Life in the drifting ice

At first glance the sea ice might seem like a cold and dead place, but in reality it is life everywhere. Even if we are a group of biologists onboard with many years of experience from the Arctic, we still are fascinated by the very high biological activity and diversity in the sea ice surrounding us.

Polar bear swimming between ice floes

LIFE EVERYWHERE: There is a high biological activity and diversity in the sea ice.
Photo: Nick Cobbing

The ice is melting still, and the ice algae that melts out is seen as a brown or greenish colour in the ice in many places. When Lance is breaking ice we can see polar cod and ice associated crustaceans between the floes. In the water column just under the ice there are lots of planktonic algae and prey species for sea birds, seals and whales. It is obviously a reason why most of the polar bears in our areas spend most of their time in the drifting sea ice: there is good access to seals here.

Exciting observations

During our cruise so far we have made a number of exciting observations. We have obviously seen a number of polar bears; big adult males, single females and females with cubs of the year and also with older cubs. The most common seals: ringed and bearded seals, in addition to walruses have also been recorded.

We have seen a number of the more common whale species like humpback, fin, minke and white whale, but we have also made more spectacular sightings such as blue and bowhead whale and narwhale. The last two are representatives of the ”true arctic” whales adapted to a life in the drifting sea ice, they are quite rare in our waters, but the number of sightings has increased during the last decade.

Abundant seabird life

We have also seen a large number of sea birds up in the ice, with both kittiwakes and fulmars continuously following the ship. We have seen glaucous gulls, a few ivory gulls, some skuas and then a large number of little auks, black and brunnich’s guillemots and atlantic puffins.

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