Ice Shelf Iceberg

by Tobias Thorleifsson

Northern Ellesmere’s Ward Hunt Ice Shelf was once one of the largest ice shelves in the Arctic. An ice shelf is a glacier that extends out over the ocean floating on the surface of the water.

American Explorer Robert Perry first recorded observations of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf in the early 1900’s. At that time it is likely that a continuous ice shelf washed from Ward Hunt southwest all the way to the northern tip of Axel Heiberg Island. Over the last 50 to 60 years, but in particular in the last 10 to 15 years, the massive ice shelves of Northern Ellesmere have broken off. Sometimes these break-offs have created large ice islands that have functioned as research bases on the polar oceans.

In 2002, the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf broke apart, and in 2005, the same happened to the Ayles Ice Shelf. Pieces of what was once the Ayles Ice Shelf are now floating down the coast of Ellesmere Island. Maybe it was a piece of the Ayles Ice Shelf that we encountered on the Regent Bay yesterday. The piece was about 200 square meters and was stranded in the coast not far from Norstrand. It was a beautiful sight; however, it was also a reminder, of a very visible impact that climate change has on the cryosphere in the Arctic today.

Daily Expedition Data
Date: 4/4/13, Day 5
Location: N77'06", W88'24"
Traveled: 0 Hours, 0 Miles
Temperatures: -8°F am, -8°F pm