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Home* News and Stories → Rese­arch ves­sel Lan­ce breaks ice in Dick­son­fjord

Rese­arch ves­sel Lan­ce breaks ice in Dick­son­fjord

In the north and east, the drif­ting sea ice is now more and more clo­sing around Spitsbergen’s coast, but the fjords remain lar­ge­ly ice-free this year. Even fjords that usual­ly free­ze over quite relia­bly, such as Tem­pel­fjord, Bil­lefjord, Dick­son­fjord, Ekm­anfjord (all bran­ches of Isfjord) as well as Wij­defjord and Van Mijenfjord are far more open than they usual­ly are, much to the reg­ret of tho­se who are enjoy­ing the cur­rent ski, dog sledge and snow mobi­le sea­son – and, more important­ly, the wild­life, who needs the ice to give birth to their off­spring, such as Rin­ged seals, or to find food, as the polar bear does.

At least, some fjords are fro­zen in their inner­most parts. Dick­son­fjord had an ice cover that came clo­ser to nor­mal stan­dards than in the case of most other fjords.

Recent­ly, from 8 to 10 April, the rese­arch ves­sel Lan­ce bro­ke a lead of seve­ral kilo­me­t­res into the fast ice of Dick­son­fjord. This was done as part of a field cour­se in sea ice, ori­gi­nal­ly sche­du­led to take place in Horn­sund, but as ice con­di­ti­ons the­re did not deve­lop sui­ta­b­ly, UNIS appli­ed for per­mis­si­on to break a lead of “seve­ral ship’s lengths” into Dick­son­fjord.

The result is an ope­ning seve­ral kilo­me­t­res long. At the inner­most posi­ti­on, the ice thic­k­ness was a mere 35 cen­ti­me­t­res. Fur­ther out, it was even less. It can accor­din­gly not be expec­ted that the ice free­zes solid again during the cur­rent sea­son. It seems rather likely that the long crack may decrease the sta­bi­li­ty of the who­le fjord ice, poten­ti­al­ly con­tri­bu­ting to an ear­lier break-up of the ice in Dick­son­fjord.

The lead bro­ken by Lan­ce is met with cri­ti­cism from seve­ral sides. Among­st others, Harald Sol­eim, a Nor­we­gi­an trap­per who has lived in Dick­son­fjord for many years, is less than amu­sed. During spring, he uses the fjord ice to tra­vel within his hun­ting area by snow mobi­le. He was not even infor­med about the lead bro­ken by Lan­ce and descri­bed the unex­pec­ted ope­ning as “direct­ly life dan­ge­rous”. UNIS reg­rets not having infor­med Sol­eim in advan­ce. If brea­king up fjord ice in times of low ice cover, at the cost of wild­life and humans, is jus­ti­fied for a sci­en­ti­fic field cour­se, may be dis­pu­ted. It is doubtful that per­mis­si­on had been given if stan­dards for sci­en­ti­fic ope­ra­ti­ons were equal­ly strict as for tou­ristic acti­vi­ties.

Fjord ice in Tem­pel­fjord: much less than nor­mal in terms of area and thic­k­ness. It is con­tro­ver­si­al for which pur­po­se the ice may be bro­ken when the­re is alre­a­dy less than nee­ded any­way.

Fjord ice, Tempelfjord

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen (Felt­logg), Sval­bard­pos­ten



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last modification: 2014-07-01 · copyright: Rolf Stange