Very large masses of glacier ice, covering hundreds of thousands of square kilometres, are at present to be found only in Greenland and Antarctica. They lie mainly on a rock bed, but in Antarctica extensive arcas are also afloat. It is convenient to distinguish the parts which are afloat from those which are not. In English therefore there have arisen terms which permit this: “ice sheet” means the whole mass, “inland ice sheet” the part resting on rock, and “ice shelf” the part afloat. In Greenland, “ice sheet” and “inland ice sheet” are virtually synonyms, and the first is the one normally used.
With these terms Dr. Weidick presumably has no quarrel. He expresses concern, however, that the Danish indlandsis should not be regarded as the equivalent of “inland ice sheet” or “ice sheet”, and prefers to think of it as a place name referring only to the feature in Greenland.
It is not for us to suggest Danish terms to Danes. But we would have thought that indlandsis could be a closely-fitting equivalent to “inland ice sheet”. Historically, that in Greenland was the first to become known, so it is natural that the descriptive geographical term and the place name should be the same. This has been a normal development elsewhere. A feature which gave rise to a new geographical term has been found to occur in other regions. Not only has the original geographical term been applied wherever appropriate, but it has often been convenient to use it as the generic part of the place names required for these features. Examples are Larsen Ice Shelf, Ross Ice Front, Marr Ice Piedmont, Napier Ice Rise and Simler Snowfield. It frequently happens, as in the case of indlandsisen, that these geographical terms are used in the definite form when first used or when they refer unambiguously to a single specific feature, but they take the indefinite form when more widely applied. But we hope that this practice will not make Danish glaciologists feel obliged to find another term when they want to describe the inland ice sheet of Antarctica, or one in Pleistocene times. The French have felt no such need—perhaps because l’indlandsis does not have the same historical associations for them. But, we repeat, this is something which only Danish glaciologists can decide. Their decision will not affect the English terminology. That could only happen if the word indlandsis were to be adopted in English (which is not at all likely), and even then it might not happen, for loan-words often change their meaning.
10 May 1967