Kruiend IJs – Drifting ice in The Netherlands

Kruiend IJs – Drifting ice in The Netherlands

A rare phenomenon occurred in The Netherlands in February 2012. The fascinating appearance of ‘kruiend ijs’ – drifting ice, at several places around the IJsselmeer. 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.

Floating sheets of ice, Urk, The Netherlands.

Kruiend ijs in Urk

Urk is one of the places where the unusual natural phenomenon of drifting ice was most visible. This fishing village now 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 drifting ice on the shores of Urk, The Netherlands.
Piles of ‘kruiend ijs’ at the shores around Urk.

What causes drifting ice?

The shifting and drifting ice is triggered by strong winds after a prolonged period of frosty temperatures. Ice sheets form on the surface of the sea, or on big lakes like the IJsselmeer. They are gradually pushed onto the shore by a combination of prevailing currents and wind.

Iceberg lagoon at the shores of IJsselmeer, Urk, The Netherlands.
IJsselmeer icebergs.

Arctic scenes in The Netherlands

As the ice sheets drift across the water, they collide and crash into each other and create iceberg-like piles of jumbled cubes when they reach the shore. The drifting ice 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, The Netherlands.
Drifting ice along the IJsselmeer shores.

Black and white ice, The Netherlands.

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Sunset over the icy IJsselmeer, The Netherlands.

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First published: 26 February 2018

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