May 21

Traveling to the North Pole, Part 9: Properties of Ice

Some colleagues from Environment Canada were collecting samples from a freshwater lake near Alert, and their auger got stuck within the 3-meter ice.  Since we were not able to fly due to weather, we pulled out our spare power auger, loaded up some snowmobiles, and headed out to try to help them.  This was the first time I’d driven a snowmobile, and I found it exhilirating!  It reminded me of a motorcycle.


Freshwater ice is much denser than sea ice; if sea ice can be compared to sandstone, lake ice is like granite.  It may have been years since this lake ice was last melted. Our auger, which was designed for the softer stuff, spun uselessly.

After 45 minutes and a lot of labor hacking at it with various ice tools, we had penetrated only this far:

We gave up and had time to visit our friends at another site, where a second ice auger had also become frozen.  Those things are going to be there for the duration; they’ll try using a hot water melter to get at them, or possibly just tie floats to them and get them some other year when the ice has melted.

Yesterday we flew by the north coast of Greenland.

In places where the ice is intact, such as where I’ve been working for the past several weeks, there are occasional leads (areas of open water) but the surface is composed primarily of flat  plates of ice durrounded by pressure ridges, like this:

But in this location north of Greenland, ocean currents had broken up the ice surface.  It was full of leads, rough unlandable ice fields, and fragile new ice.


Eventually we found some better-looking ice and performed our last two sample collections before coming back to Alert for the last time this season.  There were some fantastic, mind-bending blue colors in the ice. 


There are not that many pictures of me on my blog, so every now and then I suppose I must post one:


4 Comments so far

  1. kyle cassidy May 21st, 2012 7:20 PM

    fantastic! loved hearing about the gear too. i was on a quest for cold weather gear last year. ended up getting a wiggy’s south pole because it was the only one i could find without goose down and it was completely unwearable all winter — too hot.

  2. Steve Grand May 21st, 2012 7:33 PM

    Wow! I’ve been a bit tied up with stuff, so I didn’t even realize you were blogging until now. I thought you would be incommunicado the entire time. But wow! Sounds like you’re having a great time. You haven’t missed anything here – even the eclipse doesn’t compare.

  3. Gaelyn May 22nd, 2012 12:33 AM

    It’s hard to say more than, WOW! So will you be leaving there soon?

  4. Dan Greenspan May 22nd, 2012 2:22 PM

    Yes, I’m in the process of returning now. It isn’t as simple as returning on a commercial flight – I will be stuck in Kangerlusuuaq, Greenland for a few days.

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