Unstable iceberg looms over Greenland village

Locals fear falling chunks of ice could trigger a deadly tsunami

Greenland iceberg
(Image credit: Karl Petersen/AFP/Getty Images)

An 11-million-ton iceberg is looming over on a village in Greenland, putting it at risk of annihilation.

The enormous iceberg towers over the colourful wooden houses of Innaarsuit, a tiny coastal settlement which is home to around 200 residents.

The tableau might be picturesque, says NPR, but living in the shadow of the ice behemoth “could be life-threatening”.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Large icebergs are unstable structures, prone to “calving” - shedding massive shelves of ice. This particular tower of ice is so vast that falling shards could trigger a devastating tsunami.

“There are cracks and holes that make us fear it can calve any time,” village council member Susanne Eliassen told local media, the BBC reports.

If disaster were to strike, the majority of locals would be dangerously unprepared for a tidal onslaught.

Anna Hogg, a glaciologist at the University of Leeds told NPR that, despite their island home and reliance on maritime industries, most Greenlanders cannot swim.

“If you think about it, why would they be able to swim?” she said. “The ocean water is just so cold; you can't even put your toe in without it being unbearably freezing.”

So far, 33 villagers whose homes are closest to the shore have been evacuated. Other residents have been advised to seek higher ground further away from the coast.

The iceberg, which drifted towards the village at the rate of hundreds of metres per night, is currently grounded in the shallow bay.

The best case scenario, says Cnet, is that “a kind wind dislodges the iceberg from its current spot and it floats away from the village”.

In June last year, four people died after a glacial landslide sent a 100-metre-high waves sweeping through a settlement in north-western Greenland.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.