The ice conditions were so dangerous that ships couldn’t make it through.
A Canadian icebreaker was deployed to the Arctic to evaluate the effects of climate change, but due to unforeseen levels of ice off the coast of Newfoundland in Canada, it never made it.
The icebreaker, CCGS Amundsen, had scientists from five Canadian universities aboard, according to CBC.
It was diverted because ice conditions were too dangerous to navigate and other ships needed their help. The conditions were so intense that a Canadian Coast Guard assistant commissioner told CBC that they were worse than anything the region had ever experienced.
The icebreaker ended up participating in search-and-rescue missions in the area as most ships are not equipped to move through ice like this.
“It became a very dramatic period of doing two and a half weeks of doing [rescues], multiple calls per day, because the whole system is used to dealing with no ice at that location at that time of year, because that’s historically what it’s always been like,” David Barber, a climate change scientist from the University of Manitoba who led the Arctic tour, told CBC.
The scientists on the ice breaker were also able to conduct research on the ice around them.
“It became very clear that we needed to understand what this ice was, where it came from and why it was there, because nobody was expecting it,” Barber told CBC.
They published their findings in the the peer-reviewed journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Ocean passages that are normally blocked with ice during the winter and spring are now opening up, which means that ice once stuck in the Arctic can now move freely through these passages — towards paths used by shipping, fishing and ferry boats, according to Phys Org.
The researchers on the icebreaker noted that the ice found in the area today is about five metres thick — in the past, it was an average of half-a-metre thick, according to CBC.
In the end, the scientists came to the conclusion that this thick Arctic ice was caused by climate change.
“A good way to think of that is just, put a bunch of Styrofoam in your bathtub. If you put, you know, thick pieces of Styrofoam in your bathtub and you filled your bathtub completely full, and then you put a fan and blew it over top of the Styrofoam, it wouldn’t really go anywhere,” Barber told CBC. “But if you take some of those Styrofoam pieces out and blow the same fan over it, the Styrofoam pieces will move like crazy, and that’s essentially what’s happening in the High Arctic.”
This ice is thicker, colder and stronger than normal ice and Barber said it could have effects on the Coast Guard, fishing practices, and Arctic navigation.