Postcards from icy Baffin Bay

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When I think about the Arctic the very first thing to spring to thoughts is the ice. A sea of ice. 

Life within the far north revolves across the sea ice in each single approach. In reality, in Inuktitut and different Inuit dialects all throughout the Arctic, there are often not less than 100 phrases for snow and ice. Thick sea ice that lasts for years. The ice crystals that type on the ocean simply earlier than it freezes. Snow that can be utilized to ice the sled’s runner. Ice that breaks after its power has been examined with a harpoon.

Ice is life within the far north. In {the summertime}, ice dictates the place we are able to go on expedition ships, too. While a whole lot of sea ice melts within the hotter months, not all. The wind and the tides transfer the ocean ice throughout, usually blocking in bays and harbors. The thickness and skill to maneuver in it in several types of ships is an actual talent. Learning to learn these charts is one thing I’d like to be taught. Our ship, the Ocean Endeavour, has a 1B ice class score, which suggests it may navigate reasonable sea but in addition may have to depend on an icebreaker.

While I used to be at sea with Adventure Canada within the Arctic final summer season, an actual spotlight was the ocean ice. And there’s nowhere higher to see it than in Baffin Bay.

Baffin Bay is a big stretch of marginal sea between west Greenland and Baffin Island in Canada. Situated above the 70° North parallel, Baffin Bay spans an space of almost 700,000 sq. kilometers. And it’s almost at all times frozen stable and chocked stuffed with icebergs. Ships can’t move by means of within the winter.

I spent a whole lot of time in Baffin Bay this previous summer season. Most of Adventure Canada’s Arctic expedition journeys move by means of or alongside Baffin Bay at one level or one other. 

Baffin Bay is a good place to see the long-lasting sea ice, and we regularly needed to journey alongside the sides of the pack ice searching for methods by means of or for paths to open up. I didn’t sleep a lot on nowadays as a result of the pack ice is likely one of the finest spots to search for polar bears as they hunt right here. 

Image by Connormah

We crossed Baffin Bay between Greenland and Canada a number of instances, and every journey was magical. And the water was useless calm.

Sea ice usually brings down the swells and waves, making it flat. We generally stopped within the bay and unloaded the zodiacs to cruise by means of the pack ice searching for wildlife. Often, the water was like glass, even in the midst of the bay. It was notably stunning when fog and mists would transfer out and in, creating an ethereal feeling. 

In {the summertime}, a part of Baffin Bay opens up within the north known as North Water, and it’s a polynya (an space of open water surrounded by sea ice) that’s round 80,000 sq. kilometers. It’s actually necessary for its biodiversity; right here, on this little microclimate, you’ll discover a few of the most iconic Arctic animals, resembling seals, seabirds, polar bears, walrus, narwhal, beluga, and bowhead whales. 

We noticed all of them.

Can you see the polar bear on the pack ice?

Baffin Bay connects the Labrador Sea and the Davis Strait with the Atlantic Ocean.

First, the Thule and later the Inuit inhabited this space for hundreds of years. During their explorations, there may be proof that the Norse additionally arrived. There are nonetheless settlements alongside the bay right this moment. 

The first report of Europeans arriving right here was in 1585, with John Davis crusing below Queen Elizabeth I. The British started trying to find the mysterious Northwest Passage by means of Canada that may join them to the Far East to no avail. The Davis Strait is known as after him, a stretch of sea between Baffin Bay to the north and the Labrador Sea to the south.

This was the start of the limitless searches for the Northwest Passage over centuries. I spent almost three weeks onboard as we navigated the size of the Northwest Passage; it was one of many coolest experiences of my life. 

In the early seventeenth century, William Baffin explored and charted the realm throughout Lancaster Sound as a pilot below Henry Hudson. He is taken into account to be the primary European to “discover” Baffin Bay, which is known as after him, although they didn’t discover a approach by means of the Northwest Passage. 

It wouldn’t be till 1906 that the nice Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen would efficiently discover a route by means of the Northwest Passage. 

Something that’s necessary to differentiate once you’re within the Arctic (or Antarctic) is sea ice versus icebergs. We see loads of each within the Arctic, particularly round Baffin Bay. 

Sea ice varieties within the ocean from salt water. It’s additionally categorised by age and thickness, with multiyear ice being the strongest, having survived the summer season melts. The water must be -1.8°C for the ice to start to type, and because it ages 12 months after 12 months, the brine within the frozen water disappears, that means that it turns to frozen freshwater – this was usually utilized by polar expeditions.

Many of the Arctic expeditions contain deliberately getting their ships caught within the sea ice and overwintering. This didn’t finish effectively meant instances. First off, the ocean ice will transfer and drift, taking you away following currents. Secondly, the strain within the ridges and the ice usually smash and destroy the ship, particularly within the spring when it begins to soften. 

Inuit depend on predictable sea ice patterns and conventional routes on the ice for looking by dogsled or snowmobile. Sadly, local weather change is impacting the ocean ice, making it unpredictable. You can stroll on steady, thick sea ice. You ought to by no means stroll on an iceberg. In reality, you shouldn’t go close to icebergs. 

These are icebergs in Greenland
This is sea ice
These are enormous icebergs which have damaged off and are grounded within the Ilulissat Icefjord

Icebergs come from glaciers on land. They’re chunks of ice that break off of the glaciers that fall into the ocean. As they soften, their freshwater is what raises the ocean ranges.

Icebergs are stunning, and Baffin Bay is stuffed with them. They’re additionally harmful. I imply, I assume everybody is aware of that from Titanic, however there are different causes than simply sinking a ship. In reality, the iceberg that sunk the Titanic is assumed to have originated from the Ilulissat Icefjord in Greenland. 

There are icebergs which might be larger than buildings and even metropolis blocks and even Manhattan. They will be gigantic. A23a was the most important iceberg on this planet, calving off an ice shelf in Antarctica in 1986. It was almost 4,000 sq. kilometers in dimension. 

Only 10% of an iceberg is often seen above the waterline; this implies there’s a shit-ton of ice beneath stretching out in each route.

And icebergs love to interrupt aside or flip spontaneously. This means in case you’re wherever close to one, not to mention on high of 1, you’re screwed. Just Google movies of it; it’s terrifying. If the ice is beneath you, you may fly. They’ll ship out giant tidal waves that would simply swamp close by boats and flying ice shrapnel, too. 

When we zodiac cruise alongside icebergs and glacier faces, we preserve a secure distance away. You can inform when an iceberg has flipped over as a result of it’ll usually be vivid, shiny blue. They’re mesmerizing.

For the previous 15 years, Greenland has been shedding 300 billion tons of ice and water yearly, and it’s rising. One day in July 2012, your complete floor of the Greenland ice sheet melted.

In reality, there nonetheless wasn’t common cargo transport by means of the passage for a lot of the 12 months till 2009. After that, the declining sea ice, due to local weather change, means you could entry right here longer. 

We noticed many glaciers on my travels with Adventure Canada, and my thoughts stored returning to each the profound disappointment and worry I’ve round local weather change. I want everybody might see what I’ve seen. Hot days in Greenland, no sea ice within the Northwest Passage. Starving polar bears trapped on land. Traditional Inuit looking tracks gone.

Will all these stunning glaciers that drop down into the ocean dissapear in my lifetime?

By far, one of many coolest experiences I had final summer season was really touchdown on the ocean ice. It’s one thing I’ve ever finished as soon as, and it was alongside the pack ice in Baffin Bay on our Out of the Northwest Passage journey. 

We spent a while exploring the pack ice in northern Baffin Bay earlier than our expedition chief discovered a big, stable, and previous, secure patch of sea ice. It was misty and exquisite, making the blue of the ice pop in opposition to moody skies. Every so usually, the solar would peek by means of the fog, creating probably the most unimaginable environment.

Revving the zodiacs up onto an icy seaside, we have been capable of hop out and discover the ridges and swimming pools of this previous sea ice. It was completely magical.

Nothing is extra of a poignant reminder that you’re removed from residence, exploring the Arctic than drifting by means of the ice. 

You might be centuries again in time. The silence is profound, solely damaged up by the occasional crunches by means of newer sea ice. Your eyes continuously scan the horizon, alongside the sides of the pack ice, searching for an uncommon form, the pale yellow that signifies a polar bear in distinction to the intense whitish-blue ice. Or the black of the flippers of a seal. Maybe even the spray from a passing whale. 

Baffin Bay is a magical a part of the world. I can’t wait to return.

Does sea ice maintain a fascination over you, too? Would you want to go to Baffin Bay in the future? Spill!

Many due to Adventure Canada for internet hosting me within the Arctic – like at all times, I’m holding it actual – all opinions are my very own, like you can count on much less from me!



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