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Christoffer Ladstein

Excellent ice-fade-over-Healy, Neven! Makes it SO MUCH easier for us to see where they are, and current direction they're heading!

I would almost be willing to sell my step-mother, to be able to enter one of those boats!

This seismic project will bring them all the way to the Pole, or what?


The ships must have passed fairly close to the Russian station, currently at 83.84 -165.76.

Rich and Mike Island

Thanks for translating this. It is a most interesting account!


Amazing. I was cutting and pasting some of these links yesterday with the thought of including them in a comment. Great minds and all ;) It “brought home” in another way what’s being discussed in more abstract terms here daily.

Muchas gracias Diablo. And Nevin, many thanks for the overlay as it’s exactly what I would have done were I more able. What’s the date of the overlay?

The only thing I can think to add is the link for the hourly list of images.


Expanding them allows me to read the data line at the top of each one. A sampling From 8:00 Zulu on the 22nd should yield an understanding of the reality the satellite sensors are trying to resolve.


WhiteBeard, I used the most recent sea ice concentration map from the University of Bremen, I guess August 30th. Of course things looked different a week earlier.

Lord Soth

Although the primary mission of the Healy and Louis is Geophyisical/Hydrographic to make territorial claims under UNCLOS; this is a great opportunity to ground truth the Cryosat data.

Due to the cost of running the ships, most programs are multi-displinary, to gather as much Science as possible for their buck.

So, I would expect their would be a scientist aboard the Healy or Louis, who primary interest is in climate change, and who is doing ice measurements.

If this is not a case, this is a great lost opportunity.


How many icebreaker does it take to break the record of 2007?
Isn't it a waste of valuable fuel to make this journey every year?
I think a flight over the pole will give you the same information without disturbing the environment.
An aeroplane is cheaper and producer less CO2.


Cassandraclub, it mostly is a waste as they are there primarily - I believe - to map out the ocean floor (can't be done by plane).

If they do some scientific research, such as measuring ice thickness, it becomes less of a waste in my opinion.

And the webcam images are of course interesting to look at.


Neven, thanks. That date gives me (and possibly others) a reference point.

Cassandra, Neven and Sloth: Just nosing around on the net for a few minuets I found this link to the 2011 summer Healy mission.


From memory of local press articles that I haven’t followed up on, NASA has flown drone instrumentation survey programs over the Arctic Ocean in several recent years. Don’t remember anything for 2011, but I could have just missed it.

Daniel Bailey

Cassandra, you can see from Whitebeard's link above the type of hands-on data collection that is being done in the field.

Whether from aerial overflights or from satellite-based platforms, asset utilization pales to ground-based recon assessments. And this comes from one who used those overflights and platforms for years. Without field recon to groundtruth your imagery analysis, your error bars were wide and your interpretations based on them, suspect.


The Healy is rated at 4 foot continuous or eight foot back up and ramming.

So if it maintaining a speed of more than three and a half knots that could suggest that the ice is less than four foot. Given the relatively direct couse there cannot be much ice over eight foot.

On a side note The Russians will have effective controll of the Arctic given the disparity in availability of icebreakers.

r w Langford

Cassandra; These two ships are mapping the seabed in preparation for both countries to settle disputed territory north of the Alaska/North West Territory boundary and to obtain data for settlement of offshore rights to oil,gas and minerals. There are billions of dollars at stake between Russia, Canada and the US. The collaborative effort between Canadian and US ships is interesting politically and also scientifically. The Canadian ship has recording and computer analysis equipment and the US ship has the seismic equipment. Both are dependant on each other for the eventual product. Nice to have friendly borders like that I would say. Also an extremely important multi disciplinary research project on oceanography, climatology, biology,meteorology etc. Not a waste of money in my view.



Though I haven’t looked at all the hourly images from the Healy, I did notice that on 2 the ship appeared to be backing through a channel of cubes they had just created. I’d suspect there is some old ice encountered every once in a while.

What I also find interesting is the absence of pressure ridges, or instances of a pan stacked atop another one in the images I’ve seen. I may be more used to photos from the grounded ice like Neven posted on as we waited for the break-up in Barrow, but I thought they used to be more common offshore.

Bob Wallace

I've looked at every posted Healy image over the last few days and have yet to see anything that I considered "thick ice".

If you look at the disturbed ice left in the wake of the companion ship there's little there there.

It's hard to get a good estimate of thickness from a two dimensional image taken from several feet above the water level, but clearly there's none of the "20 foot thick" ice that was commonly found in the 1950s by the Soviet drift stations.

The more images I see the more likely I think the 'death spiral' graph is going to be fulfilled. Certainly the August curve is going to be recalculated downward....

Kevin O'Neill

I suspect Cassandra is a drive-by, but it should be pointed out that the idea that 2, 3, 6, or 20 icebreakers cruising across the arctic are significantly 'damaging' the health of the ice is ludicrous. You see this idea fairly often on sites like WUWT and (sic)Real Science.

Skeptics deny that humans can affect climate - until it comes to a couple of coast guard cutters with those evil scientists onboard with their nefarious plans to break millions of square kilometers of ice into tiny little pieces. Oh well.

Daniel Bailey

"a couple of coast guard cutters with those evil scientists onboard with their nefarious plans to break millions of square kilometers of ice into tiny little pieces."

Please tell them I prefer my ice crushed, not cubed. Then my drink sloshes on me less...

Yeah, the Cassandra post is likely a drive-by. Someone more industrious than me should calculate the carbon footprint of a series of overflights vs that of the Healy, just for grins & giggles.

My industrious nature is filled right now with how to get another beer without actually having to get up....

Bob Wallace

According to the Wiki page the Arctic is 14,056,000 km2 (5,427,000 sq mi), almost the size of Russia.

The icebreaker Healy, the largest Coast Guard ship is 420' long and has a maximum beam of 82'. something less than 34,440 sq ft when you consider the bow and stern taper.

27,878,400 sq ft in a square mile. The Healy is less than 0.1% of a square mile.

One would have to do a heck of a lot of cruising around to make any detectable difference with a beam of only 82' in 5,427,000 square miles of ocean.

Daniel Bailey

Cassandra's key (albeit unsubstantiated) point:

"An aeroplane is cheaper and producer less CO2"

I believe she was referring to the CO2 footprint of the Healy as being bigger than that of an "aeroplane".

Kevin O'Neill

How many icebreaker does it take to break the record of 2007?

I.e., scientists will stoop to anything to make people think global warming is real.

I've visited their sites often enough to know the lingo. It's not so much reading between the lines as knowing what they'll say in subsequent posts.


whitebeard you may be right about the back up and ram but I think it is more likely that the Healy is travelling in the wake of the other ship that she is travelling with.
they seem to be playing tag with the other ship zig zagging all over the place so some times Healy is in disturbed ice and sometimes not. whenever we see the other ship in frame she is often travelling at an angle to Healy and rarely in the exact same direction and track.

I seriously doubt that any large part of the ice she is travelling through is over 4ft thick.

Artful Dodger

One measure of the quality of sea ice is it's ability to impede the motion of an Icebreaker. Notice in Healy's ship tracker log the frequency of 7 or 8 knots (nautical miles per hour) in the log:


There are 6 hours in the last 24 when Healy traveled at least 7 nm (13 km).

Note that the 13 kt event on 011-Aug-31 02:00 spans 2 hours, but that's still an amazing cruising speed in pack ice near the North Pole (N 86°18' W 172°06)!

Thin indeed.

Seke Rob

There's a nice blog article of August 30, withthe title Die rätselhaften Wege des Wassers unter dem Eis [scroll down], that has a nice map [direct link]of the water circulation system below the ice. Apart from wind effects, it visualizes quite nicely the movements of the pack and such features as the MYI finger inside the pack reaching almost the whole pack across, steered by the various ridges and under water mountainous ranges. The current around Svalbard is entirely against what I previous thought it was, maybe a partial explanation why ice sits there attached/stuck from the main pack against the island.

(I'm fluent in German, those interested in the text surely know how to use Google page translated :>)


Is it possible that these ships actively avoid thicker ice? That would mean the webcam data is skewed to thinner ice.

If they are mapping and have preplanned straight runs then the data might be statistically random and more valid.

I dont know the answer to this.


Hi all,

Off topic, but a new expedition has just left Vladivostock, organised at short notice to investigate "a dramatic increase in leakage of methane from the seabed in the eastern part of the Arctic."

Professor Semiletov seems to be in charge.


@all: Thanks for your replies.
I'm not just a drive-by: I'm genuinly interested.

I don't see the point in mapping out the seabed of the Arctic.
Is the need for that little bit of oil and gas really that high?

Please look at the bigger picture.
The Arctic is unnavigable for 11 months per year and this will be the case for decades to come.
Our oilbased economy is already buckling under peakoil and it will crumble long before 2050.
These yearly trips in icebreakers to the North Pole are a shortlived obsession. I think we can no longer afford them.

Chris Biscan

There is zero mapping system Healy

Daniel Bailey

Cassandra, in the scheme of things this research is truly an infinitismal drop in the bucket compared to global carbon use by mankind (30.5 gigatons in 2010 alone). However, such research is what has developed the technologies upon which our civilization is based.

Saying "I think we can no longer afford them" without a justified reason is merely opinion, possibly based on deeper ideology.

To that I counter:
Our civilization can no longer to afford to ignore what is going on in the Arctic, as changes there have global repercussions.

Kevin McKinney

"The Arctic is unnavigable for 11 months per year and this will be the case for decades to come."

Well, no, it's not, and still less will this be the case in coming years. The first transit of the Northeastern Passage 2011 season commenced June 29; ice minimum often occurs around September 15. By coincidence (?), that is the date last year that MV Monchegorsk *began* her round trip transit of the NEP, concluding it in mid-November--*without* ice-breaker assistance! (Monchegorsk is, of course, an ice-classed vessel--and has five sister ships in the ARC-27 class.)


(Hopefully that Google translate link will work; it's supposed to point to the Russian press release.)

Anyway, June 29 to November 16 is roughly four and a half months! So right now, the Arctic is unnavigable for about seven and a half months--not eleven. And the trend is clearly toward a longer season, as discussed extensively here.

The cargo carried is telling, too; though natural gas condensate has been popular on the NEP, Monchegorsk (a container ship) carried ore on the first leg and manufactured goods on the return leg. What that says is that the Arctic routes are about trade generally, not just oil and gas.

And of course, national pride has become involved. Russia famously placed her flag on the seafloor at the North Pole a couple of years ago; the Canadian government has announced plans to spend a couple hundred million (IIRC) to beef up a fairly scanty Arctic infrastructure, and even Denmark (whose ties to Greenland have loosened considerably with autonomy agreements) is thinking about the Arctic Ocean's future.

As mentioned, the Healey/St. Laurent mission is mapping seabed in order to make territorial claims under the Law of the Sea process; Russia is doing the same on her side under the theory that the Lomonsov ridge extends clear to the North Pole. It's quite clear that none of these governments believes that the future state of the ice will remain as extensive as at present.

For more on the building Arctic rivalry, and on climate change and national security generally, see:



Daniel, I suggest you read Limits to Growth (Meadows et al. 1972) and The End of Growth (Richard Heinberg 2011).
You will see that research and technology are hollow words without the input of cheap fossil fuel.

There is a very good reason why supersonic planes are no longer crossing the Atlantic and why the USA has ceased the manned spacefilght-program.
The same reason will stop Arctic exploration.

Daniel Bailey

Exploitation of Arctic resources will win, Cassandra. Governments and multinational corporations have committed billions to r&d in the upcoming decades with trillions at stake.

Supply & demand. The Arctic has the perceived supply, available for exploitation.

That ain't going away. Period.

Kevin McKinney

Well, that's the concern, isn't it? We're all agreed here that fossil fuels are a terrible problem. But it also seems a near certainty that if we don't find ways to sustain a technologically advanced civilization without extensive use of fossil fuels, we'll see a convulsion and population crash that--worst case--could make the fall of the Roman Empire look like a picnic. Except, of course, that it would be global rather than continental in scale.

So we need to transform our energy economy, and the sooner, the better, in order to limit climate change. That means more research, not less. And climate change also means the Arctic will be more important to humanity, not less.

You mention the end of the Concorde and the Shuttle. Both were essentially fiscal decisions, and both with a safety component. But Arctic trade is booming precisely because it's a money-maker. (Or at least, is believed to be by enough hard-headed people.) In other words, we're not really talking about Arctic exploration anymore--we're talking about Arctic exploitation.

Andrew Xnn

With the world population going up as it has been, the likelihood of near term reductions in fossil fuel consumption is nill. Consequently, there is going to be a warming climate until after we run out of fossil fuels.

The good/bad news is that it will probably take a thousand years for that to happen.

Kevin McKinney

Very pessimistic. Sure hope you're wrong. Though if you're not, it will make a very large dent in that 'population problem.'

Daniel Bailey

"Consequently, there is going to be a warming climate until after we run out of fossil fuels."

Remember that continual injection of long-sequestered GHGs into the carbon cycle ensures a longer time needed for the global system needed to reach equilibria with the newer levels of GHGs (due to various feedbacks such as we are witnessing due to permafrost degradation and clathrate release).

So temps will continue to rise for several decades after anthropogenic contributions cease.

Michael Fliss

"...we're not really talking about Arctic exploration anymore--we're talking about Arctic exploitation."


The earth as a living entity has a fever rising to rid itself of a nasty infection. Unfortunately, we are the infectious agents.

Bob Wallace

While ships can operate only a few months in the Arctic, oil wells can be and are being drilled from on top of the ice. Once the area freezes over to an adequate level trucks start dragging huge loads out onto the ice and well rigs are installed.

Drilling continues as long as the ice supports the equipment. Then when the ice melts a well is in place.


We are currently an economy based on fossil fuels which is transitioning to an economy based on renewable energy.

If we abandon fossil fuels faster than we bring renewables on line we could crash our economies. If we don't abandon fossil fuels fast we will crash our climate.

We are currently growing renewables at a rate which would take fifty years or so to replace fossil fuels. We might have fifty years to bring our CO2 levels down to pre-Industrial Revolution levels but that's a dangerous gamble to accept. Watching how fast the Arctic is melting warns us to not cut things too close.

Luckily for us the rate of renewable installation is accelerating and the cost of renewable energy is rapidly falling. We won't have to convince utilities to switch to renewables in order to save the planet if they can be convinced by lower costs. We won't have to convince people to switch to electric cars for the common good once they can save considerable money with EVs.

If we are saved it will be due to economics. Fossil fuels are increasing in price. China has idled some of its coal plants and increased solar and wind installations due to the rapidly rising price of coal. Places such as Spain and Texas which have lots of wind generation on their grids are enjoying decreasing electricity costs. Oil pulled from the Arctic and Canadian tar sands will never be cheap, making it easier for EVs to dominate.

Let's just hope the transition happens fast enough....

Andrew Xnn

Getting back on topic; has anybody been following the Healy?

That latest image shows a latitude of 87 49.9.
However, yesterday they were north of 88 27.3, or at least that is the most northerly that I can find.


So, they now appear to be heading south.
Would have thought a goal would have been to reach 90N.

Ennis George

Andrew what is interesting from looking at the tracking of the USCGC it would appear that they have been sailing for a few hours at least in part of the economic zone being claimed by Russia in the Arctic. Also their latest reported position suggests not so much that they are sailing south but that they are sailing east (possibly looking for thinner ice?).

Either way the pictures taken show disturbing evidence of how thin and corrupted the Arctic summer ice has become.

Lord Soth

The Healy and the Louis are doing joint surveys of the Canadian Basin and the Alpha ridge. This is close to the pole within a couple of degrees. They will not be going to the pole, the last time I checked.

I can't recall if Canada ever had an ice breaker at the North Pole, and I have wondered if some politician would override this science mission to get some press coverage.

However I believe they are smarter than this; after all the pole will be cruise ship territory in 10 years.


So we need to transform our energy economy, and the sooner, the better, in order to limit climate change. That means more research, not less. And climate change also means the Arctic will be more important to humanity, not less.


More research...

Yes to a certain extent, but the problem with our society is the illusion that technology is going to fix everything.Unfortunately, the way our society is geared up at the moment means that technology is going to be used to increase private profits or the possibility of maintaining high private profits. Research should instead be focussed towards reducing our ecological footprint: mimimising use of non-renewable resources and maximising the capacity of exixting sinks to absorb our waste.
Going back to the Arctic, technology and research as I see it will be used to facilitate oil and gas exploitation because at the moment the world economy is addicted to economic growth (i.e GDP growth not welfare improvement) and to grow it needs fossil fuels and more non-renewables. There is no way we can transition to an ecologically sustainable economy without abandoning the holy grail of economic growth!See Tim Jackson, Herman Daly and others on this...
My concern is that as discussed by Gwynne Dyer in "Climate Wars" Geo engineering including geo engineering to slow down or stop the melting of Arctic ice, will be seen by our politicians and economists as the fix. At best, it will give us a few decades reprieve, at worst it will mess up the Earh even more. Probably both!

Andrew Xnn

The Alpha ridge; had to look that one up.
Here is what Wikipedia says:

"The 1983 Canadian Expedition to Study the Alpha Ridge (CESAR) seemed to establish that the Alpha Ridge is an extension of the continent from Ellesmere Island and hence there is a possibility that Canada may lay claim to the resource rights for the region, in particular for petroleum, according to the United Nations' Law of the Sea. There is no final conclusion to the issue so far, and part of the research planned for the European Drilling Research Icebreaker (Aurora Borealis) was drilling of the Alpha Ridge to collect more data."

So, the Healy isn't out there to reach the North pole, but is on some type of economic/legal mission with Canada.

Michael Fliss

Andrew, here is a post on the Healy mission:


Daniel Bailey

From Michael's gem of a website one can see the planned routes of the ships on this joint mission:

Rob Dekker

Latest picture showing the Healy in the wake of the St-Laurent (above 88 N again).


Someone else noticed this before, but again, check out the wake of the St-Laurent. That's not ice-breaking, that's ice-crunching. That pack cannot be more than 50cm or so to be crunched up into little pieces so easily.

This can't be good for ice volume.
Boy oh boy. I'm really curious for the PIOMAS volume numbers to come out...

Mike Constable

What I noticed was the changes in air temperature - Late August circa 30F
Sept 2nd 18F
now 3rd 25F
To my eye it looks as if the water is now re-freezing in front of the Healy

Kevin McKinney

OT alert! Discursive response ahead!

Phil, I didn't mean to suggest that the key to everything is more research.

You suggest that economic growth must not be a "holy grail." Neven has stressed here in the past that (in his opinion at least) a key to the dilemma we are in is renouncing the simplistic faith in perpetual economic growth which has characterized public policy for lo, these many years.

For the record, I'm inclined to agree.

I must admit, though, that I don't have a clear vision of what such a future might entail. And I don't find a whole lot written about it, though Neven has pointed to an interesting website. (Don't have the link handy.)

On that last point--the 'developing a vision of a sustainable future' part--I found Amy Seidl's "Finding Higher Ground" to be of considerable interest. Dr. Seidl describes the lifestyle she and her family live in response to carbon footprint concerns, and the community within which they live. Her 'lens' is the concept of cultural adaptation:


(There's also lots about biology, ecology and particularly phenological changes in response to climate change.)

Note also that, far from advocating or painting a rosy picture of geoengineering efforts, the Dyer book provides an extremely, er, cautionary tale about its potential downsides. (It would be unfair to accuse Dr. Dyer--doctorate in military history, IIRC--of being an optimist. Unlike Dr. Seidl.)

Andrew Xnn

September 3 2011 15:01 UTC
The Healy is 88 09.6 North.
Clear Skies; Air Temp is 15.6 F (-9C)
Melt ponds look to be covered with light snow.
Freeboard looks to be several inches.
In theory, ice thickness will be x10.

Kevin McKinney

The season has definitely turned!

BTW, it's also an uncommonly nice photo, for an autocam.

Andrew Xnn

The Healy has stopped at 88 09.0 North and lowered the gang plank. 21F (-6C). This is the time for anybody who wants to go and walk around on the ice...



Thanks for providing the link to Amy Seidl's book. I will definitely have a look at that.
I agree with what you say about GD. Definitely warning us about the potential problems with GE.However I am a bit concerned when I see this "solution" being discussed in almost every issue of the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC !!!

Andrew Xnn

Now it possible to see about a dozen people walking around. They must have picked this area to disembark because the ice was thicker:

Kevin McKinney


(OK, that was bad.)

More seriously, Andrew, thanks for sharing this.

Oh, and thanks, Phil! Hope you enjoy the Seidl book.

Account Deleted

Following the OT theme:
The low/no economic growth and talk of a sustainable future are much easier to make when in a developed nation.
For me the question is how can we improve the standard of living in the developing nations and still reduce emissions/conserve biodiversity, etc.
It is really hard to convince local communities not to encroach into protected area - when they don't have many other options.


It's a shame they do not have immediate information about ice thickness on these ice breakers, like position and temp.

Regards Espen

Janne Tuukkanen

Colin: Low economic growth can mean different things. This time we have really dire situation globally, where private investments are zero. Firms are not hiring or investing, because demand has stalled. And of then we have struggling Euro-zone...

It would be a good opportunity to governments to spend, for instance to new clean infrastructure projects. For some developing nations, e.g. USA and Germany, money is now dirt cheap (bond interests are effectively negative), and there would be only positive effects on economy (No crowding out, because private sector is not hiring anyway. Boost the demand, and end this awful downstreak. And of course the return from the projects themselves.)

The long term problems with public debt in wester world are largely unrelated. They're about demographic changes (elder, smaller populations and elevating health care costs). And these issues should be handled separately from the short term situation.

Just now would be a great opportunity in developed world to push new sustainable technologies. It would make both economic, and scientific sense.

Economic and/or climate havoc will ruin the standards of living. Handling the issues will improve those. The technology and knowledge is there.

This is of course IMHO

Andrew Xnn

Not sure why, but the Healy has stopped at this site. Looks like a large frozen over lead.
88 14.9N 24.2F

Bob Wallace

Did the Healy encounter a piece of ice where they actually had to back up and ram to get through?


Michael Fliss

Kuupik Kleist's Arctic vision looks beyond the polar bears.


Daniel Bailey

@ Bob Wallace

On this joint mission, the Healy takes the lead through 0-4 meter ice while the St Laurent uses its towed sonar array; the St. Laurent takes the lead through thicker ice.

The ice conditions in the webcam shot seem to be in that upper range of operations for the Healy; perhaps the St Laurent temporarily took the lead through that section & we see its wake. Later shots indicate thinner ice.

Lord Soth

Here is the blog for the Louis St. Laurent. It's a few days behind, but should be updated soon.


The big problem is ice pressure, not ice thickness. This indicates that the pact is being compressed in this quadrant.

They are moving at 4 knots, as this is the best speed for the scientific gear, not because of the ice conditions.

It will be interesting when the blog is updated to reflect the conditions at 88 North.

Michael Fliss

Through the eyes of Polarstern. Currently hanging out with NP-38, on a road trip to the East Siberian Sea. Throw in a Guinness and does it get any better than this?!


Michael Fliss

Opps, sorry! Must be the Guinness. Translate google:


Artful Dodger

Well, it's been night-time for the last 5 hrs at the Healy, currently in pack ice at 79N, 132W (~400 km NW of the Western exit to the NW Passage, mapping the fringe of the Canadian continental shelf).


The air temp was 29.6 F at 10:00 hrs GMT (that's about -1.33 C and above the freezing point of sea water). Air temp is down from a balmy high of 29.7 F in the 3 hrs before Sunset.

Water temps have held steady at -1.4 C for the last 12 hrs:


So, no new ice forming today near the Healy.

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