The Fragile Ocean
I have been travelling on the Arctic sea ice for 20 years now and have grown to love this imposing, hostile and yet fragile and beautiful environment. When I first stepped onto the Arctic Ocean all those years ago, I was blown away by the height and depth of the immense ice ridges and the scale of it all. In my naivety I had expected waves upon waves of snow and ice but nothing could have been further from the truth as I witnessed ice as far as the eye could see all twisted and tortured into huge shapes and forms.
There were massive ridges, large pans of broken ice, rivers of ice boulders flowing like larva between broken ice pans and areas of thin ice and black water. It was nature at it’s most raw. Yes, the temperatures were extreme and my body ached as we began to haul the sledges, but the wonder of being among this strange icy wilderness made my own endeavours seem minimal in comparison.
During this first expedition I was like a child in my perception of the Arctic Ocean, full of wonder and I imagined nothing could ever affect or destroy the colossal masses of ice I travelled across. I have since become more aware of the Ocean, it’s chemistry, its disappearing ice and how it interacts with the rest of the planets eco-systems. I have witnessed first hand the disappearance of the ice.
Gone are the vast amounts of features, large pressure ridges and multi year ice pans. replaced over the years by more and more areas of open water and first year ice. The very chemistry of the Oceans are becoming more acidic as we pump more and more CO2 into the atmosphere. This change is happening to all our Oceans and the Arctic Ocean is linked to all our eco systems. What happens there affects the rest of our planet……
The Arctic is changing. Already this year the sea ice has hit a new record for the lowest amount of winter ice since records began 38 years ago. I came back from the North in April and whilst that expedition was only 120 miles long I saw none of the huge ridges from past years, just flat first year ice. It was almost as I had initially imagined it would be all those years ago.
Recently, we heard that for the first time a tanker had crossed the sea ice without the need of an icebreaker to plough the way forward. Reports of tundra fires burning in Greenland and devastating Hurricanes appearing on the news daily. We have to wake up and realise that climate change is real and we must do something about it.
For the Arctic itself we may not be able to stop tankers crossing the frozen ocean but we can ban them from using Heavy Fuel Oils which is already banned in Antarctic waters view here.
We need more action from governments, the business community and from every one of us individually across all areas that affect climate change.
We have one, beautiful planet, lets protect it as best we can.