I've been living and breathing ice conditions for the last week or two.  It's not something I ever thought I'd track, pay attention to or, make plans around.

I've enjoyed the challenge of navigating through the ice immensely.  Not only does it require heightened awareness and constant vigilance it's also just down right gorgeous.  

ice edge

The ice fields we've been operating in have a distinct edge.  There are random pieces of ice through all the waters surrounding the North Slope of Alaska but, the ice we've been tracking has a fairly clear line where it begins and ends.  We track it on the radar but, we also have partners in planes who fly the region daily (as conditions allow) providing an ice report.

ice field

When you enter the ice field conditions vary based on location.  For example ice will 'stack up' around a barrier island making it much more challenging to transit.  The photo above is only about 40% concentration - but from the waterline you can see that it's really challenging to find clear paths to navigate through.

ice along hull

A lot of the ice is old and soft.  As our hull would make contact it would crack, roll and give way.  Part of the 'constant vigilance' is to constantly be scanning the horizon to assess the next pan of ice for what type of ice it is.  Is it solid?  Large underwater portions?  Are there fractures or weak places for us to target?  What color is it?  Our vessel is designed to operate in ice which gave us a huge advantage.

ice field

You can clearly see that not all ice is created equal.  You can definitely prioritize what you want to avoid when the concentration is only at 40%.  

One thing that surprised me was how dirty the ice was!  As this ice has broken away from its original location it's been 'rolled' by the forces of nature.  At some point the brown bits have touched ground or the bottom of the seabed rolling through the mud.  

Our toughest portion was about 60-70% concentration and it was much, much, much more challenging then 40%.

There are currently concentrations of up to 80% and we're hoping that a good blow will open things up for us.

In the meantime, I'm editing and resizing photos because Big Bertha had a field day!  I can't wait to share more!

Just a friendly reminder, I use Instagram a lot.  If you're frustrated I'm not posting you can almost always find me there!  @nautiemermate