Global environmental challenges
When you’re looking for shrinking packs of multiyear ice in the Arctic Ocean, bizarre things tend to happen. Top Canadian scientist David Barber knows this first hand, as he explained in a presentation in Parliament on Wednesday. Barber said that to all extents and purposes the multiyear ice in the Arctic had already vanished, which could open up the region to shipping and mineral exploitation.
Barber, who holds Canada’s Research Chair in Arctic System Science at the University of Manitoba, boarded the icebreaker Amundsen last month and steamed north from the Arctic port of Tuktoyaktuk to look for the Beaufort Sea pack ice, the “thickest, hardest, meanest, multi year sea we have left in the northern hemisphere”.
According to up-to-date satellite maps provided by the Canadian Ice Service, the Amundsen should have started ploughing into progressively thicker ice almost from the start. Soon after the ship set sail Barber went to bed, and then woke up at 2 am in a panic.
“I looked on my screen and we’re doing 13 knots. We do 13.7 knots in open water and we’re right here (in an area where the maps show there should be thick ice) somewhere, doing 13 knots,” he said.