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Sailing through Siku

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Sea Ice © Clive Tesar / WWF-Canon

The storm was steadily eating into our travel plans. The first day at anchor meant we had to ditch plans to call in at Siorapaluk, Greenland’s northernmost community. The second day made things tight for catching our connections at Grise Fiord.

Clive steers through a snowstorm. © Students on Ice / WWF-Canon

That’s why we are still traveling, more than 24 hours, about 160 miles, and many bleary watches on bridge later, completing the crossing from Greenland to Canada. The beginning of the trip was uncomfortable, the rain turning to snow, blowing directly into our faces as we steered. Then as we came into sight of the steep snow and glacier-clad hills of Ellesmere Island, we saw what we’d come for; I reckon that’s sea ice, said Grant casually, waving an arm at some flatter ice debris off our bow.

Based on the satellite ice maps, we thought we might encounter a tongue of sea ice in the middle of the channel, pushing down from higher latitudes. We didn’t see it. We know that recent news has confirmed what many ice researchers had suspected – that the ice mass (that’s the total amount of ice, not the area it covers) has been declining drastically. This means that a lot of the ice that’s out there is thinner than it used to be, so what seemed a solid body of ice a day ago, is now just fragments bobbing on the surface. It’s rather anticlimactic to be sailing toward what we thought was the sea ice habitat that we hope will persist, only to have it melt away before us.

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