Living with the ice
Ice floes are a year-long way of life in the High Arctic

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

NNSL (July 12/99) - When anyone south of the Arctic Circle thinks of ice this time of year, the first thought might be of ice cubes at the bottom of one's glass.

This might not be so for many Northern residents, however, some of whom live around ice practically all year. According to Andy Maillet, ice operations officer with Canadian Coast Guard, sea ice is still a great concern, even through mid-summer. Maillet is responsible for monitoring ice conditions in the High Arctic using modern satellite technology.

"We monitor the ice so we can advise commercial shipping of the best way to get through the ice and if they get stuck, we send in an icebreaker to assist," Maillet said.

"The Western Arctic is a different kettle of fish compared to the East. We've been having warmer than normal temperatures in the Hudson Strait this year and there is a wider than normal opening along the Greenland coast.

"The ice pack out of the West, on the other hand, is practically right up against the shore and is starting to be a big concern with us. We have an icebreaker going through there July 25 and considering the short time we have, there is a lot of ice to be moved."

Stanley Anablak, a resident of Kugluktuk, reports that the ice melt around the Coronation Gulf area is little behind last year's break-up, but is miles away from town.

"The ice broke up around June 15 and there is no ice for miles and miles," Anablak said. "People are out on their boats, camping and fishing.

"The ice was hanging around for a while and was late. Last year, it broke up at the beginning of June."

The ice breaks up a little later higher up North in Resolute Bay, but according to Dan Leaman, senior administrating officer for the hamlet, this year's break-up is right on schedule.

"We still have ice, but it seems fairly normal for this time of year," Leaman said. "We expect the ice break-up around the end of July. Last year, it happened around the first of July.

"Right now, we are waiting for the icebreaker that goes into Little Cornwallis Island. We usually ask them to make a pass by here and cut a little channel."

Leaman remembers the day when the skies over Resolute Bay served as the looking glass for observing ice conditions in the High Arctic.

"We use to have ice patrol aircraft come through many years ago. They use two Electra planes manned with nine people watching the ice. Now the day of the aircraft is over because of advances made in technology. Now ice conditions can be monitored with satellite imagery."

Paulatuk resident Norma Wolkie is anxious for temperatures to rise.

"The temperature is only six degrees above zero right now," Wolkie said. "Last year, we were out swimming already, but this year it is too cold.

"There's still a bit of sea ice, even right in the bay."

From the Coast Guard office in Sarnia, Ont., Maillet explains that yearly ice floes are difficult to predict.

"Ice conditions are not constant in the High Arctic," Maillet said. "Ice is mainly wind-driven and if you got winds blowing from the west then you can expect it to travel east."