30 September 2012

Edge of the Arctic Sea Ice, Fram Strait

N 80 44.255

E 02 00.621

Today will go down as one of those days I’ll simply never forget. At five thirty this morning, the RV Lance team of scientists and UNIS students and the Extreme Ice Survey team reached the sea-ice edge at approximately 80° north latitude.

Extreme Ice Survey's First View of Arctic Sea Ice

A thin white line appears as we approach the edge of the sea ice.

Svavar and I awoke at a quarter to five to catch the first glimpse of ice. The moon was still out and daylight was just barely illuminating the sky. All of a sudden, on the not-so-distant horizon, it appeared: a sliver of white, previously known to me as just a large white spot on the top of the globe.

We slammed into the ice edge with the full weight of the ship, and, surprisingly, the ice easily broke apart. It was first-year ice that had probably formed some time last year, and had been pushed by the wind against the much thicker multi-year ice farther west and released by a change in wind direction and ocean current. The result is a beautiful mélange of disk-shaped ice bits varying in area from the size of a pancake to the size of a few city blocks. The thickness varies from that of a sheet of paper to almost half a meter thick.

Cracked and broken 1st year ice at the edge of the sea ice.

Cracked and broken 1st year ice at the edge of the sea ice.

Our goal was to search for a larger, thicker floe that would be strong enough to support our combined body weight, plus large scientific equipment. Ideally, this would be multi-year ice. The only ice we were ultimately able to find (and we searched, moving forward and backward until the sun went down) was thin, first-year ice—nothing safe enough to support us without the fear of the floe breaking apart. The word around the boat was that thick, multi-year ice is becoming increasingly difficult to find without searching much farther north and west.

Though we were not able to walk around on the ice today, the three polar bears we saw were brave enough to navigate the maze of thin ice. One walked right up to the bow of the boat. One of our patient little EIS time-lapse robot friends may have recorded the whole process. An exciting day for all. Tonight, we all rest, parked against the floe, hoping that tomorrow we will walk on ice.

Matt Kennedy

Extreme Ice Survey

Watch the Chasing Ice trailer


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