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A NASA image of the breakaway Ayles ice shelf on Aug. 13, 2005, the day it broke off from Ellesmere Island. The huge chunk of ice has since moved southwest. ((NASA/MODIS))

Scientists have placed a beacon on an ice island the size of Manhattan to track its movement through Arctic waters.

Researchers Luke Copland from the University of Ottawa and Derek Mueller from the University of Alaska Fairbanks landed Tuesday on the chunk of ice, according to a BBC news team that accompanied the scientists.

The researchers planted a tracking beacon on the surface of the ice island, which is 16 kilometres long and five kilometres wide,and conducted a series of measurements.

They found the average thickness of the ice was between 42 and 45 metres, slightly thicker than expected, the BBC reported.

The ice island has been a cause for concern for climate scientists since it broke off Ellesmere Island in 2005.

For at least 3,000 years, the gigantic block of ice was a part of the Ayles ice shelf, which lies about 800 kilometres south of the North Pole. But in less than an hour on Aug. 13, 2005, the fragment broke off.

Its current location is about 600 kilometres from the North Pole, a region scientists say is one of the most rapidly warming areas on Earth. Cracks appearing in the polar ice around the Ayles ice island and areas of open water have researchers concerned the fragment could soon be on the move.

The satellite-tracking beacon will allow researchers to follow the ice island's path should it break through the polar ice and continue to drift southwest.

A website run by the Canadian Ice Service, which has pictures of the ice island from April, will begin marking the beacon's location in the next few days.