06 July 2009
As part of the Nares Strait unprecedented open water [duration and extent] and the Greenpeace Petermann Glacier campaign to document the expected detachment of a 100 square kilometer ice island, I’ve made the acquaintance of a number of very interesting people interested in Nares Strait. This small community of scientists has been referred to as the Friends of Nares Strait.
Trudy Wohlleben is one such Friend of Nares Strait. Trudy is in charge of Sea Ice Forecasting, Climatology, and Research at the Canadian Ice Service and knows more about marine ice conditions across Canada’s Great White North than anybody I know. Trudy’s expertise includes the Eastern Canadian Arctic waters between Ellesmere Island and Greenland, i.e., Nares Strait. Trudy has been a generous fountain of useful information for our Petermann expedition planning and now we’re here. Trudy sent this image of the Lincoln Sea ice arch splintering.
We plan to not let the Lincoln sea ice arch ice floes get ahead of us as they drift south through Nares Strait. While the winds are not forecast to shift from northward to their normal southward flow, the currents in Nares Strait, flowing ~0.5 knots per hour, would bring ice floes into where we are, in Hall Basin, in about 30 hours. The ice floes will pose substantial complications in keeping the ship in a safe and stable position. We are presently moored to the front of Petermann Glacier with the engines off, thus, saving thousands of liters of fuel each day. Fuel we would have burned if we had had to constantly maneuver to avoid ice floes.
We’ve been surprised and fortunate to have found Nares Strait devoid of sea ice; this is the result of the Lincoln Sea ice arch and polynya having persisted the whole of past winter. We have benefited from and have enjoyed not having ice surround us.
The NASA MODIS image, above, from 0700 UTC 06 July 2009, showing for the first time this year, the splintering of sea ice that had barred ice flows from drifting into Nares Strait, between Ellesmere Island [left] and Greenland [right]. The Lincoln Sea polynya/ice arch is still intact in this image, but as subsequent images have shown, the open water conditions in Nares Strait are about to end.
Jason E. Box
Byrd Polar Research Center
guest scientist on Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise