Wobbly(?) ice islands of Baffin Bay

After this week, you may not be reading much on ice islands for a good bit. So enjoy it now 😉 ! Somehow two trips to Arctic ice islands have snuck into the 2016 calendar, when the plan was for me to be behind a computer crunching ice island numbers and writing ice island words. Don’t worry – no complaints here.

This trip is purely a continuation of the last few entries, as we (a fellow grad student and I) are hitching rides to that monstrous ice island sexily named ‘PII-A-1-f’ which has been stubbornly grounded near the community of Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut for something like a year and a half. Right now I’m patiently waiting here in Pond Inlet on the north coast of Baffin Island for the time tomorrow when I’m to go down to the beach and put my thumb out, as I’m told a big red boat (ship, if you’re picky) is supposed to steam by around happy hour. From there it’s a 2 or 3 day chug south, when we’ll get back on the ice island with the CCGS Amundsen’s fancy new helicopter. The images below, made available through NASA satellites and online mapping tools, show where we’re headed and through the clouds, the ice island itself from space.


Nothing extraordinary is happening on my end this time around (except that we fly out to a 12 sq km iceberg in a helicopter, no big deal…). I’m most excited to repeat my ice penetrating radar thickness transects – as I have never been able to get back to the same site twice to measure thickness change across a long distance. Our fancy stationary ice penetrating radar, which we installed last year, has steadily been measuring thickness change (a good 5 to 6 m) at that one location since October 2015. We’ll do a little maintenance to that system, along with the weather station which has started to tilt due to what I can only imagine is weariness due to 11 months in the elements. The radar and weather station systems will be left for another over-wintering, as we hope that this ice island eventually ungrounds itself and starts transiting south. We’re hoping for some drifting ice island data! It is very possible that this time will come soon, as the ice island has been seen to ‘wobble’ (pivot) greatly over the past 2 weeks with a large notch starting to form where we believe the ice island will split in two. Only time will tell, but we really could be chasing ice if this thing let’s go within the next 5 days.


Sentinel-1 satellite imagery (European Space Agency) showing the ice island pivot and notch forming.

While my work may be more of the same, my co-worker Ron’s field work is going to start him off on his project which is hoping to find a correlation between ice crystal structure and the signal which the ice island gives back to satellites, sometimes making is more or less hard to identify an ice island from surrounding sea ice. Our on-site work will consist of taking ice cores and making sure to mark their orientation in respect to that of the ice island (easier said than done, as the ice spins and breaks within the core barrel).

There will be a follow-up write-up soon after the work is complete. Fingers crossed for good weather and no Nanuq (polar bear)!

With that, signing off from stunning Pond Inlet.






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