Last week, a glacier on Greenland that scientists had been watching a crack form within for several years finally made its split. This iceberg -- twice the size of Manhattan -- resulting from the breakage was observed by NASA satellites. These more stoic observations of the cleavage, although giant, may pale in comparison to a first-hand account of witnessing such an event.
In what appears to be a different glacial avalanche -- on a smaller scale -- a group of boating tourists actually caught footage of the ice giving way, creating a small tsunami in the process. The waves violently rocked their boat and sent them speeding away from the scene.
Jens Møller, who posted the footage on YouTube, said in a description that although the scenery was amazing, it was a day that "almost became our last."
Here's more from the YouTube description:
A tourist from Australia came to my uncle and asked if she could get a ride to the glacier just north of Ilulissat, Greenland, so he asked me if I wanted to be his translator. I am from another town where glaciers are fairytales, I was as much of a tourist as the Australian tourist, so I decided to join the crew.
Watch the harrowing footage that was captured (Note: If you can't stand the suspense build-up, the action really begins at 0:48 into the video):
The segment of the Petermann Glacier that sticks out over water like a frozen tongue is the part that broke off last week as seen by NASA. The same glacier spawned an iceberg twice that size two years ago. Together, the breaks made a large change that's got the attention of researchers.
"This is not part of natural variations anymore," said NASA glaciologist Eric Rignot, who camped on Petermann 10 years ago.
Ohio State University ice scientist Ian Howat said there is still a chance it could be normal calving, like losing a fingernail that has grown too long, but any further loss would show it's not natural: "We're still in the phase of scratching our heads and figuring out how big a deal this really is."
Many of Greenland's southern glaciers have been melting at an unusually rapid pace. The Petermann break brings large ice loss much farther north than in the past, said Ted Scambos, lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo.
At the same time, NASA announced on Tuesday that melt of ice as a whole on the island was being observed at a more expansive rate than usual. The Blaze reported one NASA scientist saying this event is consistent with observations from ice cores that show more extreme melt an average of every 150 years or so.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.