30 meters wide and with a peak of 3 meters, consists of mud from the sea floor and a mixture of soil and rock left by the movement of glaciers. The team suggested that the island be named "Qeqertaq Avannarleq", which means "the northernmost island" in Greenland.
In recent decades, several North American expeditions in the region have searched for the world's northernmost island. In 2007, Arctic veteran Dennis Schmitt discovered a similar island nearby.
Scientists said that although the new island was exposed through ice movement, its appearance was not a direct consequence of global warming. Although it has actually been shrinking Greenland's ice sheet.
René Forsberg, professor and head of geodynamics at Denmark's National Space Institute, said the area north of Greenland has some of the thickest polar sea ice. Although he added that the ice is now 2-3 metres thick in summer, compared to 4 metres when he first visited as part of the expedition that discovered Oodaaq in 1978.
Any hope for territorial extension in the Arctic depends on whether it is actually an island or a shore that can disappear again. An island needs to remain above sea level at high tide.
"It meets the criteria of an island," Forsberg said. "This is currently the northernmost land in the world. "However, he warns, "These little islands come and go."
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