Jens Moller / Youtube
A large wave formed by a disintegrating Greenland glacier nearly capsized the boat that Jens Moller was on. He videotaped the frightening event.
updated 8/6/2012 6:39:38 PM ET 2012-08-06T22:39:38

One second you're volunteering to be your uncle's translator, and the next a glacial wave nearly sinks your ship.

Jens Møller was visiting family near Ilulissat, Greenland, when he decided to go for a boat ride with his uncle to serve as a translator for an Australian tourist, and to have a look at the local glaciers.

Møller, who's from Greenland but speaks fluent English, hopped aboard his uncle's 18-foot (5.5-meter) boat.  Upon inspecting the glaciers at a place named Eqi, the group heard some cracking. Thinking that a small section of the glacier was about to fall into the water, Møller started filming with his video camera.

But the falling glacial chunk was not small … at all. And as it slid into the ocean (at about 0:50 in the video), it began making a large wave. [See video of the ice wave here.]

"It got more and more exciting while the wave was getting closer," Møller told OurAmazingPlanet. "We didn't realize it was going to be that intense or dangerous a second before."

Adrenaline rush
Once Møller realized the wave was going to strike with a lot of force, he scrambled inside the small enclosure of the boat, taking the camera off the water. "One thing I regret is that I wasn't filming out the window," he said.

The whole experience was an adrenaline rush, he said; his feet were shaking for about 5-10 minutes afterward. "I would say that it beats skydiving, but I wouldn't say that I was scared," he said.

Nobody was badly hurt, although he did sustain a few bruises.

"It was lucky that none of us panicked, (and) that my uncle accelerated away from the wave," Møller said. If you look closely at the water below the ship in the video, you can see that the boat is moving away from the wave before it hits, he said.

"Next time I think I would like to be a little farther away from the glacier," Møller said. "But I'm into adrenaline rushes. Almost dying next to a glacier is something I would like to do again. I know it sounds pretty crazy, but it was an amazing feeling."

  1. Science news from
    1. NOAA
      Cosmic rays may spark Earth's lightning

      All lightning on Earth may have its roots in space, new research suggests.

    2. How our brains can track a 100 mph pitch
    3. Moth found to have ultrasonic hearing
    4. Quantum network could secure Internet

If the boat had capsized, they would have been in trouble; the water in that location hovers at the freezing point, Møller said, and his uncle cannot swim. There were several other boats in the area, though, which may have been able to rescue them. "I would have spent all my energy trying to save my uncle," he said.

After the ordeal, their boat struck a small piece of floating ice on the way home, severely damaging the engine. "We were pretty unlucky that night," Møller said.

Except that they survived.

Unusual warmth
Crumbling glaciers are perfectly normal for this time of year, Møller said. Even still, he and other Greenland natives have noticed significantly warmer weather in the area recently. In July, a study found that 97 percent of Greenland's ice sheets thawed on the surface, the largest extent of melting ever recorded.

A massive iceberg the size of Manhattan also recently broke away from one of Greenland's largest glaciers. Good thing Møller wasn't taking video of that occurrence.

Reach Douglas Main at Follow him on Twitter  @Douglas_Main.  Follow OurAmazingPlanet on Twitter @OAPlanet.  We're also on Facebook  and  Google+.

© 2012 OurAmazingPlanet. All rights reserved. More from OurAmazingPlanet.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments