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Video Captures Near-Deadly Iceberg 'Tsunami'

A large wave formed by a disintegrating Greenland glacier nearly capsized the boat Jens Møller was on.
A large wave formed by a disintegrating Greenland glacier nearly capsized the boat Jens Møller was on. (Image credit: Jens Møller / Youtube)

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) ship.  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."

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.

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 dmain@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @Douglas_Main. Follow OurAmazingPlanet on Twitter @OAPlanet. We're also on Facebook and Google+.

Douglas Main
Douglas Main loves the weird and wonderful world of science, digging into amazing Planet Earth discoveries and wacky animal findings (from marsupials mating themselves to death to zombie worms to tear-drinking butterflies) for Live Science. Follow Doug on Google+.