Scientist Studying Thinning Sea Ice Drowns in North Greenland

A Japanese scientist studying thinning sea ice has died when he fell through the ice in Northwest Greenland.

Locals had warned Tetsuhide Yamazaki that ocean currents were fast near Siorapaluk, the world’s northernmost village. They said that he should not go this early in the season. Although Yamazaki was experienced, he went. This is the Dark Season in Siorapaluk, and the sun is below the horizon until February, so visibility is poor.

Broken sea ice in the region where Hide Yamakazi fell through.

Broken sea ice in the region where Tetsuhide Yamazaki fell through. Photo: X


When he didn’t return, a search party found a hole where he had fallen through some shuga, or porridge ice, according to ExplorersWeb writer Galya Morrell, who is in touch with the villagers. There was no trace of him.

Siorapaluk, Greenland in summer.

Siorapaluk, Greenland in summer. Photo: Galya Morrell


Despite its remoteness, little Siorapaluk, population about 60, has been a popular destination for Japanese scientists of all stripes for years. That is thanks to the amazing Ikuo Oshima. In 1972, Oshima moved to Siorapaluk from Tokyo after seeing photos of it in a book. He fell in love with the place, married a local woman, and lived the traditional hunting life of that remote Inuit region.

Ikuo Oshima

Ikuo Oshima. Photo: Galya Morrell


Now a young-looking 76, he is considered the most knowledgeable hunter in the village. His friendliness and willingness to help has drawn other Japanese to Siorapaluk, for briefer periods, to study.

map of Siorapaluk location

Map: Google Maps

Jerry Kobalenko

Jerry Kobalenko is the editor of ExplorersWeb. One of Canada’s premier arctic travelers, he is the author of The Horizontal Everest and Arctic Eden, and has just finished a book about adventures in Labrador. In 2018, he was awarded the Polar Medal by the Governor General of Canada and in 2022, he received the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Medal for services to exploration.