The Arctic Ocean

June 7, 2007

From Explorers Web

Arctic image

The Arctic is one of the world’s seven seas. Its top is frozen and the floating ice is around 16 million sq. km, (greater [in size] than the US), shrinking in summer to 9 million sq. km. As the ice shrinks, open water leads expose the black water… The leads are not deep, but the ocean in them is. If you fall into a lead, up to 4000 meters of dark, cold water will suck you down.

The main obstacles to an Arctic crossing expedition are moving ice floes, negative ocean drift, pressure ridges and open water leads. Two major circulation patterns for Arctic sea ice are present: the Transpolar Drift and the Beaufort Gyre. The Transpolar drift carries ice westward from the Russian Arctic, the Beaufort Gyre is located north of the Alaskan and Canadian coast, and it rotates in a clockwise motion, exiting in the Farm Strait. At some points this ice migration will carry the expedition backwards and away from the pole.

On certain occasions; storms, in the late spring and during a full moon – the Arctic ice brakes [sic] up with peculiar sounds building up to terrifying alarm. Thin sea ice moves up and down with wave action as you walk on it. “Full moon inferno,” is an event caused by the tidal changes brought on by the full moon. As the ocean rises, the ice breaks up and the ice floes collide with a tremendous force.

The Transpolar Drift and the Beaufort Gyre sound like a lyrical Scottish poem and a good cheese respectively. Cool names. You can read more about these currents and about some disks thrown out onto the Beaufort Sea that crossed the Pole to land on a Scottish beach 10 years later here.

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