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Timeless Ephemeral Beauty of Sea Ice

Yesterday the sea ice was spectacular. Thank goodness we did not put too much weight in the cloudy weather forecast this morning as we may have missed out on this bright and sunny day. The -20°F windchill is not so bad if you are dressed correctly. They say there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.

The day's weather forecast that ended up being inaccurate... rather it was a beautiful sunny day!

We took the snow machines over 2 miles from shore out on the landfast ice to deploy Float Your Boat wooden boats decorated by over a dozen schools and community organizations from across the country and Italy.

A cluster of Float Your Boat boats deployed near a buoy.

After viewing our GPS tracks once back at the Nest (where we stay) this evening, we realized at our destination we were only a third of a mile from the active drift ice. Being so close, we witnessed numerous ridges of sea ice rubble that were at least 15 feet high. The marine blue color of the ice under the recent snow shown bright in the brilliant sunshine. And in some places, I was able to get up close and personal to view the ice and notice its layers, air bubbles, and the smoothness of the sides and edges of the blocks and chunks of the ice.

The day's snowmobile route. The distance from the shore to our farthest point was approximately 2 miles as the crow flies. The distance from our destination to the drift ice was about a third of a mile.

While out we also retreived our teammate's prototype seismic sensor that had been collecting data for the past week, and deployed two more buoys in addition to the buoy with the wooden boats.

Ben Evans (left) from MIT-Lincoln Laboratory retrieving his prototype seismic sensor with the assistance of Jim Johnson (right) from UW-APL.

Ephemeral Art of Nature

The ephemeral nature of sea ice is something to try to wrap our minds around. We were in a place that formed only a couple months ago and will only last a few more months, (perhaps only weeks). Not only is it beautiful, but it is also essential to the success of the local whaling teams; and it is going to soon be gone. It is so important, yet lasts such a short time each year.

It is also the Arctic sea ice that is so important to the planet’s temperature as it is so reflective it deflects heat (albedo) rather than heat absorbing dark colored open Arctic ocean water that raises the temperature of the ocean and ultimately the planet.

The seasonality of the sea ice creates a rhythm that is incredible to witness and be part of, even for only a few short days. This natural rhythm is one part of so many larger planetary systems. I’m curious to think about how we all could be more connected to seasonal patterns and rhythms in every part of the world where we all live. Perhaps we would be just a bit more connected to what is happening around us each and every day.

All photos by me, Sarah R. Johnson

1 Comment

Apr 06, 2023

Sarah, I'm SO enjoying these arctic ice posts and pics. Amazing! Karen T. in Carbondale

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