In 2021, a research team found a phantom island floating in the Arctic.
Encountering a phantom island today is an extremely rare event, as our planet has been extensively mapped by explorers and is now even observed by satellite devices that monitor what is happening on it geographically speaking. This is why when in 2021 a ghost island appeared out of nowhere over the Arctic, researchers wondered if it really was dry land and, if not, what else could it be. They finally found the answer.
The Discovery of a Phantom Island
In 2021, a research team from the University of Copenhagen found a phantom island floating in the Arctic off the coast of Greenland. Just 30 meters wide by 60 meters long and with an elevation of almost 3 meters, the island was covered with mud, silt, and gravel on the seafloor.
It was initially believed to be Oodaaq, an island discovered in 1978. However, once expedition leader Morten Rasch published the photos along with the coordinates of the phantom island, island hunters immediately set out in search and spotted Oodaaq about 700 meters to the southeast.
There was no answer other than that it was a new island, but the question remained as to why no one had seen it before. They immediately proposed calling the phantom island ‘Qeqertaq Avannarleq,’ which in Greenlandic means ‘the northernmost island.’
The existence of an island that was closer to the north than any other land region sounded tantalizing; however, when the research was followed up the scientists were able to clarify what it was.
[Photo: Martin Nissen]
After detailed measurements and laser scans, the expedition concluded that it is not a phantom island as they first thought, but an iceberg covered with mud and soil. According to Rasch, such mounds of land can be classified as semi-stationary ice islands, as they can have a lifespan of several years but are not solid ground.
The researchers assume that they are remnants left by larger glaciers with brownish deposits, which were pushed to the surface by sea ice, forming the ice islands in their wake.
The good news of unraveling the truth behind the ghost island is that you can have better maps that stipulate the classification of semi-stationary islands that, at a moment’s notice, may disappear. In addition to the fact that Kaffeklubben Island remains the northernmost known point of the mainland.
“The fact that they are icebergs and not small islands will solve some of the mess that small islands have caused concerning the mapping of Greenland, and also the geopolitical one, i.e. how big is really the territory of the realm,” said Morten Rasch. “Now you can draw a map and be sure that it will last for many years,” he concluded.
Story originally published in Spanish in Ecoosfera
Cover photo by Martin Nissen