Friday, August 22, 2008

#7 Pressure Ridges and Fogbows


Above:  The pressure ridge in which we are currently stuck

Pressure Ridges and Fogbows
Thursday, August 21, 2008

As I write, we are firmly stuck in a sizable pressure ridge, impeding our mapping progress. The usual process is to back the cutter several ship’s lengths and ram forward, sometimes needing to repeat this multiple times until we break through the ice. This afternoon we are in relatively thick multi-year ice, but for much of last night’s eight-hour watch we may as well have been in Tahiti, as someone joked, there was so much open water. We are mapping around 83° N latitude; take a glance at one of the maps in the links to the right to see just how far north this is. Those who were on last year’s cruise say the ice is slushier and less compacted this year at the same latitude, with fewer thick stretches. Three of our science crewmembers are from the US National Ice Center, and I am eagerly awaiting their presentation at one of our nightly science talks.
Coming off of watch this morning at 0800 we were greeted by a fog-bow (like a rainbow, but pure white because it is reflecting the snow and ice in the seascape over which it hovers). Light filled and mesmerizing.

Icebreaking into the Arctic

The USCGC HEALY embarked Barrow, Alaska, in August 2008 to map the US extended continental shelf, or ECS, in the Arctic Ocean (HLY 0805). Healy sailed again from 7 August to 16 September, 2009 (HLY 0905) to continue ECS mapping, joining with the Canadian icebreaker, the Louis S. St.-Laurent. The two vessels mapped together again in 2010 (see HLY1002) and 2011 (HLY1102).

As the only law professor on the science crew, I was along on HLY 0805 and 0905 to better understand
the science behind the legal process that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea establishes for states making ECS submissions. As to why the US is mapping now, even though it has not yet acceded to the Convention, read on both here, and in the Law of the Sea notes below.

Thanks to
Vermont Law School and especially to Larry Mayer, Director of the University of New Hampshire's Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, for making my part in the trip possible.
Thanks, as well, to Adriane Colburn, for opening new windows on and for the deep.