Breaking through thick ice

This article is part of the series “2023-06: Arctic Ocean cruise KPH”.

3. June

Yesterday 6:40. My alarm clock rings. In 20 minutes I will do ice observation together with a scientist. On the bridge on deck 8 there are windows in the floor, where you can measure the ice thickness, when broken ice floes are turned upright by the icebreaker Kronprins Haakon. I look several times, but yes, the ice is thick, approximately 120 cm. Kronprins Haakon is built for 100 cm of solid ice, but can ram though thicker ice on shorter distances.

Deck 3 is pretty low and you are quite near to the enormous ice floes that are aside the ship.  Sometimes an ice floe is pushed beneath another one looking even more turquoise than over water.

Dima, the ice expert is here, too. He checks the ice thickness with a folding rule. He also comes to the conclusion: 120 cm.

We already had moved west the day before in the hope of better ice conditions. That brought us to halfway between Svalbard and Greenland. Now Kronprins Haakon slowly moves north cruising zigzag in the search for breaks with open water. But the farther north we come, the harder it gets. 80° N seems to be an invisible barrier. The captain of the ship heads west in the hope for better conditions. The tools: a slightly outdated SAR satellite map showing a radar image and the ship’s ice radar. It’s hard to navigate like this and we fantasise about drones that we can send ahead to check the ice conditions. I stay at the bridge quite long and so I am one of the lucky ones who see the hooded seal, that stays on the ice until we almost have passed. Just then it glides into the water.

4. June

6:40 – the same time. The info channel on the TV clearly shows that we have hardly moved the last hours. Again I look at the ice thickness on the bridge. Now it is more like 150 cm thick. Today we hardly make process and start talking about changing plans. At 14:30 the captain talks to the cruise leader that they will take a break. The last 24 hours we haven’t come north at all.

While the broken ice aside the ship’s port and starboard looks more and more impressive …

… the solid ice layer looks bleak and dull. It has been cloudy like this since we left Svalbard behind.

We want to go north much further, but we have several issues.

  1. the ice is unusually thick for the region and the season.
  2. the ice floes are too big for being pushed aside by the ship.
  3. the snow layer, varying but quite thick, adds friction between the ice and the bow

All of this makes it hard for Kronprins Haakon to move forward and more and more the vessel backs or pauses.

Wind could help changing the situation but we had calm weather since departure and according to the forecast this might continue for days. So, no help from the atmosphere neither.

So it can be when travelling in the High Arctic.

Where are we now? Right here:

Green shows the first day (started in the afternoon), purple the second day. Blue shows the third day and the black arrow is our current position. I do not have the track of today yet but you can clearly see, that we hardly have moved today.

It’s next to sure that we will not reach any of the stations on the plan, at least not on this way. Tomorrow after breakfast we will meet, discuss about our options and then the cruise leader and the scientists have to make a decision. I don’t have any function is this question.

Stay tuned …

2023-06-04 23:52

Write a comment: