Living on the edge

It is our last day on this ice floe. This must be one of the world`s most intensively studied floes. Researchers have been crossing, poking, drilling, measuring and sampling it for the last 7 weeks. We have studied not only the floe and its covering snow, but also the air above the ice and the water below.

Lance in an open lead in the Arctic ice, hoisting some equipment on or off the ice.

Photo: Peter Leopold / Norwegian Polar Institute

We have been living on the edge for the past few days. Our floe drifted southwards, at times at speeds reaching 1.1 knots, and eventually became part of the marginal ice zone. During Leg 5 we drifted mainly across the Yermak Plateau and we have now arrived at the (western) edge of the plateau. Water depths plunged from 500-600 meters across the plateau to now 2200 meters on the way down to the abyss.

There is much more action in the marginal ice zone than in the interior of the ice cover. Northerly winds with strong breeze has been tossing the ice around, opening and closing leads continuously for the past few days.

Finally, we also found ourselves in the midst of the «polar bear highway», with several visits a day from curious bears. Our red poles seemed to provide a lot of joy to them. We’re also seeing more seabirds, and sightings of northern fulmar, black-legged kittiwake, ivory gull, and Brünnich`s guillemot are now common.

Tomorrow morning we will be heading back towards the ice north of Svalbard to find a new ice floe and continue our studies, and we’ll also welcome Leg 6 scientists onboard.

Satellite image of the arctic ice, with Lance's drift path as of 11 June 2015.

Satellite image, 11 June 2015. Photo: RADARSAT-2 © MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates