Monday 13 February 2023

Oodaaq, island 83-42 and the flowers of Kaffeklubben

The island of Oodaaq, found in 1978, was little more than a gravel bank in the arctic ice, and was for some years considered the northernmost territory on the planet. It was located off the north coast of Greenland, and eventually disappeared in 1980, never to be seen again - these stony shingle banks are not permanent, they end up swallowed by floating ice, and then submerge in the ocean. Several other similar to Oodaaq have been sighted.

The first team to set foot on Oodaaq left a 'cairn', a pile of pebbles, and a message. It didn't last long. 
More than twenty years later, island 83-42 was discovered, a slightly larger rocky accumulation, by the American Dennis Schmitt in 2003.

Dennis Schmitt

In the lack of a better name, '83-42' ended up being assigned based on the island's latitude: 83º 42' 7.2'' N ; some also know it as 'Eklipse 0'. It has been visited since then, and as part of the boulders are covered with ice, it was possible to take measurements: 35 meters long by 15 wide and 4 meters above the sea. This height is not enough to guarantee the stability of the 'island' with currents and tides, but for the time being it still holds up. Some lichens found on the rocks may even indicate a longer lifespan. 

If it is considered an 'island', 83-42 will have the planetary record for northern latitude..

In its own way, it is a beautiful island.

Anyway, it is currently considered that the 'terra firma' further north on the planet is still the neighbouring Island of Kaffeklubben, 'Coffee Club Island' (!). Comparatively large, Kaffeklubben is also found off the northeast coast of Greenland. It was discovered by the great historic explorer Robert Peary in 1900, at 83° 40' N, is almost 1 km long and reaches 30 m in height. It may have existed for a few thousand years.

On the top of Kaffeklubben, a more substantial island.

After its discovery, it was first visited by the Danish explorer Lauge Koch in 1921, who gave it the jest name "coffee club" in honour of the cafeteria of the Museum of Mineralogy in Copenhagen. Despite the inhospitality of the island, there is flora in Kaffeklubben! Various mosses, liverworts, lichens, and flowering plants:

Arctic Poppy (papaver radicatum) growing from mud between pebbles.

Saxifraga oppositifolia

They grow in an minuscule islet in the middle of the ice, above 80º N, under maximum temperatures of zero (Celsius). A true miracle: flowers in the most extreme North of the Earth.



It is rather amusing to understand who owns these islands. To start,  all of Greenland belongs geologically to North America; but also Greenland is  a large colony of Denmark, which for that reason is one of the remaining colonial empires. From a political-administrative point of view, therefore, the islands are an Overseas Territory of the European Union, although the currency used there would be the Danish krone ! I'd like 83-42 to be a no-owner, no man´s land.


Mister Twister said...

I don't think 0°C is the highest temperature possible there, surely it gets above 0 sometimes. Also wondering how the flower seeds got there in the first place.......

Mário R. Gonçalves said...

0.6ºC is the maximum registered, seldom reached.