Silent Sound sailed through a lot of ice this summer, but not nearly as much as there once was covering the Arctic seas, and not as much as the animals of the Arctic need to survive.
There was more sea ice in the Arctic this summer, contrary to early spring ice forecasts and the longer-term trend of melting sea ice, but the coverage was far below long-term averages. Climate change means the Arctic continues to melt.
Arctic ice is an important platform for hunting and breeding for a wide range of animals, from seals and walruses to polar bears. Also, ice reflects more of the sun's energy than open water, and in that way, helps keep the Arctic sea cool. When the ice is gone, the water absorbs more of the sun's heat, which warms the sea even faster.
The National Climatic Data Centre said this summer was the third warmest on record for the globe's ocean surface.
While there was less ice than historical levels, it was still more than we expected on Silent Sound. Early forecasts pointed to another record melt. But there was more ice than in the past three years, making our journey through the Northwest Passage much more difficult and dangerous.
'Last winter there was an El Nino effect, which meant a colder winter for much of Canada, and the Arctic was very cold. This created thick ice that took longer to melt,' said Bruno Barrette, an ice expert aboard the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Sir Wilfrid Laurier.
Temperatures remained below average during spring and summer.
The coast guard invited us on board for a lovely Sunday lunch while we were in Gjoa Haven, and the visit included an ice briefing.
But we made it through without any damage or injuries, or needing help from the coast guard.Topics: Arctic Ocean Environment Environment Glaciology Sea Ice