Crossing the Northwest Passage - Day 3
Posted by Mark Terry
on Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Photo: Mark Terry
We now find ourselves in the thicker and older ice of Melville Sound. The team at ArcticNet deployed a sophisticated beacon here to record polar sea information.
These devices will record water temperature, salinity levels, nutrient content and current direction over the course of 12 months. The machine is also rigged to take water samples every month by filling two plastic water bottles stored in its base.
This allows for a full 12-month progressive analysis of the water in a specific spot providing an excellent indication of changes it might go through.
We made a landing this morning on the sea ice to install another instrument used to measure ice movement. Scientists Matthew Asplin and Pim Kuus, of the University of Manitoba and the University of New Brunswick respectively, drilled a hole in an upper ridge of the ice and inserted their electronic device.
This beacon will send signals back to the university every day indicating the location, speed and movement patterns of the ice that it sits on. Matthew explained that last year 15 of these instruments were installed and not one of them was recovered.
This is due to the fact that warmer temperatures here are melting the ice to point of causing the beacons to sink. It is expected that measurable indications of ice movement won’t be recorded until the Spring, but with an unusually warm summer this year, the moving ice may occur sooner than normal.
With the thicker ice, there has been an increase in polar bear and seal sightings. The captain of the Amundsen, Stefane Julien, told us that the ice available for polar bears to hunt from has diminished substantially.
"You may see some bears that are dirty, thin and their heads swinging side to side. These are the real hungry ones," he explained. "Other bears may run off with one warning shot. These ones may need more before they leave."
Chief Science Officer on this expedition for ArcticNet is Jean-Eric Tremblay, know by his team simply as JET. He has been studying these waters since 2002. He told us that historically ice was about 10 years old before winds began pushing it around.
"The oldest ice is now two or three years old," he said. "It’s thinner and more fragile."
The skies are still overcast and the temperatures have remained constant, between minus 2 and minus 4. We are approaching the Latitude 75 and have entered ice-free waters once again.
This is becoming quite common as we experienced unusually warmer summers here in 2007 and again this year. In fact, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Centre, the average ice extent coverage for last September was 4.9 million square kilometers. This is 2.14 million square kilometers below the average recorded between 1979 and 2000.
However, it is 600,000 square kilometers above the coverage for September in 2007, the lowest monthly extent in the satellite record.
It is expected to increase as we enter the winter months here, but for now, the Amundsen and her crew are enjoying relatively smooth sailing.
Mark Terry, an explorer and documentary filmmaker, is Canadian Geographic's special correspondent in the Northwest Passage.
Viewed 2942 times |
Tags : adventure
, climate change