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New Islands, New Northernmost Point of Land on Earth Discovered off Northern Coast of Greenland

Since 1978, with the discovery of Oodaaq Island by Uffe Petersen, it had been accepted that there was one small island located north of Kaffeklubben Island. Although the large pressure ridges of sea ice found in other locations do not occur in this area of fast ice, it is now known that changing ice conditions and melt water do alternately obscure and reveal land features in this area. Two islands have now been confirmed by ground and air observation over a span of six years. One of these is the new northernmost confirmed point of land on earth. In addition, other possible islands have been identified in the area, but full verification has not been completed. Oodaaq Island has not been noted in its original location since 1997.

Oodaaq was discovered in 1978 by Uffe Petersen, a member of the Geodetic Institute during a 1978 expedition (GI1978) to complete the first accurate survey of northern Greenland. Trigonometric surveys were combined with the then new satellite positioning methods to obtain fixed points for the 1985 orthophoto maps. The island was visited by H. Andersson, F. Madsen and A. Færch Jensen (GI1978) and in 1979 by geologists S. Funder and C. Hjort. Its location (83° 40 32.5" N - 30° 40 10.1" W) lay 1.36 km from Kaffekluben and along the long axis of this island. It was 50 by 50 meters with an altitude of one meter and was composed of silt, sand and gravel covered by a veneer of rounded boulders. (S. Funder and C. Hjort, A Reconnaissance of the Quaternary Geology of Eastern North Greenland, Rapport nr. 99, Grønlands Geologiske Undersøgelse, pp. 99-105; København, 1980). Photographs and memory of the crew noted very few boulders larger than 10 cm in size (Personal communication Willy Weng 01/6/27, Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, GEUS). A small cairn was built on Oodaaq in 1979 by the Sirius Patrol (Naturens Verden, Rhodos, København, 1980, no 1980/10, pp. 314-322).In

1996 the American Top of the World Expedition (ATOW1996) crossed from the north coast of Greenland past Kaffeklubben Island with the goal of reaching Oodaaq Island by walking over the sea ice. We discovered a nearly submerged island in the approximate 1985 orthophoto map location of Oodaaq. A single large flat boulder broke the surface of a melt water pool trapped over the island by surrounding small ice ridges. This island was revisited 3 days later by retracing our steps on the ice and confirming our GPS coordinates (83° 40 34.8" N - 30° 38 38.6" W). With a temperature change the ice had prominent cracks and water was seen flowing from the surface pools into the cracks. The ATOW1996 island was revealed to be approximately 10 by 10 meters with an altitude of 1 meter and several boulders of half a meter size and angular dimensions were noted. On our return to Kaffeklubben, another very flat land area (gravel bar, island?) was located north of Kaffekluben but not further investigated.

In 1997, after seeing a photograph of the "drowned Oodaaq" in Life Magazine, the staff at Kort- og Matrikelstyrelsen , (National Surevey and Cadastre), (KMS1997), formerly the Geodetic Institute, revisited the area. René Forsberg reported an island 50 by 50 meters in size with a small cairn built of fist sized local stones (Personal communication H. Andersson, DPC, Email 01/6) They felt this island was consistent with the GI1978 island but the coordinates (83° 40 15.1" N - 30° 30 34.5" W) were considerably southeast of the original GI1978 island.

In 2001, The Return to the Top of the World Expedition (RTOW2001), the KMS, GEUS and the DPC began a collaborative effort to clarify the available information. The data from the GI1978 ATOW1996 and KMS1997 visits as well as fly over photos were compared with the provisional conclusion that at least two and possibly three different islands had been visited. Also two islands were suspected in a position closer to Kaffeklubben from review of the KMS1997 fly over photo and the ATOW1996 report.

In July 2001, Hauge Anderson from the DPC accompanied the 2001 RTOW Expedition on a joint reconnaissance of the area utilizing GPS coordinates and aerial photography to confirm island locations. The KMS1997 island was easily visible at recorded coordinates. The ATOW1996 island was confirmed at its recorded GPS coordinates and photography confirmed the topography with multiple large flat rocks. The 1996 suspected second island was visible, but inadequate photo and GPS documentation was obtained. An area from the KMS 1997 fly over photo suspicious for an additional island was located and another probable island was located between the KMS1997 island and Kaffeklubben. The GI1978 coordinates for Oodaaq were viewed on three separate aerial passes with no evidence of an island or rock debris noted. In addition, there appeared to be a possible island in a location even more northerly than all the islands above. This possible island was photographed and coordinates logged on two separate passes.

After extensive review of the available information we have reached the following conclusions:

1. The ATOW1996 island is the most northerly documented point of land on earth. Its location and physical description have been constant over the last five years.

2. The GI1978 Oodaaq Island was not visible in 2001 at its survey coordinates and it has not been noted since 1979. We do not believe it is the ATOW1996 island because of the different physical descriptions and the confirmation of the ATOW 1996 coordinates obtained in the RTOW2001 fly over. It is unknown if ice movement in this area of fast ice would be adequate to erode or shear a small island.

3. The KMS1997 island was confirmed in the RTOW2001 fly over. Its location and physical characteristics were consistent from 1997 to 2001. The source of the cairn noted on KMS1997 island is uncertain.

4. A possible more northerly island (83° 41 06" 30° 45 36") was noted during the RTOW2001 fly over. Although aerial photography was suggestive of an island, further documentation including an on site visit is needed. This is planned as a continuation of the RTOW2001 and DPC collaborative effort. Further investigation of the other potential islands nearer Kaffeklubben could also occur at that time.

By Theresa Baker, co-leader 2001 RTOW Expedition

Submitted in conjunction with Hauge Andersson, Danish Polar Center

With acknowledgement of the contributions of:
Willy Weng; Department of Geological Mapping, Copenhagen (GEUS)
Tony Higgins; Department of Geological mapping, Copenhagen (GEUS)
ATOW1996 Expedition Team
RTOW2001 Expedition Team

 

 

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Map showing new Islands

 

The world's northernmost point of land discovered by ATOW 96. The location has been confirmed in 2001.

 

Island visited by KMS-expedition in 1997.

 

Possible new island discovered by the RTOW2001-expedition.

Contact:

, RTOW2001
E-mail: Echojj@aol.com

, DPC
E-mail: ha@dpc.dk

 

 

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