It was a striking sight: a huge iceberg looming over a tiny Arctic village. Ice is ubiquitous along Greenland’s coast, but this giant has put the inhabitants of the village, Innaarsuit, population 169, on edge.
Locals fear that a chunk of the iceberg might tumble into the ocean and unleash an enormous wave on the settlement. Big icebergs don’t always melt politely into the ocean. They tend to break apart in spectacular fashion. “It’s not a peaceful process,” said Joerg Schaefer, a climate researcher at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.
Thirty-three people were evacuated farther inland. People were also advised to get their boats out of the way. “They lose their boats, they can’t go hunting or fishing,” said Gideon Quist, a police inspector in Nuuk, the capital.
The iceberg is the biggest the villagers have seen, a member of the local council told Greenland’s national radio. Satellite data indicated that it measured roughly 650 feet wide, rose almost 300 feet into the air and weighed up to 11 million tons, an expert from the Danish Meteorological Institute told DR, the Danish broadcaster.
Although large icebergs are common in the region, Inspector Quist said, what causes concern is that this one became grounded.
Officials hoped that southerly winds and high tides would lift the iceberg and carry it away from the village.
Greenland’s ice sheet is losing ice at an alarming pace, and the number of icebergs released into the ocean is set to increase, at least over the coming decades, Dr. Schaefer said.
Last year, a tsunami devastated another village on Greenland’s west coast. Four people died. That flood wave was caused by the collapse of a nearby mountainside into the sea.