Last update: 22 January 2022
In February 2012, a rare natural phenomenon occurred in The Netherlands. The fascinating appearance of ‘kruiend ijs‘ – drifting ice, a sight that is usually confined to (sub) Arctic environments much further north.
Drifting ice on the shore
Huge sheets of chunky ice blocks washed up on the shore and piled several meters high around the IJsselmeer and Afsluitdijk. This is the famous dike created to dam the former inland sea Zuiderzee, in order for a whole new province to be pumped up from below the enclosed waters.
Iceberg lagoon at the IJsselmeer.
Kruiend ijs in Urk
Urk is one of the places where the unusual phenomenon of driting ice was most visible. This fishing village sits on the shore of the IJsselmeer, but Urk was once an island in the Zuiderzee. After the province of Flevoland was created during the 1940’s and 1950’s, it became enclosed by the new land.
Piles of kruiend ijs at the shores around Urk.
What causes drifting ice?
The shifting and drifting ice is caused by strong winds occurring after a prolonged period of frosty temperatures. Ice sheets that have formed on the surface of large bodies of water are gradually pushed onto the shore by a combination of prevailing currents and wind.
Arctic scenes in The Netherlands
As the ice sheets are blown across the water, they collide and crash into each other, creating iceberg-like piles of jumbled cubes when they reach the shore. They attracted huge amounts of visitors from all over the country, marvelling at the bizarre otherworldy Arctic scenes, and frolicking on the ice blocks.
Drifting ice along the IJsselmeer shores.
Black and white ice.
Frozen rain over the IJsselmeer.
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(c) Nancy Claus – Wilderness Coffee & Natural High
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