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Iceberg Threatens Greenland Village

Innaarsuit, Greenland —(Map)

A huge iceberg has gotten stuck in the sea near a small town in Greenland. Some people have left the area. Others have stayed, but are scared that pieces might break off the iceberg and create huge waves that could destroy the village.

Iceberg seen floating south of Innaarsuit in 2016.
It is not unusual to see icebergs near Innaarsuit.
This iceberg was seen floating south of Innaarsuit in 2016.
(Source: Kenny McFly, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Innaarsuit is a small village on the coast of northwest Greenland. About 180 people live in the area. You can only get to Innaarsuit by boat or helicopter. Most of the people in the village live by fishing or hunting.

It is not unusual to see icebergs near Innaarsuit. Greenland is the world’s largest island, and most of it is covered with a thick ice sheet, like Antarctica’s. But as Greenland’s ice sheet is melting because of climate change  , more and more icebergs are breaking loose.

Usually the icebergs float by without a problem. But this one has gotten stuck.

Picture constructed to show 10% of iceberg above water and 90% below.
About 90% of an iceberg is underwater.
The picture of the iceberg above the water is real. The part below the water was added to show what a full iceberg might look like.
(Source: Uwe Kils (iceberg) and Wiska Bodo (sky), via Wikimedia Commons.)

When an iceberg is floating, only about 10% of it can be seen. The rest (90%) is below water. Since the bottom of this iceberg is stuck on the bottom of the sea, it can’t float away.

The iceberg is huge. Many people in the village have never seen a bigger one. About 300 feet (91 meters) of the iceberg show above the ocean and it is about 650 feet (198 meters) wide. Scientists think the iceberg may weigh about 11 million tons.

The big worry is that the iceberg might “calve” – break into smaller pieces that would fall into the sea. Huge chunks of ice falling into the sea can cause a tsunami – a group of huge waves strong enough to wipe out the village. Only a year ago, another tsunami in Greenland wrecked 11 houses and killed four people.

The people in Innaarsuit are worried that pieces of the iceberg may fall off and cause huge waves.

People nearest the iceberg have already left the village. Others are watching carefully.

Even if the waves do not wipe out the village, they can still cause damage. They could destroy the power station, which is on the coast. That would leave the village without electricity.

The waves could also destroy the boats that the people in the village use to find food.

Ukkusissat - another small village not far from Innaarsuit.
This is Ukkusissat – another small village not far from Innaarsuit.
Like Innaarsuit, most people here live by fishing and hunting.
(Source: Algkalv, from Wikimedia Commons.)

The people of Innaarsuit are hoping that strong winds and high waters will break the iceberg loose and it will float away.

If it rains, though, that could make the iceberg break up. As one local person said, “…there are cracks and holes that make us fear it can calve anytime.”

Denmark, which controls Greenland, has a special Navy ship waiting near the village in case things get worse.


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