Kruiend ijs – Drifting ice in The Netherlands

Kruiend ijs – Drifting ice in The Netherlands

Last update: 16 October 2019

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.

Arctic scenes at the shores of IJsselmeer, The Netherlands
Iceberg lagoon at the IJsselmeer.

Iceberg lagoon, Urk, The Netherlands

One of the places where this unusual phenomenon was most visible was at the fishing village of Urk. It was once an island in the Zuiderzee, now enclosed by the new land since the province of Flevoland was created during the 1940’s and 1950’s.

Piles of kruiend ijs at Urk, The Netherlands
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.

Drifting icesheets, Urk, 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.

Arctic scenes in The Netherlands

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 shores of IJsselmeer, Urk, The Netherlands
Drifting ice along the IJsselmeer shores.

Black and white ice, Urk, The Netherlands
Black and white ice.

Frozen rain over the IJsselmeer, Urk, The Netherlands

(c) Nancy Claus – Wilderness Coffee & Natural High

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