Over the last few weeks the Mission Arctic team has had several tough ice experiences and close calls some nearly resulting in the loss of the boat. There are so many dangers when it comes to ice, just to name a few:

  • Large icebergs and small bergy bits can cause damage or sink the boat
  • Calving glaciers and rolling icebergs present a constant danger
  • Pack ice can trap the boat and crush it like a tin can from all sides
  • Pack ice can trap the boat pushing it up on to land
  • Pack ice or the formation of new ice can trap a boat for the entre winter
  • Icebergs can hide shoals and other dangers

The list is pretty extensive in this high stakes game of high latitude sailing. The team must be constantly watching for ice and trying to anticpate its movements. The Canadian Ice Services has played an important role in our travels as they mobilize satellites to take photos of the ice and send them to us so we can plan our movements accordingly. However, even with the latest technology we are in constant danger. Two particular events shook us.

As we escape the ice that nearly crushed us against land we see the polar bear travelling on it that would have likely finished us off

1. After having reached North of 80 latitude a storm was predicted and we rushed to find good shelter. Unfortunately every bay and Fiord we tried to enter to find shelter was choked with ice. We finally had to compromise on a Fiord partially filled with ice where we found decent protection behind land only a hundred meters away. As we waited for the blow to subside we noticed some ice moving with the tide. I called down to the team to come see and prepare to lift anchor if it came any closer, within several minutes the boat was surrounded by ice as a massive ice field moved into the bay moving at a high rate of speed with the current. We struggled to lift the anchor as the ice seized the chain and surrounded the hull of the boat. We had to use the boat like a battling ram to free us from its clutches as it dragged us towards land. We just managed to free ourselves and find a small lead out into open water as the ice pushed hard against the land closing up the area where we just lay a few minutes earlier. If we were only a few minutes later in responding we would have certainly lost the boat as the ice would have driven us on to the land.

The boat surrounded by sea water beginning to re-freeze.

2. We had just left Grise Fiord in order to beat some heavy ice that threatened to seal us in for the winter. As we moved through Jones Sound to reach the larger blue water of the Sea of Labrador the temperatures plummeted and the sea water started to freeze around the boat. While we were able to push through the new ice and eventually the temperatures increased enough to melt it this indicated to us that the Arctic water this year was extremely cold and prone to refreeze early. As such we would need to consider this in our future route planning. While we love the Arctic we have no intention of being accidently frozen in for the entire winter.


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