The Story is Within the Ice
Location: Northern Spitsbergen- Moffen Island; Monacobreen Glacier; Woodfjorden
Highlights of the Day: Going kayaking on the Arctic Ocean + seeing walruses + seeing my first polar bears
What I Learned:
Today, I heard climate change. As we were in the zodiac, we listened to glacial caving- so thunderous, and unexpected. The northern fjords boast heavily eroded mountains decorated with herringbone patterns of vertical snow-filled valleys, red sandstone sedimentary rock and glaciers.
The day started with a zodiac ride around Monacobreen glacier (which was once 5km long), and almost immediately, we spotted a bearded seal. Shortly thereafter, we saw a beluga whale. At distance, it just looked like a piece of ice, but as it moved, we realized we had a beluga whale in our range. There are no words to watching wildlife in their natural habitat.
One of the most striking things is the ice, and the story it tells.
They aren't called Icebergs
If it is floating free and less than 1m of surface → it is called a growler
If it is 1m-5m in height → it is called a bergy bit
If it is above 15 ft. above surface → then you can call it an iceberg
The Science of Ice
Icebergs are accumulated snow. Snowflakes are 80% air and ice is 20% air. Deep ice on an iceberg is so compressed, it has no air and is so clean. If light can travel deeper, there is less air and it acts like a filter. The H20 bonds change the visual light energy into vibrational energy and there are the shortest wave lengths of light in the deep ice.
Sea ice (frozen seawater) forms from freezing water on surface-it isn't as dense and forms slowly. Salt is pushed out and it creates freshwater ice. It isn't dense enough or clear enough to be blue.
There is a change in the type of ice we are seeing in the Arctic. We are seeing less multi-year ice (the ice that is frozen and never has thawed). Most ice is 1-2 years old and 4-5 year old ice has almost disappeared.
After the zodiac ride, we went kayaking on the Arctic Ocean among the 'growlers'. I couldn't help but think of everything below me.
Polar Bear Sighting
I saw my first polar bears this evening! We are in the 'Land of the Ice Bears' indeed. At first, it was just a mama and her two cubs. Then as they retreated quickly, we saw a male polar bear. He was so close to the ship, and wandered around. Fact: the male polar bear will eat the cubs to put the female back into breeding. I could not have asked to be any closer to a polar bear, and to watch and observe his behaviour and presence was awe-striking- there are no words.
Amidst the glaciers and polar bears, I feel so small, so human and so irrelevant. The Arctic could defeat and overtake a human so easily, and I feel like an imposter here- this world is so untouched and fragile- it is beautiful, yet we are destroying it without even living there. How can humans feel greater than nature? How do we feel like we can destroy something, like it doesn't have value, when it was here before us, and will be here long after us.