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Researchers have found what is believed to be the world’s northernmost island – by mistake. The yet-to-be-named island was stumbled upon by scientists on an expedition last month. They initially thought they had reached Oodaaq, previous holder of the prestigious title of ‘world’s northernmost island’.
Oodaaq lies off the northern coast of Greenland and was first discovered by a Danish survey team in 1978, and lies 700 kilometres (435 miles) south of the North Pole.
The new island, however, lies 780 metres north of Oodaaq.
Expedition leader Morten Rasch, from the University of Copenhagen, said of the discovery: “We were convinced that the island we were standing on was Oodaaq, which until then was registered as the world’s northernmost island.
“But when I posted photos of the island and its coordinates on social media, a number of American island hunters went crazy and said that it couldn’t be true.”
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The finding happened entirely accidentally, as researchers were visiting the area to collect samples.
Mr Rasch added: “It was not our intention to discover a new island.”
The small island measures roughly 30 metres across and has a peak of three metres, and is comprised primarily of mud and moraine – rock and soil left behind by moving glaciers.
The island was revealed by shifting ice off the Greenland coast.
The discovery is not thought to be down to climate change.
It could have been formed after a major storm, and may be a “short-lived islet” according to a Copenhagen University statement.
The statement added: “No one knows how long it will remain.
“In principle, it could disappear as soon as a powerful new storm hits.”
To be formally classified as an island, and therefore be subject to territorial claims, some land must remain above sea level at high tide.
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Rene Forsberg, professor and head of geodynamics at Denmark’s National Space Institute said: “It meets the criteria of an island.
“This is currently the world’s northernmost land.”
However, Mr Forsberg, advised “these small islands come and go”, thus it does not strengthen Denmark’s territorial claim north of Greenland.
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Greenland is an autonomous Danish dependent territory with limited self-government and its own Parliament.
It has grabbed a series of recent headlines, notably in 2019 when then-US President Donald Trump said he wanted to buy the island.
The proposal was panned as “absurd” by the Danish government.
Though the island was exposed by shifting pack ice, the scientists said the island’s appearance was not a direct result of global warming.
Several American expeditions in recent years have searched for the world’s northernmost island.
A similar island was discovered nearby in 2007 by Arctic veteran Dennis Schmitt.
The researchers have recommended the island is named “Qeqertaq Avannarleg”, which means “the northernmost island” in Greenlandic.
Mr Forsberg said the area north of Greenland, where this new island is located, has some of the thickest polar sea ice in the world.
However, he added it is now two to three metres thick, whereas when he first visited, as part of the expedition that discovered Oodaaq in 1978, it was four metres thick.