Arctic problems

Pack ice in Isfjorden

In summer the name Isfjord (the ice fjord) isn’t an apt name. In summer there is hardly any ice at all in the fjord. Due to the gulf stream, which just reaches Spitsbergen with its northern branch, the ice along the west coast melts early in the season. Sometimes the west coast stays more or less ice-free even in winter. But occasionally ice is blocking the entrance. When I arrived on Spitsbergen, the situation was as usual, with no ice at all. Today things really changed. The same gulf stream picked up a large ice field coming from the eastern part and transported it north. With the westerly winds that ice field is now blocking the entrance of Isfjord. The first parts of the field can be seen from Longyearbyen.

This means Longyearbyen is a lot harder to reach for (tourist)ships at the moment. The ice-strengthened expedition cruise ships have no problem with a field like this (it just costs some extra time), but the large cruise ships aren’t built to withstand any ice and have to turn around. My ship, the Noorderlicht can handle only a little ice, so I hope they arrive here early enough so they can take the extra time it will take to arrive here in time to pick me up together with the next group….

Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.

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