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The Ice of the Seas in the North American Arctic: Encyclopedia Arctica 7: Meteorology and Oceanography
Stefansson, Vilhjalmur, 1879-1962

The Ice of the Seas in the North American Arctic

EA-Oceanography (John C. Weaver)

THE ICE OF THE SEAS IN THE NORTH AMERICAN ARCTIC

CONTENTS
Page
Arctic Sea Ice 1
East Greenland Pack 5
Northeastern North American Pack 15
Hudson Bay and Strait 28
The Northwest Passages 35
Arctic Seas of Alaska 44

EA-Oceanography
(John C. Weaver)

THE ICE OF THE SEAS IN THE NORTH AMERICAN ARCTIC
There is perhaps no other single element which the popular mind more
instinctively or immediately associates with the Arctic than ice, and one can
readily imagine the awe and apprehension which flooded the minds of the early
adventurers who first made contact with this formidable barrier of white on
the uncharted seas before them. From the days of Erik the Red, threading
the drift ice of Greenland in his small open ships, to Frobisher, Davis, and
Hudson, feeling their ways northward along the unknown margins of a continent
in search of a sea road to the West, to the crushed ships of Franklin, locked
in the ice of Victoria Strait, down finally to the Nascopie and St. Roch of
today, the ice of the northern North American seas has been a stern but capric–
iously tantalizing foe.
Arctic Sea Ice
In the interests of simplicity, the diverse ice forms of the northern seas
may be grouped in three major types: ( 1 ) Fast Ice, ( 2 ) Drift Ice, ( 3 ) Arctic
or Polar Back Ice. The primary mass found in the Arctic Sea is the Polar Pack
Ice, which occupies about 70%, or approximately 2,000,000 square miles, of the
deeper part of the north polar basin.

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Polar Pack . The polar pack consists of an association of massive fields
of continually drifting ice, and derives its distinctive character primarily
from its great power, its compact solidity, and its extensive accumulations
of hummocky rafted ice. Varying in thickness from 7 to 8 to over one hundred
feet, it exhibits extensive leads of open water even in the coldest months.
During the shifting motions of the ice, fields hundreds of square miles in
area are crushed together and piled high along lines of weakness in one sec–
tion, while compensating open water appears in another. 1
In speaking of the extent of this polar pack ice, Smith defines it as
having “the same general shape as the basin (of the Arctic Ocean), with its
margin closely paralleling the course of the 1000-meter isobath. Like the
deeper part of the polar basin, the elliptical-shaped cap (Polar Pack) lies
much closer to the Greenland-North American side than it does to Europe and
Asia, with its long axis running from Spitsbergen to Point Barrow, its center —
the Pole of Inaccessibility -- 2 offset about 400 miles toward Alaska.” 3
1 2 3

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In certain backwash areas of the polar pack, as in the Beaufort Sea
east of the Point Barrow meridian, immediately west of Prince Patrick and
Banks Islands, and in important but lesser extent off the northern shores
of Greenland, are found chaotically assembled ridges, blocks, and domes of
especially old ice which represent the accumulated effects of long years of
shock and pressure. 4 And in contrast to these formidable areas of so-called
paleocrystic ice are large semipermanent or permanent open water areas known
as polynyas which, like Peary’s “Big Lead” off northern Greenland, seem to
assume certain characteristic positions in the polar basin.
Fast Ice . Beyond the outer margins of this permanent central reservoir
of polar pack ice are found the regions of drift ice and fast ice, which
throughout much of the year, at least, occupy not only almost a third of the
polar basin itself, but have an important seasonal place in the seas to the
southward. Fast or landfast ice is the young coastal ice which, in stationary
sheets, builds seaward from the shores of the land masses, und goes th or ro ugh a
yearly cycle of appearance, extension, disintegration, and disappearance in
successive seasons. By being more or less attached to the shore, or by being
otherwise confined, it does not move or drift. Obtaining its maximum area
in late November or early December, the fast ice of the arctic regions gen–
erally increases in thickness until late April or early May, when disintegra–
tion be g ins.
4

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The extent of fast ice development will vary considerably from region
to region and year to year. Areas with irregular coast lines, numerous
offshore islands, and shallow depths favor the formation of wide belts of
fast ice, especially when associated with large river discharges of fresh
water. From the seasonal point of view, maximally abundant freezing will
be promoted by winters with severely low temperatures and light winds, pre–
ceeded by precipitation-rich autumns. The labyrinthine bays and passages
of the American Arctic Archipelago are second only to the coastal waters
of Siberia in the total volume and extent of fast ice production.
Drift Ice . Transitionary between the fast ice and polar pack ice, and
drawing its existence from both, is the arctic drift ice. The term drift
ice has generalized reference to any sea ice which, under the influence of
winds and currents, has been moved from its p o sition of original formation.
It is distinguished from the mobile polar pack ice by its comparative light–
ness. Drift ice may, according to the season or area, be a tightly cohesive
formation, or may be fragmented by large or small areas of open water. Occu–
pying about 25% of the water area of the Arctic Sea, the d ir ri ft ice may on
its poleward margin reinforce the polar pack ice, or on its outer margin
become frozen into the fast ice. It is in those regions where it escapes
the polar basin to stream southward into lower latitudes that the Arctic
Sea drift ice is best known and of greatest general concern.
Serving as the active agent in carrying the surplus of arctic freezing
to warmer southern waters, the polar drift ice follows the major current
lanes of the coastal shelves where shallow waters may be quickly enough
chilled to permit the survival of the ice in its .journey southward. In

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

cross-section the typical drift ice stream is characterized as having an outer
zone of scatteredly detached pieces of ice, a center zone of wore compact
and heavy floes, though with cracks and leads, and an inside zone of strongly
compressed heavy ice, perhaps of polar pack origin. These gigantic streams
of ice make their greatest southward penetration during the sp r ing and early
summer and shrink in recession toward their source regions in late summer
and early fall.
While the total amount of observational data is quite inadequate, such
knowle d ge as has been accumulated seems to suggest that the behavior of the
ice in the polar basin is characterized by a slow but definite anticyclonic
clockwise movement from east to west, under the dominant control of prevail–
ing winds, ocean currents, and earth rotation. In this slow revolution of
ice about the P ole, fields and floes break loose from the central polar ice
mass to be discharged southward to the North Atlantic along two main sea
roads: ( 1 ) the eastern coastal waters of Greenland, and ( 2 ) the continental
margin of northeastern North America.
The East Greenland Pack
As the anticyclonic whorl of ice in the polar basin revolves past the
northern entrance to the Greenland Sea, a steadily flowing stream of heavy
ice exits southward. This is the chief outlet for the ice of the Arctic Sea.
It is estimated that one-third of the total volume of the ice of the polar
basin, or somewhere between 3,000 and 4,300 cubic miles of ice, are carried
out this way every year. The motion of the central pack in the arctic basin
has been observed to show the effects of this southerly drift up to the en–
virons of the Pole itself.

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

This enormous volume of ice surging out of the A rctic Sea is carried
southward down the Greenland coast by the East Greenland Current. From the
point of its most northerly recession in late summer, in the vicinity of
75° N., 0° W., southward to, and around Cape Farewell, and northward up the
southwest coast of Greenland to a point about 62° N., 51° W., this ice
stream has an average length of 1,850 miles at its maximum extent, and an
average velocity of seven and one-half miles per day. The East Greenland
pack is fed by polar pack and arctic drift ice in direct discharge from
the Arctic Sea and the Barents and Kara seas, winter ice formed in the Green–
land Sea, and fast ice made locally along the bordering coasts of Greenland.
The most formidable part of this ice stream, that which is clearly
distinguishible from the ice of all other sources, is the very old floe ice
which commonly floats from 8 to 10 and at times 12 feet above the water,
and probably has only about one-quarter of its total thickness exposed. It
is this ice, referred to by the Danes as storis (literally, “large ice”),
which represents the dwindling remains of the polar pack ice.
The position of the ice limit off the ea s t coast of Greenland is very
strongly affected by the direction and velocity of the prevailing winds.
Winds blowing from points between east and south press the ice into a com–
pact belt against the coast, while northerly and northwesterly winds expand
the ice eastward. An outstanding feature of this ice cover is the northward–
extending arm of open water to the west of Spitsbergen. This is undoubtedly
a reflection of the counteracting effects of the poleward-extending warm
waters of the North Atlantic drift.
During September and early October, the East Greenland pack has usually

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shrunk to its minimum position. In most years, early October will find
coastal navigation possible along eastern Greenland northward to 70°, and
only a few scattered icebergs are to be expected south of 68°. During the
month the East Greenland pack begins its southward advance, probably passing
the entrance to Scoresby Sound, but seldom extending south of 65° N. The
formation of new fast ice varies considerably from season to season, but it
certainly may be expected to have closed navigation in a majority of the
fjords northward of Angmagssalik, and to be well advanced southward of that
point during this month.
In early November the unnavigable pack of drift ice will in most seasons
have passed Angmagssalik, and by the latter part of the month have closed
in tightly against the coast. At least a narrow advance guard of this ice
stream will have attained a position somewhere to the southward between
Angmagssalik and Cape Farewell. In extremely heavy ice years it has been
known to round the cape and begin its recurved northward drift up the west
coast as far as Arsuk.
By December the scattered blocks and floes of drifting ice, which pro–
vide a vanguard for the approaching storis , will almost certainly appear off
Cape Farewell. A belt with an average width of 30 miles offshore may be
expected southward from Angmagssalik, and an even broader stream farther north.
The time at which the first storis rounds Cape Farewell and, under the
influence of the current, begins its northward advance, is extremely variable.
This has been known to occur as early as November, and as late as mid-April, but
the average date falls in the middle of January. The southwestern coast from
Julianehaab northward to Sukkertoppen will probably be unobstructed in January ,

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although fast ice will be increasing in the inner fjords. In severe seasons
the pack has been known to have rounded Cape Farewell northward to Frederiks–
haab, and with northerly winds to be scattered as such as 80 miles to the
south of Cape Farewell. The Baffin Bay pack from the northwest will gen–
rally have reached the coast in the district of Egedesminde. Off East
Greenland the pack ice belt will probably be wider than in December, but
the open channel between it and northwestern Iceland may be expected to
be over 70 miles wide.
In February the pack should have begun its northwestward advance from
Cape Farewell, passing Julianehaab Bay. Winds have an important effect
on the pack’s position and movement and after rounding Cape Farewell it
will not always regain inshore. Although the strong arctic current which
curls northward around Cape Farewell appears to maintain control over its
icy burden, there being no evidence of any part of the East Greenland pack
ever escaping westward into American waters, northwesterly winds may carry
the ice enough out into Davis Strait to be out of sight of land. The
northern limit of the pack will hold a much more advanced positi o n with
southerly winds than is the case if northerly winds prevail. During per–
sistent northerly winds the outer edge of the pack may be 75 to 100 miles
off shore, although a position some 60 miles from the coast is more normal.
In most seasons, the Baffin Bay pack and the coastal fast ice will
have closed the last of the West Greenland ports from Holsteinsborg north
by mid-January, but those to the south of that point generally remain ac–
cessible. Largely as a result of stormy weather, snow, low temperatures,
and darkness, the ports of southwestern Greenland have not been used from

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

late November to April. This period of closed navigation has given rise
to the commonly accepted belief that these ports were icebound in the winter
season. 5 Although most of the constricted inner waters of this coast are
closed by heavy winter ice, many of the outer fjords have no ice at all, and
the exigencies of war have recently demonstrated that almost all of the major
coastal harbors as far north as 66°, including Julianehaab, Ivigtut, Frederiks–
haab, Fiskernaes, Faeringerhavn, Godthaab, and Sukkertoppen are usually avail–
able so far as ice is concerned throughout the year.
The interesting suggestion has been advanced by Charcot and Stefansson
that because the increasing cold makes the arctic ice crowding into the
Greenland Sea between [: ] Spitsbergen and Northeast Foreland less mobile,
and therefore more scattered southward, the northeast coast of Greenland,
between latitudes 75° and 80° N., might be more accessible between February
and April than at any other time. It is reasoned that at this time a ship
could thread its way through the scattered storis to the margin of the im–
mobile fast ice, and from there communicate with the shore.
By March the storis will generally have passed somewhat northward of
Arsuk. Above Julianehaab, the pack ice is deflected westward by the prominent
island of Nunarssuit and cannot resume its northwestward movement until it has
cleared the southwestern point of that island. These forced changes in the
direction of the ice-bearing current commonly create large openings in the
5

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

ice belt off Nunarssuit. As a result it is often possible for ships to make
their way through the pack off this island and gain access to the cryolite
mine of Ivigtut, while an attempt to negotiate the ice either to the north
or south of this point might be quite impossible. If direct penetration of
the pack to Arsuk Fjord is not possible in this manner it will probably be
feasible to sail northward around the northern end of the ice stream, and
subsequently follow southward again between the inner margin of the pack
and the coast. Quite commonly and especially in seasonswith light easterly
winds, the pack ice belt will not touch the coast north of Nunarssuit.
In April the main mass of heavy storis begins its advance northward
from Cape Farewell, and the average position of the northern limit of the
pack, its outer margin about 60 miles offshore, may be expect e d to reach
Fiskernaes. In especially light years the northern margin of the ice may
still be south of Julianehaab, while in severe years it has been known to
extend over one hundred miles off the coast all the way to Godthaab. By mid–
April the fast ice of the inner fjords along the southwestern coast of Green–
land will begin to break up.
Off East Greenland in April and May the ice limit reaches its maximum
position eastward, and generally extends from the northwestern tip of Spits–
bergen southwestward past Jan Mayen to a little north of Iceland, in some
years it will lie much farther east, blockade the north coast of Iceland, and
rarely even extend down the east coast of that island. In other seasons,
however, in the vicinity of 75° N., the eastern limit may hold a position as far
w est as 10° W.
The pack ice limit off southwestern Greenland generally reaches its maximum

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

extent is May, or possibly early June. On the average, May will find the
ice extending almost to Godthaab, although very light ice years have been
known when it did not reach north of Cape Desolation. The outer limit of
the pack is usually somewhat farther off the coast than in April, though
the belt itself does not generally exceed 50 miles in width. Over a period
of 110 years of observation (1820-1929) the positions of the maximum north–
ward extensions of the pack along the southwest coast were as follows:
Egedesminde, 2 years; Sukkertoppen, 6 years; Godthaab, 44 years; Fiskernaes,
28 years; Frederikshaab, 15 years; Arsuk, 8 years; south of Arsuk, or incomplete
data, 7 years. The maximum western extensions of the pack in Davis Strait
during the same period were: 59° to 58° W., 7 years; 56° to 57° W., 23 years;
55° to 54° W., 29 years; 53° to 52° W., 27 years; 51° to 50° W., 8 years;
east of 50° W., or incomplete data, 16 years.
June may be expected to witness a general decrease in the extent of
storis all along the coast, and an inverse recession in the manner of its
original advance sets in. Although the storis may be at its heaviest in the
waters off Cape Farewell in this month, having been met as much as 200 miles
offshore, the northward extension of the pack may be expected to have re–
treated to a position near Frederikshaab. This average, however, separates
such extremes as positions almost as far north as Sukkertoppen, and no
farther north than Julianehaab Bay.
Off last Greenland the ice belt will be narrower than in May and the
pack more open. The ice is characteristically much heavier north of 75°
than farther south, and while the entire east coast is generally inaccessible
in this month, mild years have been recorded when heavily built vessels could

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

have made the coast anywhere from Angmagssalik southward in mid-June. By
contrast, in some years Jan Mayen has been included within the ice belt as
late as July.
July witnesses an increasingly pronounced shrinkage of the extent of
the storis . Not only is the ice belt narrower, but its northern margin is
not likely to lie beyond Nunarssuit by the 15th and, in some years, by the
end of the month has cleared from the west coast entirely. In severe years
the storis still extends to Fiskernaes. There is also a very pronounced
wastage of the pack off last Greenland in July. The ice belt typically
dwindles to the width of 10 to 15 miles, its outer margins become scattered
and, particularly with northwest winds, a lane opens inshore south of 68° N.
As often as every third year the coast off Angmagssalik will became ice-free
by the end of the month, and it may be possible to reach Myggbukta and
Scoresby Sound before the first of August.
The view has long been held that in the so-called “North Bay” between
73° and 75° N., the pack is characteristically more scattered than elsewhere
along the East Greenland coast, and that ships approaching from the east
can reach the shore more easily here than to the southward. It has been the
practice, therefore, for ships sailing for Scoresby Sound to enter the pack
north of that destination and work their way southward. In recent years,
however, ice conditions have been such as to permit a more direct approach.
Great caution is required for ships attempting to thread their way through
this East Greenland pack since floes 20 [: ] or 30 feet in thickness are not
uncommon, and if the tortuous leads of open water are suddenly closed by un–
favorable winds, the ship may be lost. This is also true in following the

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

open water leads along the coast, since shifting winds may bring crushingly
heavy ice in against the shore in a matter of a few hours.
In August the southwest coast of Greenland way be entirely free of
ice, although the final recession from a position off Julianehaab to Cape
Farewell may take place in this month. The distance of the ice margin off
Cape Farewell seldom exceeds 30 miles. Off the east coast, everywhere
south of Scoresby Sound, the belt of ice will be narrow, and in at least
half of the years the coast from Angmagsaalik southward will be largely
ice-free. The breakup of the fast ice will probably extend as far north–
ward as Cape Bismarck, and there is likely to be open water off Scoresby
Sound, Kaiser Franz Josef Fjord, and Dove Bay, although north of Shannon
Island the fast ice does not break up every year. In extremely unfavorable
years the ice belt in August, as far south as Angmagssalik, has been so ex–
tensive that no open water could be seen from the thousand-foot hills of
the coast.
By September the southwest coast should be free of drift ice and should
continue to be so for the remainder of the year. The pack will probably
have receded to, or past, Angmagssalik by the middle of the month, and is
likely to have cleared Scoresby Sound by the end of August. September again
initiates the generally most favorable period for shipping all along the
East Greenland coast.
In considering the cycle of ice conditions just discussed, particular
attention is called to the series of charts showing the extreme limits of ice
in the North Atlantic region. The enormous year-to-year variations from the
conditions defined as “average” can not be over-emphasized. The arctic

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

navigator must expect the unexpected, and be prepared to cope with it at
all times.
Although drifting pack ice is present in varying amounts along the
Greenland side of Denmark Strait during most of the year, it is a rela–
tively more uncommon occurrence for it to approach Iceland inside the 100-
fathom curve, some 40 to 50 miles offshore, When ice does come to the coast
of Iceland it is not likely to [: ]remain long, and appears most frequently in
April and May when the East Greenland pack attains its maximum proportions.
Of the 109 years of record, 54 of them were ice-free or had ice of less than
a month’s duration. It has been noted that in the years when ice has lasted
more than a month in Icelandic waters, it has generally made its initial
appearance in January or February. The ice which may menace the coasts of
Iceland is generally brought in by winds from the west and northwest, and
appears first at North Cape. If the ice masses are large enough they are
carried along the north coast, piling up against Melrakkasletta and Langanes
where the fields often disintegrate. If sufficient ice keeps pressing in from
the west, however, it has been known to pass northward around Langanes and
follow down along the east coast. Here it may, under the influence of
easterly winds, block the fjords as far south as Gerpir. Inordinately
severe seasons have seen this ice drift to and around Eystrahorn, and as far
west along the south coast as Vestmannaeyjar.
When the ice masses around North Cape are especially large, some of the
fields say occasionally move southward along the west coast, filling the Isa
Fjord basin. Navigation is rarely impeded south of this on the west coast,
although some ice has been known to drift as far as Patreks Fjord.

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Observations indicate that Jan Mayen is generally lee-free during the
fall and winter. The pack ice rarely arrives at the island before March
or April and then does not usually remain for extended periods. The records
show that by coincidence Jan Mayan has happened to be most easily accessible
in the early spring period of a number of the very same years that found
the coasts of Iceland most heavily encumbered.
In addition to sea ice the East Greenland Current also carries a pro–
cession of icebergs southward to and around Cape Farewell from the tidewater
glaciers of the East Greenland fjords. Most of these bergs come from the
glaciers of Scoresby Sound and the fjords northward to Dove Bay. They begin
to arrive in quantity off Cape Farewell in April, and continue to be numerous
there until August when their numbers decrease quite abruptly.
They are generally held off the coast by the advancing storis , and even
though several hundreds have been sighted from a ship at one time off Cape
Farewell, they do not spread southward into the North Atlantic. Some of
these bergs do follow the storis drift as far up the southwest coast of Green–
land as Godthaab, but generally no farther than Frederikshaab. Apparently
under the influence of the East Iceland Current, a number of bergs drift into
the waters north of Iceland, and ships navigating Denmark Strait may en–
counter them at any time.
The Northeastern North American Pack
The second of the two major ice streams carrying ice from high latitudes
to the North Atlantic is the northeastern North American pack. Marshalling
its forces in northern Baffin Bay, and following the eastern littoral of the

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continent southward along the eastern shores of Baffin Island, Labrador,
and Newfoundland, this belt of drifting pock ice reaches a maximum length
of approximately two thousand miles and travels at an average velocity of
12 1/2 miles a day.
It is estimated that about 60% of the ice in this southward-flowing
pack finds its origin in the prolific ice production region of Baffin Bay
and Davis Strait. Approximately an additional 30% of the total supply con–
sists of formidable floes of Arctic Sea origin, received through the narrow
defile between Greenland and Ellesmere Island and, more indirectly, via Jones
and Lancaster sounds from the tortuous passageways of the archipelago to the
westward. The remaining 10% of the total contribution comes from the important
tributary flow of drift ice issuing from Hudson Strait to join the main stream
off Cape Chidley.
A number of intimately related basic factors combine to permit the oc–
currence and define the essential character and behavior of this great ice
stream: ( 1 ) the geographical arrangement and position of the North American
land masses surrounding the elongated shallow basin of Baffin Bay which, with
its openings at the north and the south, acts as a great funnel for the southward
movement of arctic ice; ( 2 ) the wide continental shelf off Labrador and New–
foundland which serves as a broad highway for the pack to travel; ( 3 ) the strong
southward-flowing Labrador Current, the agent of transportation; and ( 4 ) the
low water temperatures of the continental shelf from Baffin Bay to the Grand
Banks, which play a part not only in the formation of ice but provide for its
survival in the advance southward. It is the increasing warmth of summer and
the shrinking supplies of ice in that season that, together with the lateral

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disruptions of the pack off Hudson Strait, and other tributary waterways
on its western flank, sufficiently counteract these factors to prevent an
uninterrupted flow of ice southward past Newfoundland throughout the year.
The central reservoir of ice, the Baffin Bay pack, reaches its greatest
extent in March or April and dwindles to its minimum in August and September.
During its period of maximum growth in an average year it covers fully four–
fifths of the surface of Baffin Bay, an area of approximately 165,000 square
miles. Swelling from its central area in the western and middle waters of
Baffin Bay, it characteristically reaches across to the West Greenland coast
as far south as Egedesminde or Holsteinsborg. This pack is commonly referred
to as the “ West Ice ” (originally so designated as Vestis by the Danes) to dis–
tinguish it from the so-called “ East Ice ” or storis , which, as has already been
indicated, reaches the southwestern coast of Greenland from the east.
Although the extent of their occurrence varies considerably from one year
to the next, the ice cover of Baffin Bay is commonly broken by considerable
areas of open water which persist throughout the winter. The best known of
these, and the most regular in its appearance from year to year, is the “North
Water” of the northern end of Baffin Bay at the entrance to Smith Sound. Of
great interest since the days of the early whalers, the reason for the appear–
ance of this much discussed polynya has never been thoroughly explained. The two
most commonly offered suggestions are: ( 1 ) that it is formed at the point of
emergence of an upwelling source of warm water, which has proceeded to this
district in northern Baffin Bay with a low-level current from the Atlantic be–
neath the colder waters of Davis Strait; or, ( 2 ) that while the heavy ice of
Smith Sound is strong enough to hold its position, a southward-flowing current

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carries the ice away in the area just to the south, leaving an intervening
gap of open water. There is no observational data either to support or
disprove the first of these two hypotheses, and it is conceivable that the
basic explanation of the “North Water” could be neither or a combination
of both of the above listed factors.
As elsewhere in the Arctic, late September and early October will gen–
erally witness the initial stages of the new cycle of ice formation and
growth. Through the formation of new ice locally, and augmented by the
arrival of floes from Smith, Jones, and Lancaster sounds, the area of pack
in Baffin Bay may be expected to begin its expansion in October. The pack
will probably close in against the Baffin Island coast as far south as the
mouth of Cumberland Sound, although a lane of open water should still exist
between the pack and the coast of Greenland all the way north to Melville
Bay. Fast ice will begin to form in the bays and fjords of the coasts as
far south as Hopedale harbor in Labrador, and navigation along the Baffin
Island coast northward from Frobisher Bay will be closed by the end of the
month.
In November the southward-swelling Baffin Bay pack will have passed
Cumberland Sound and Frobisher Bay and, off Cape Chidley, will join the first
forerunners of the pack from Foxe Channel which are beginning to emerge from
the eastern entrance of Hudson Strait. At first as scattered floes and open
stringers, and subsequently as an increasingly powerful stream, these com–
bined packs may be expected to arrive on the northern Labrador shelf before
the end of the month. Fast ice, growing rapidly out along the isla n d-studded
shore of Labrador to meet the margin of the pack, will close navigation

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southward to Hamilton Inlet. The Strait of Belle Isle will still be open in
most years, although in particularly severe seasons it has [: ]been closed to
navigation by the end of this month.
The West Ice normally closes in on the Greenland coast south to Uper–
nivik in November, preventing access to Melville Bay. Strong fast ice
will have formed in the western fjords of Greenland as far south as Umanak,
and perhaps, also in the inner recesses of Disko Bay.
During December navigation ceases in the inside channels of the Labrador
coast. The fast ice belt now reaches out beyond the island, its outer margin
in contact with the heavy southward-streaming northeastern North American
pack, which in this month generally reaches to, or slightly beyond, the entrance
to Hamilton Inlet. Newly formed fast ice, perhaps together with a vanguard
of northern drift ice, will quite likely close the Strait of Belle Isle, and
the Gulf of St. Lawrence will be rapidly filling with river and gulf ice.
Shipping to Montreal and Quebec, and to most of the ports in the Gulf itself,
is normally suspended in this month.
Fast ice forms during December in the fjords of West Greenland as far
south as Sukkertoppen. Owing to the rough and stormy weather which normally
characterizes this month, the fast ice cover of Disko Bay may be broken up
several times, and does not finally “set” until the West Ice closes in off
the entrance to the bay in the last days of the month. In an average season
the West Ice will have frozen to the seaward margin of the fast ice southward
to Umanak, and will have moved down along the coast to Egedesminde.
During January, though perhaps not until early February, the heavy pack
ice drift will have passed the Strait of Belle Isle, where its width may be

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

one hundred miles or more, and will have arrived on the northern flanks of
the Grand Banks off southern Newfoundland. Fast ice will have formed and
navigation will be generally blocked along the eastern coast of Newfoundland
northward of St. John’s. A rather considerable amount of northern pack ice
enters the Gulf of St. Lawrence through the Strait of Belle Isle, though
just how great its proportion to the total ice mixture of the Gulf may be
is not known.
During this month, and as the flood of ice increases later in February
and March, the pack tends to separate as it meets the northern buttress of
the Grand Banks. One branch follows inshore to the southwestward past Cape
Race and may, in years of abundant ice, swing westward around the cape to
block the bays and harbors of southern Newfoundland as far as St. Pierre
and Miquelon. The harbor at St. John’s and the ports of the south coast of
Newfoundland, however, are not inaccessible to navigation for more than a
few days at a time in an average season.
The second, and by far the heavier branch of the ice stream, moves
southward along the outside eastern margin of the Grand Banks. This portion
of the flow, which carries high latitude sea ice to a more southerly position than is attained anywhere else in the Northern
Hemisphere, may in heavy ice years follow the margins of the Grand Banks
southward to the “Tail” at the 43rd parallel. Almost invariably, however,
the most southerly extensions of this ice drift become open and scattered,
and their existence will be of short duration.
Another source of drifting ice in the western North Atlantic is the
Gulf of St. Lawrence via Cabot Strait. Beginning in January, the main body
of this pack, moving out past Cape North and Scatari Island, will spread

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

southwar r d toward Sable Island, and later in the season may reach, or even
surround that position. Such extreme outliers are not generally considered
to be a menace to navigation, however. A small and generally lighter branch
of this pack may move southwest along the coast of Nova Scotia, sometimes
as far as Halifax. At rare intervals it may even approach Cape Sable.
In January the southern and western margins of the West Ice will
probably lie about 15 miles off the coast of West Greenland somewhere between
Egedesminde and Sukkertoppen, though in the severe season of 1934 it at–
tained an extreme position off Frederikshaab. In many years, in this month,
an open lane of water say exist between the coastal fast ice and the West Ice
as far north as Disko Bay.
Succeeding the culminating crescendo of ice in late March and early
April, when the West Ice may have joined the winter fast ice in maximum ex–
tension as far south along the West Greenland coast as Sukkertoppen, and
when the southern margins of the northeastern North American and Gulf of
St. Lawrence packs have reached their fullest development in the North
Atlantic waters off Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, the inevitable recession
of the annual cycle sets in. Although Davis and Hudson straits are still
completely blocked by heavy pack ice, and while the steadily flowing broad
belt of close pack off the coast of Labrador still feeds massive and dan–
gerous accumulations of ice onto the Grand Banks, the latter weeks of April may
be expected to witness evidences of retreat. The west Ice will probably have
retired from its contact with the winter ice of the West Greenland coast as
far north as Disko Bay, and perhaps even Upernivik. The fast ice in the
fjords of the coast northward to Egedesminde will have begun to break up.

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

The pack ice off Newfoundland will be receding toward the northeast corner
of the Grand Banks, but it is still an imposing spectacle and a considerable
hazard to shipping.
In an average year the middle of April will see the coming end of winter
conditions in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Associ a ted with this break-up, and
lasting for three or possibly four weeks, there is likely to be a great rush
of ice out of the Gulf through Cabot Strait. The volume of the ice and the
narrowness of the defile through which it makes its escape, frequently
cause the piling up of an impenetrable ice barrier across Cabot Strait, and
may thereby prevent ships from entering the Gulf until as late as the middle
of May. Normally, however, navigation into and through the Gulf will open
in late April, or perhaps more commonly in early May.
During May the pack ice will retreat from the northern margins of the
Grand Banks, although it will probably still lie across the entrance to the
Strait of Belle Isle, and extend down along the northeastern shores of New–
foundland. The last of the ice in the lower Gulf of St. Lawrence will finally
disappear, the actual time being dependent upon the nature of the winds and
temperatures of the particular season. The pack ice belt off the coast of
Labrador will have became noticeably narrower, and the West Ice, though per–
haps not standing far offshore, will have pulled back from the west coast
of Greenland as far north as the Vaigat. Before the end of the month the
winter ice in the outer part of Disko Bay, and the fjord entrances as far
north as Upernivik, will have begun to break up.
This diminution of the pack volume continues along the Labrador coast
in June, and the southern margin normally retreats sufficiently to permit

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

transatlantic steamers to enter the Strait of Belle Isle after the 15th of the
month. Occasional scattered float or pans of ice say still persist southward
to the northern margins of the Brand Banks. The fiords and inner passageways
of the Labrador coast generally clear of fast ice sufficiently to permit
navigation northward inside the pack to Hamilton Inlet.
During June the strong currents from the reopening waters of Hudson
Strait create a lateral pressure on the western flank of the northeastern
North American pack which tends to sever and scatter the dwindling reinforce–
ments to Labrador from the north. This is a very important factor in hasten–
ing the dissolution of the pack ice on the Labrador shelf.
June, along the West Greenland coast, brings the final break-up of fast
ice northward of Disko Bay and Upernivik, and, although the West Ice may lie
no more than 70 to 80 miles northwestward of the coast even at Egedesminde,
the sea along the old margin of contact between the shore ice and the West
Ice may be navigable all the way to Melville Bay. A commencement of the
break-up of the fast ice in Smith Sound during this month may result in the
temporary choking of the North Water.
During July the pack, which at the beginning of the month may still have
its scattered southern margin across the eastern entrance of Hudson Strait,
will probably have cleared that position by the middle, or certainly the end
of the month. In most years the entire Labrador coast will become navigable,
although the last scattered fragments of the pack, and the final vestiges
of the fast ice may still encumber the north coast. Occasionally unfavorable
seasons have been known, however, when shipping along the entire Labrador
coast has been hampered throughout the summer.

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

To the northward in Davis Strait and Baffin Bay, July conditions are ex–
tremely variable from year to year, but on the average the West Ice may be
expected to retreat to a position some 70 to 80 miles off the West Greenland
coast, and it should be possible to navigate without difficulty along the
eastern side of Baffin Bay northward to Smith Sound; possibly even to the
eastern entrance to Lancaster Sound, From this month forward to October,
the West Greenland coast should be free of sea ice northward to the inner
recesses of Melville Bay. The fast ice along the west coast of Baffin Island,
from Frobisher Bay and Cumberland Sound on the south, to Pond Inlet on the
north, also begins to break up during July, although the trading posts at such
places as Ward Inlet, Pangnirtung, Clyde Inlet, and Pond Inlet are generally
not available to ships until August because of the dwindling, but still powerful
Baffin Bay pack lying against the coast.
In Au g ust and September the last vestiges of sea ice should have practically
disappeared from the waters south of Cape Mercy on Baffin Island, and from the
frist weeks of August to the days in late September when the fast ice once
again begins to form, the waters of Baffin Bay and Davis Strait become more
nearly ice-free than at any other time. Heavy ice may persist in the center
of Baffin Bay, and however small the area of residual pack may be, and however
open its outer margins, its central core is characteristically made up of heavy
ice of Arctic Sea origin, and it should be scrupulously avoided by navigators.
The coastal waters of Greenland on the east, and those of Baffin Island on
the west should be navigable in all but the most unfavorable seasons. Unfavor–
able winds may at any time carry the pack ice of the middle of the bay in against
the Baffin Island shore, making the trading posts of this coast at least

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

temporarily inaccessible, and fast ice is likely to persist along the northern
shores of Melville Bay, even though the bay itself is navigable. Koch
estimates that some of the Melville Bay fjords east of Cape York have fast
ice which dies not break up oftener than five or six times in a century.
Craig Harbour, on Jones Sound, is generally accessible from the middle
of August to the middle of September, and if the heavy ice to the northward
in upper Smith Sound, Kane Basin, Kennedy Channel, Ball Basin, and Robeson
Channel is to break up at all, it will be in this period. The great ice jams
in the southern approaches to Kane Basin and in the above listed waterways
northward of Cape Sabine, however, present the greatest danger for even the
most powerful ships. Although vessels have successfully navigated northward
to a position at 82° N., in Robeson Channel, there are years when the waters
north of Cape Sabine do not open at all. It is to the vagaries of the
northern ice in this hazardous region that the tragic fate of such expedi–
tions as that of Greely bear so eloquent testimony.
One very important element in the total picture of ice in the north–
eastern North American region which has not yet been mentioned, and one which
is intimately related to the previously discussed behavior of sea ice, is
the enormous van of icebergs produced in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait to be
distributed southward to the sea lanes of the North Atlantic. Nowhere else
in the world are icebergs produced in so great a number, nor is their ultimate
destination so is important to navigation, and while the complex matters related
to their formation and distribution can not be dealt with adequately in this
discussion, they can hardly be omitted from mention.
Of the some 150 to 175 sizeable glaciers which reach tidewater along the

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

western coast of Greenland, perhaps 15% produce icebergs capable of
reaching the north Atlantic. It is estimated that the annual production
of large bergs in this region is about 7,500, of which approximately 72%
are calved from the glacier fronts of Disko and Northeast (Nordost) bays,
20% from the Melville Bay sector between Svarten Huk and Cape York, 4%
from the coast between cape York and Cape Alexander, 2% from the Humboldt
Glacier of Kane Basin, and an additional 2% from the North American side
on Ellesmere Island.
When they are released from the bays in which they were produced by
the break-up of the fast ice in June or July, or even later, they begin
on the circuitous route which may carry them ultimately to the North At–
lantic. Because of their enormous size, and the depth of water which
they draw, the movement of these bergs is primarily governed by currents.
Wind seems to have little effect upon them, at least until that time when
they have, through melting and disintegration, been reduced to extremely
shallow draft. At the time of their emergence from the West Greenland
fjords, they are caught up in the cyclonic circulation of the waters of
Baffin Bay and proceed northward up the coast. On this .journey they may
move as far as 78° N. in Smith Sound before coming under the influence
of the southward-moving waters of the American coast.
Along the pathway which the bergs follow are innumerable traps which
they must elude if they are to make the complete trip southward, such as
shallow waters, projecting points, and tributary waterways. Many are car–
ried by the indraft of water through the eastern entrance of Hudson Strait
and along its northern shore. A considerable number of these return to

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

the Labrador shelf along the southern margin of the strait after their
extended detour. Significant numbers are deflected through the strait
of Belle Isle into the northern Gulf of St. Lawrence, where they disinte–
grate. The major stream, under the influence of the Labrador Current, like
the pack ice, passes down along the Newfoundland coast to reach the Grand
Banks. Here on the northern flank of the wide sub et te rranean continental
margin, three major tracks of distribution may be distinguished. One of
these berg streams, like a similar branch of the pack ice, follows the
Newfoundland coast to, and possibly around, Cape Race. The bergs drift–
ing on this course do not seem to move farther west than Placentia Bay,
and large accumulations of disintegrating, grounded bergs may be found
in the Cape Race region every season.
A second group of hundreds of bergs goes aground on the northern
margin of the central Grand Banks. There they begin to disintegrate. As
the draft of these bergs grows shallower, they may be carried still farther
into the shoal waters to disappear entirely, or when ungrounded they may
rejoin the major stream eastward and southward.
The largest of the three outstanding berg tracks, and the one which
provides the greatest menace to shipping, is the one which continues south–
ward around the outside eastern margin of the Grand Banks. The axis of
this stream tends to follow westward around the “Tail” at the southern
end of the Grand Banks, although there are many variant tracks in dif–
ferent months and different seasons.
While occasional bergs may be met off southern Newfoundland in any
month of the year, they reach a very definite maximum number between

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

mid-March and mid-July, and a decided minimum from mid-October to mid-February.
Over the 41-year period, from 1900 to 1941, the average annual number of bergs
sighted south of the 48th parallel in the Grand Banks region was 428. In
extreme years this has varied [: ] from 0 to well in excess of 1,300 bergs, Ice–
bergs of all sizes, shapes, and descriptions have been seen throughout the
more than 2,000-mile pathway which they follow from West Greenland to the
Grand Banks. With reference to their varied appearance, Sverdrup has com–
mented: “There is nothing between heaven and earth that has not taken on from
in the mighty fantasy of cold.”
Hudson Bay and Strait
The ice found in the narrow waters of Hudson Strait for 8 or 9 months
each year is derived from four major sources. The stoat important of these
is the previously discussed northeastern North American pack, which, flowing
southward off the eastern entrance to the strait, contributes a formidable
array of heavy floes and bergs. The current movements branching off from
the main Labrador stream carry tremendous quantities of ice through Gabriel
Strait, as well as southward around Resolution Island, to move westward along
the northern shores of Hudson Strait. With the aid of easterly winds the
ice will be carried westward as far as Big Island before being caught up in
the easterly flowing waters along the south coast of the strait to be car–
ried out past Cape Chidley and a rejoining of the main pack on the Labrador
shelf. The icebergs, which take this westerly detour from the main Baffin
Bay-Labrador route, are most plentiful between Resolution and Big Island,
though they are set anywhere between Resolution and Charles islands, and may

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

occasionally even make their way westward as far as Nottingham Island, before
starting their return journey along the southern side of the strait.
“Foreign ice” gains admittance to Hudson Strait from the western end as
well as the eastern. The second important source of the heavy floe ice in
the strait is received from Foxe Basin via Foxe Channel. Much of this ice
is formed locally in Foxe Basin, an area of prolific ice production, but
very heavy reinforcements of old arctic ice are also received from the con–
gested masses of the Gulf of Boothia via Fury and Hecla Strait. This admix–
ture of ice poured into the western end of Hudson strait through Foxe Channel
will in large part have thicknesses varying from 7 to 19 feet, with occasional
floes ranging up to 30 feet. Flowing in a southeasterly direction between
Southampton Island and Foxe Peninsula, this ice drifts toward Nottingham
Island and Cape Wolstenholme and proceeds eastward on the southern side of
the strait. At times it effectively closes Evans Strait and the western end
of Hudson Strait between Digges and Nottingham islands, but it seldom, if ever,
enters Hudson Bay proper. It is probable that the contributions of ice from
this sector are received largely during the spring, summer, and autumn periods.
Owing to heavy freezing in this almost completely enclosed catchment area, it
is assumed that the ice of Foxe Basin is rather generally held fast from Decem–
ber, or at least January, to May.
A third important source of ice in Hudson Strait is the fast ice formed
locally each winter. Increasingly broad belts are formed on both the northern
and southern shores of the strait as winter progresses. The central portion
of the strait, serving as it does as a gigantic sluiceway for the pack ice
entering from both east and west, does not freeze over. Broad Ungava Bay like–
wise is not covered by a solid sheet of fast ice.

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

The fourth and final source of ice in Hudson Strait is Hudson Bay,
where large quantities of ice are manufactured every winter. The volume
received from this quarter, however, is believed to be cooperatively small
since apparently most of the ice formed in Hudson Bay disintegrates there.
Unlike Hudson Strait, the ice of Hudson Bay is almost entirely winter
ice formed locally. Beginning in the fall of each year, fast ice forms in
the inlets and along the coasts, and in succeeding months builds a fringing
shelf outward into the bay. At the time of its maximum development this
belt of coastal ice extends off the shallow eastern shores for 60 or 70
miles to include the islands, and a distance of 1 to 7 miles elsewhere. Until
[: ] quite recently it has been believed that the entire central portion of the
bay did not freeze, and that save for the drifting floes broken away from
the coastal fast ice, it was generally ice-free. Aerial reconnaissance in
recent years, however, has indicated that vast fields of ice do form, in some
years at least, over the central sector, although in such instances there is
commonly open water between these masses and the shore ice.
The Hudson Bay fast ice normally attains thicknesses of [: ]from 3 to 5 feet.
Periodic storms, however, break the shore ice up along its outer margins, and
heavy winds may pile sheets on top of one another, resulting in rafted ice
thicknesses of several tens of feet.
Although navigation is generally possible throughout almost the entire
Hudson Bay and Strait region in October, this month usually witnesses the
beginning of the ice season. In Roe’s Welcome Sound, Repulse Bay, and Wager
Bay to the northwest, winter ice begins to form early in October, and naviga–
tion will probably be closed by the middle, or certainly the end of the month.

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

Elsewhere, in Hudson Bay northward from Churchill on the west and port Har–
rison on the east, and in Hudson Strait, fast ice begins to form in the
latter part of this month.
In November, at almost any time after the first of the month, the Baffin
Bay pack may be expected to envelop the eastern entrance to Hudson Strait.
In some years its arrival off and entry into the strait may be delayed by
southerly or westerly winds, but it normally appears early in the month.
The Foxe Channel pack may also be entering the western entrance of the strait
during the first week in November, and be arriving via the south coast at
the eastern entrance two weeks later. Fast ice generally seals up the ports
of both the northern and southern sides of the strait by the middle of this
month, and local navigation is commonly regarded as being undependable, if
not impossible.
From Chesterfield Inlet in the northwest, the southern shores of South–
ampton Island in the north, and Mansel Island and Cape Smith in the northeast,
where the fast ice begins to set in heavily at the beginning of November, to
James Bay on the south, where its formation is delayed until the end of the
month, true winter conditions have usually brought the coastal navigation
season to an end everywhere by the first of December. Although, in mild
seasons, heavy fast ice has not formed in some of the Hudson Bay ports until
as late as Christmas, as much as three feet of solid young ice is to be ex–
pected in and around the harbor at Churchill in this month.
Throughout the succeeding months, until reaching maximum development in
late March or early April, the ice throughout the region increases both in area
and in thickness. In James Bay, where the waters are shallower and fresher

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

than elsewhere, the fast ice becomes especially thick and reaches out from
the shore to cover at least 50% of the bay. By the middle of February the
winter ice surrounding the Belcher Islands is joined to the fast ice belt
extending out from the eastern shore, a condition which normally persists
until the middle of April. The crowding shore ice and floes of Hudson Strait
reduce the open water of this seaway to only 15% of its total area, a condi–
tion of extreme congestion which may be expected to last from February to May.
Sometimes in late April, but more commonly in May, the rivers of southern
Hudson Bay will begin to open, and throughout May and early June the ice gen–
erally begins to disintegrate. Characteristically, open water will appear
early along the tidal margins of the coast, separating the fast ice belt
from the shore line.
By the first of June the fast ice of James Bay has usually broken up
sufficiently to permit coastal shipping by the first of the month. Northward
to the Belcher Islands, and to Fort Severn, fort Nelson, and Churchill along
the southwestern coast, the disintegration of the winter ice should be well
advanced by the middle or end of the month. Although, if as a result of a
stormy winter there has been considerable rafting of ice, its ultimate disap–
pearance may be delayed until July. Sever winters have been known when the
ice around the Belcher Islands has persisted until as late as August.
During the first half of July, in most seasons, the last of the winter
fast ice, both in Hudson Bay and Strait, is likely to break up and only oc–
casional drifting patches still survive. To the northwest in Roe’s Welcome
Sound, Wager Bay, and Repulse Bay, the ice is likely to persist until August.
In many years July may find Hudson Strait still encumbered with drifting ice.

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

A great deal depends on the winds of the particular season. With westerly
winds to aid in the disgorging of its floes into the North Atlantic, the
strait will clear earlier than if easterly winds prevail. In some unfavor–
able seasons the Baffin Bay pack may continue to enter the strait throughout
July, and, though in diminishing amounts, even during August, September, and
October. It is generally conceded, however, that in average years mid-July
should bring 90% open water and an unquestionably navigable Hudson Strait.
There has probably never been a sore hotly debated question concerning
the navigability of ice-infested waters than that posed by the Hudson Bay route.
The railhead at Churchill brings the agricultural produce of the Canadian
Prairie Provinces many hundreds of miles closer to Liverpool than the conven–
tional transcontinental shipping route via Montreal, and greatly reduces
transshipment problems and expensive overland freighting. The usefulness of
the route obviously turns upon the problem of the navigability of this inner
continental deep-sea waterway.
In the final analysis, since extensive observations in early summer and
late fall have not been made, and since experimental efforts with powerful
icebreakers in this region have not been undertak e n, the arguers of both sides
of the proposition have been reduced to what amounts to little more than per–
sonal opinion. The general consensus seems to be that in substantially every
season the navigation of this route is practical during the three months of
August, September, and October, and that in most years the last two weeks in
July, and the first two of November, can be added to the total of a four-month
navigation season. Conservative insurance companies will cover ships entering
the strait past Cape Chidley from August 5 to leaving Churchill October 15.

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

It seems clear that in many years it would be possible to reach
Churchill as early as June and to leave Hudson Strait as late as the end
of November, and there are s e veral individuals familiar with these waters
who feel that it would be possible to extend the navigation season to
include May and December. Indeed there are competent mariners, such as
Bernier, Smellie, and others, who have contended that, if serious attempts
to examine the essential validity of the matter were made, it could be
demonstrated that Hudson Bay and Strait are navigable throughout the year.
Bajkov, who has painstakingly collected all of the broad diversity
of opinion on this subject, and who believes that at least “the period of
navigation from Churchill to England could be lengthened probably until
after Christmas,” makes the following interesting observation at the conclu–
sion of his valuable survey: “Even if they (Hudson Bay and Str ia ai t) are open,
there still remains the problem of finding a winter harbour suitable for
merchant ships. The only port of any commercial importance in the Bay is
Churchill. Its harbour is icebound from December to May, and at the end
of the winter the thickness of the ice may be in places up to seven feet.
This additional thickness is due to tidal water flowing over the ice.
“The local ice conditions in Churchill harbour, in fact, decide the
closing date for navigation by the Bay route. Open water during the second
part of the winter extends to within three to one half miles from the shore —
three small miles that may render the remaining 2,933 to Liverpool imprac–
ticable for the winter months.” 6
6

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

The Northwest Passages
The maze of interconnecting waterways which separate the innumerable
islands of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago are, for ten or more months of
the year, choked by ice with two major sources of origin. The passageways
between the islands along the northwestern front of the archipelago, from
northern Ellesmere Island in the northeast to Mackenzie Bay in the southwest,
permit the steady infiltration of heavy Arctic Sea ice both into and through
this region. In addition to these tremendous receipts of ice from outside
the region, is the vast quantity of fast ice which forms locally during the
extended high latitude winter.
By the middle of September, and in some seasons even earlier, fast
ice begins to set along the shores, and by the end of October the young ice
is usally sufficiently heavy to support coastwise sled communication through–
out the region. In succeeding months the winter ice grows out into the
straits and sounds, and if the separated islands are comparatively close
together they will be joined by an unbroken bridge of ice. Some of the
larger straits will not freeze over entirely, but their central portions
are effectively closed by crowding heavy ice from the Arctic Sea. From time
to time these floes will freeze together to provide a stationary connection
from shore to shore across even the broadest gulfs and straits.
Ice thicknesses will increase until May, and possibly eves June.
Normally by at least the end of June the early signs of break-up begin to
appear along the margin of the continental mainland, probably first in
Mackenzie Bay off the distributary mouths of the Mackenzie River. Indeed

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

in some seasons the break-up of the Mackenzie at the head of the delta
occurs by the first of June or even in the closing weeks of May. It is
generally not until July, however, that the fast ice really begins to
loosen its hold on the waters of the southern part of the region. The
processes of disintegration a r e first most pronounced in Mackenzie Bay and
Coronation and Queen Mud gulfs in the extreme south, and in Pond, Navy
Board, and Admiralty inlets, and Lancaster Sound in the east.
In the latter part of July or in early August the region generally
becomes accessible to ships from outside, 7 and while ice never completely
disappears from these inland waterways, the most open period may be ex–
pected between mid-August and mid-September. As so many explorers, traders,
and adventurers have learned by such bitter experience, however, the
observed behavior of the ice in these straits and sounds in one year can
be counted upon to guarantee nothing for the next. The months of August
and September are to be regarded as a potential and not a dependably demon–
strated navigation season even south of 76°, and north of that latitude,
or at any time prior to the last week in July or subsequent to the last
week in September, navigation, if not impossible, is to be counted as pre–
carious in the extreme, The successful movement of ships in these waters
is always in large measure dependent upon skilled and experienced navigation
techniques, but to no lesser extent upon the good fortunes associated with
a favorable season.
7

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

Groping their way northward along the eastern margin of the North American
continent in search of a Northwest Passage, the early explorers were ulti–
mately compelled to center their search in the tortuous waterways of this region.
The essential fact was soon discovered, that access to the region was practical
by one major route from each direction, Lancaster Sound on the east, and the
waters of the continental margin of Alaska and Mackenzie Bay on the west.
Between Lancaster Sound and Mackenzie Bay lie a variety of theoretical or ac–
complished routes of Northwest Passage around the American continent.
The first discovered, and, with minor variations, still the seemingly
most practical navigation route through this region, is that which, beginning
in Lancaster Sound in the east, follows westward into Barrow Strait, and then
southward through Peel Sound, Franklin, Sir James Ross, and Rae straits to
the southeastern corner of King William Island, and then westward again through
Simpson Strait, Queen Maud Gulf, Dease Strait, Coronation Gulf, Dolphin and
Union Strait, Amundsen Gulf, Mackenzie Bay, and the Alaskan coastal waters
westward from Herschel Island. It is this route which Sir John Franklin so
nearly accomplished during the 1840’s. Having sailed through Lancaster Sound
and Barrow Strait, and taking Peel Sound to the southward into Franklin Strait,
this expedition made the fatal error of attempting to gain admittance to the
open waters of Queen Maud Gulf through Victoria Strait, rather than by the
then unknown waterways to the east and south of King William Island.
As such men as Rae and Collinson in the early 1850’s, and M’Clintock
later in the same decade, were qu i ck to recognize, Victoria Strait could never
be considered to be a link in any Northwest Passage route, since the heavy ice
of Arctic Sea origin which enters the archipelago through M’Clure Strait and

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

Viscount Melville Sound streams down M’Clintock Channel, and pressing against
King William Island, piles up in Victoria Strait. The narrow island-studded
exist from Victoria Strait on the south serves not only to protect Queen Maud
Gulf from the continual invasion of this powerful northern ice, but prevents
Victoria Strait from ever clearing. As M’Clintock wrote in his [: ] journal with
reference to the fate of Franklin whose ships were crushed in the powerful
ice of this strait: “How different the results might , and probably would ,
have been had he known of the e x istence of a ship-channel, sheltered by King
William Island, from this tremendous polar pack!”
Over 50 years later, in 1903, profiting by this hard-won knowledge,
Amundsen began the first successful negotiation of the Northwest Passage by
a single vessel. In his 47-ton ship, the Gjoa , this Norwegian explorer enter–
ing Franklin Strait via Peel Sound from the north, rounded King William Island
to the east and south, and after two winters at Gjoa Haven (Peterson Bay), on
the southeastern corner of that island, succeeded in following the northern
continental margin westward to emerge in Bering Strait in 1906.
The first commercial use of the eastern portion of this passage was made
in 1928 when the Hudson’s Bay Company schooner, Fort James , brought supplies
via Lancaster and Peel sounds to the trading post at Gjoa Haven. The western
portion of the route, between the Mackenzie Delta and Queen Maud Gulf, has
been more extensively used than any other waterway in the region, especially
by the trading schooners of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The major base for
these late summer operations is Port Brabant (Tuktuk), which serves as the
main transshipment point between the Mackenzie River and the trading posts
farther east. Aside from the ice conditions which restrict the use of the

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entire Lancaster Sound--Franklin Strait--Queen Maud Gulf route to no more
than six to eight weeks of the year, the major dr a wback of this passageway is
the fact that, especially in the eastern Queen Maud Gulf-Simpson Strait sector,
the waters are so shallow that only very small ships can be used.
One major variation to the northwest Passage just discussed has been to
turn southward from Lancaster Sound into Prince Regent Inlet, and to gain
access to Franklin and Sir James Ross straits via Bellot Strait. Both Parry
and Ross failed in their attempts to find this route via Prince Regent Inlet
in the 1820’s, and M’Clintock was unsuc c essful in using Bellot Strait because
of a narrow but persistent band of ice off its western entrance. The first
commercial importance of this variant route came in 1937 when the Hudson’s
Bay Company icebreaker, Nascopie Nascopie , opened the trading post of Fort Ross at
the eastern entrance of Bellot Strait, and here met and exchanged freight with
the small Hudson’s Bay Company schooner Aklavik which had proceeded to this
point from Mackenzie Bay around King William Island. Thus Fort Ross became
a meeting point for the local trade of the eastern and western Arctic.
The Bellot Strait route was also taken by the Royal Canadian Mounted
Police Schooner, St. Roch , on her historic trip of 1940-42 when she became
the first ship to negotiate the entire Northwest Passage from west to east.
As a pertinent example of the uncertainties of the ice along this route, it
is interesting to point out that although the St. Roch managed under difficulty
to escape through Prince Regent Inlet in the early days of September, 1942, the
Nascopie , coming from Lancaster Sound was unable to make her annual visit to
Fort Ross a few days later.

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A second variant to this major route wh i ch has been followed in recent
years by the Hudson’s Bay Company and Royal Canadian Mounted Police ships,
has been to use the waterway inside Bylot Island (Pond Inlet, Eclipse Sound,
and navy Board Inlet), rather than the direct eastern entrance of Lancaster
Sound. This alternate passage has had the advantage of permitting communica–
tion with the trading post at Pond Inlet.
The second major route of possible Northwest Passage which has long
been the subject to exploration and speculation, is the more direct line of
travel down Lancaster Sound and Barrow Strait, into Viscount Melville Sound
and beyond. The possibilities of this route were first explored as early
as 1819 by Edward Parry, who, wintering on the south shore of Melville Island,
became the first navigator in the Northern Hemisphere to cross the 110th
meridian. On this trip Parry was the first to make contact with the formid–
able floes of Arctic Sea ice which enter M’Clure Strait and appear in such
massive volume in Viscount Melville Sound and M’Clintock Channel. These heavy
floes blocked his fu r ther progress westward in the next season, and the failure
of his expedition on this route was followed by a century or more of doubt as
to its feasibility.
It was not until 1944 when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Schooner,
St. Roch , finally broke through the ice of Viscount Melville Sound, that a
Northwest Passage northward of Victoria Island was accomplished. Entering
the archipelago from the east via Lancaster Sound and Barrow Strait, the
St. Roch followed the northern margin of Viscount Melville Sound to western
Melville Island, and then turning south maneuvered the heavy pack to enter

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and pass through Prince of Wales Strait, 8 and proceed through Amundsen Gulf,
Mackenzie Bay, and the coastal waters of Alaska. Making this trip in 86 days,
the sturdy St. Roch became the first ship in more than t h ree and a half cen–
turies of effort to navigate a northwest Passage in a single season.
8

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Exciting though this accomplishment was, one must not forget the cau–
tionary statement of Captain Larsen upon his arrival in Vancouver, a statement
which applies not only to the route which he had just negotiated, but to any
other in this region: “We were lucky . . . . No one can predict ice or naviga–
tion conditions in the Arctic. What we accomplished this year might be re–
peated the next, or it might be many years. Much would depend upon the type
of vessel used, and the ice conditions of that particular year. Our voyage
showed that the Northwest Passage can be traversed in a single year, but does
not prove that this could be accomplished every year.” 9
An especially pertinent observation of Captain Larsen has to do with his
conviction that on the average the most difficult and dangerous port o ion of
any Northwest Passage route is that segment along the Alaskan coast line
between Herschel Island and Point Barrow. This is particularly significant
with regard to speculation about future possibilities of navigation in the
North American North, inasmuch as this admittedly dangerous link in the chain
has actually been successfully negotiated oftener than any other seaway between
Point Barrow and Lancaster Sound.
A much discussed possible variant from the route followed by the St. Roch
on her 1944 voyage, is the one to the westward through M’Clure Strait and
along the western shore of Banks Island to Mackenzie Bay. The two outstanding
hazards of such a route are the heavy ice so characteristically found in
M’Clure Strait, and the ever-present threat of the arctic pack and drift ice,
which even in the most favorable seasons, lies close to the Banks Island shore,
9

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and may with unfavorable winds come in against this coast with crushing force
at any time.
During the search for Sir John Franklin, M’Clure approaching from Mackenzie
Bay to the west, succeeded in rounding the western side of Banks Island before
being locked against the coast at Mercy Bay on the strait which now hears his
name, a position from which he was unable to extricate his ship. This voyage
lent credence to the belief of Bernier, who on the basis of his trip westward
into M’Clure Strait in 1908 concluded that this was the most logical passage
with which the eastern Arctic might communicate with Mackenzie Bay. Because
he did not have orders to proceed westward of M’Clure Strait, Bernier did not
attempt to navigate a Northwest Passage along this route, but he claimed that
if such had been the purpose of his voyage it would have been possible to do
so in the fall of that year.
This deep-sea route would have obvious advantages over the shallow and
circuitous passageways of the continental margin, but it is only fair to point
out that on attempting such a route two years later, Bernier found the Arctic
Sea entrance to M’Clure Strait barred by impenetrable ice. Furthermore,
Stefansson’s ships the North Star and Polar Bear attempted to round the shores
of western Banks Island from the south in August and September of 1915, after
the manner of M’Clure. The North Star was unable to get northward of a position
20 miles north of Norway Island in August and the Polar Bear was halted con–
siderably farther to the south by solid pack at Cape Kellett in early September.
The possibility should probably be conceded that in occasional seasons, at
least, this route could be followed, and that perhaps with powerful icebreaker
assistance, it could be navigated in many seasons, but the fact that [: ] has
never yet been accomplished leaves the matter one of speculation.

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There is one additional waterway, long discussed as a potential link
in a Northwest Passage, which has not yet been mentioned. That is the narrow
defile of Fury and Hecla Strait which connects Foxe Basin and the Gulf of
Boothia. Both the Gulf of Boothia and Foxe Basin are catchment areas for
heavy arctic ice, and navigation in them is known to be uncertain and
hazardous. Many navigators, from the indefatigible Parry, in 1821, to
Captain Robert A. Bartlett over one hundred years later, have followed the
comparatively open waters of western Foxe Basin in late August and early Septem–
ber northward to the eastern entrance of Fury and Hecla Strait, but none has
succeeded in passing through this narrow waterway to the Gulf of Boothia.
Captain Bernier failed in his attempt from the north via Prince Regent Inlet,
and though the statement still persists in much of the literature that Fury
and Hecla Strait may be a practical route of entry to, or exit from, the
archipelago region, it has yet to serve this function.
It seems fair to remark, in conclusion that the Northwest Passages around
North America will not soon attain the stature of a commercial shipping route
comparable to that being developed by the Russians in the arctic seas off
Siberia. In the North American area the present resources for trade are too
limited, and the risks and undependability too great. The new age of air
transportation makes this seem doubly certain.
The Arctic Seas of Alaska
The Alaskan waters to the north and east of Bering Strait are dominated
throughout most of the year by the movements of the never distant and always
powerful polar pack and the marginally flanking heavy drift ice of the Arctic Sea.

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Of considerable importance, though overshadowed in significance by the arctic
pack and drift ice, is the heavy fast ice which for 10 or more months of the
year covers the bays and fringes the shores of northern Alaska.
The Bering Sea, included as it is between two massive land areas with
severe continental climates, is filled each year by a tremendous volue of
ice of primarily local formation. Very little of the Arctic Sea ice formed
in the polar basin finds its way south of the Arctic Circle, and only oc–
casionally do small floes pass through Bering Strait to mix with the pack
of the Bering Sea. The seaward margins of the belts of fast ice which build
out from the coasts surrounding the Bering Sea, are continually broken off
by the tempestuous winds of this region to join the vast quantities of ice
growing in the open waters of the sea itself, in the formation of a formidable
southward-swelling area of pack.
At no time is Bering Sea covered by one solid sheet of ice, and save for
the inner coastal margins, is characterized by a drifting mass of detached
fields, floes, and cakes which are constantly breaking up, piling and tel–
escoping in response to the variable forces of wind and current. As this
Bering Sea pack is forming in the early winter the shifting fields are more
open and scattered than in the late winter and spring when the congestion
reaches its maximum intensity. The ice is commonly differentiated into two
types: ( 1 ) the heavily rafted masses created by the gales of fall and early
winter; and ( 2 ) the more level and less hummocked ice formed during the late
winter and early spring in the interstices of open water provided by the
piling up of the older ice.

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The most ice-free period in Alaska waters generally occurs during
late August and e a rly September. At this time, Bering Sea and Strait should
be clear, and the coast will be free of fast ice northward to Point Barrow,
and mostly so eastward to Herschel Island. The heavy ice of the Arctic Sea,
which has retreated to its most northerly position of the year, will never
be far off the coast between Point Barrow and Herschel Island, and may
come grinding in upon the projecting points of this shore line at any time.
Westward of Point Barrow the pack seldom lies more than a few miles offshore
southeastward to Ice Cape, where its margin characteristically lies against
Blossom Shoals, 6 to 8 miles from the coast. Beyond this point the southern
margin of the pack will generally follow in a west-southwesterly direction
to a longitudinal position somewhere between 165° and 168° W., there to
bend northwestward to a position north of Herald Island. It will then prob–
ably trend southwest, east of Wrangel Island, to about latitude 70° N., where
it turns gradually southeastward to approach the Siberian coast somewhere
between Cape Schmidt (North Cape) and Cape Dezhnev.
In most seasons it should be possible for ships to reach the vicinity
of Point Barrow sometime during the latter half of July, and fr o m this time
until the early days of September, essentially not much more than the month
of August, occurs the brief and ca rp pr icious navigation season along the
Alaskan coastal waters eastward to Mackenzie Bay. Ships have on occasion
managed to pass Point Barrow eastward bound as early as late June, but surely
such rare attainments should not be translated into expectations of gen–
erally probable future accomplishment. The heavy drifting ice of the arctic
basin, in its generally clockwise swirl, tends to revolve in against the

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

exposed northeastern Alaskan shore line, and the existence of an open
coastal waterway in this sector, even in the optimum weeks, is strongly
dependent upon favorable winds. Moderate winds from easterly or southerly
directions hold the pack off the coast, while northerly and westerly winds
will bring the powerful floes hard up against the shore, effectively seal–
ing any navigable waterway.
Ships unprepared to encounter ice should not venture eastward around
Point Barrow, for even when the main body of the Arctic Sea ice has receded
from the coast, there are drifting marginal floes and bands of fast ice in
the inshore waters. It is also inadvisable for any ship to attempt this
passes if she is not equipped to spend at least one winter in the Arctic.
Many ships have been imprisoned or crushed when suddenly shifting winds have
brought the never distant ice margin in against the coast. Small vessels
have the advantage of being able to escape destruction in the shallow in–
shore waters as the powerful polar ice grounds itself on the outer shoals.
The Russians have demonstrated that strong icebreakers cannot penetrate the
polar basin ice, and even the large ship caught in its grip is certain to
be detained, if not lost.
After the first week in September the winds along the northern coast
of Alaska blow with increasing frequency from northerly sectors, and in
direct response the heavy Arctic Sea ice closes in eastward of Point Barrow,
By mid-September young ice begins to appear along the margins of the drift–
ing ice westward of Point Barrow to Icy Cape, and a week later will be
forming rapidly along the shore and in such open water as may exist between
the coast and the pack. It is generally conceded that ships from Mackenzie

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

Bay should be west of Point Barrow by the 10th of September, and it would
be the exceptionally favorable season when a vessel could remain with safety
in the Point Barrow area itself until the middle of this month or later.
The current flowing northward from Bering Strait normally keeps the
Alaskan coast ice-free, at least as far north as Cape Lisburne, throughout
September, but the southern margin of the mobile arctic ice in the Chukchi
Sea, unpredictably affected by winds, may be expected to begin growing south–
ward before the end of the month. Young ice will appear in the vicinity of
Herald Shoal and along the margins of the central pack and drift ice itself.
And before the first of October the drift ice, which earlier has held the
Siberian shore, may begin to slip around Cape Dezhnev into the western side
of Bering Strait.
Ice formation proceeds rapidly in early October, and ships are generally
cautioned that it is unsafe to remain north of Bering Strait after the 10th.
Prevailing northeast and north winds shatter the southern margin of the central
pack and drift ice mass and pile large accumulations of floes against the
Siberian shore, and ships navigating this region are normally compelled to
keep to the Cape Lisburne-Point Hope side of the southern Chukchi Sea in
reaching Bering Strait.
Between Point Barrow and Icy Cape the drift ice will recede from the
coast at brief intervals, and the young ice which forms quickly in the inter–
vening water is piled up in heavy masses along the shore by its return. South–
ward from Icy Cape, fast ice fringes the coast line in a heavy band and closes
Kotzebue Sound and Bering Strait during middle and late October. Navigation
is considered dangerous in Norton Sound by the third week is October, and while

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heavily built vessels may reach the roadstead at Nome as late as early
November, St. Michael Bay is generally inaccessible by October 15. Naviga–
tion on the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers closes in this month.
During November fast ice increases southward to close the ports of
inner Kuskokwim and Bristol bays, and the congregating floes of the Bering
Sea pack will have closed southward around St. Lawrence Island and the
offing of Norton Sound by the end of the month. December is characterized
by an enormously increasing accumulation of drifting floes which, by the
last week of this month or early in January, swell southward to attain a
position of maximum extent from which they do not retreat until the latter
part of April. The irregular southern limit of the Bering Sea pack around
the turn of the year lies at about the latitude of 56°. Its margin, marked
by indentations, projecting tongues, and outlying floes and stringers, char–
acteristically extends from southern Bristol Bay to a position about 35
miles south of the Pribilof Islands, and thence northwestward to the vicinity
of Cape Olyutorski on the Siberian coast.
The truly massive heavy central core of the Bering Sea pack does not
reach much farther south than St. Matthew Island, and navigation by heavily
built vessels is probably possible northward to 60° throughout the winter.
The as yet unsubstantiated claim is made by some experienced observers that
it would be possible for powerful icebreakers to force their way northward to
points off Nome and St. Michael, and to unload supplies across the shore ice
even in the heaviest months. The most powerful ice of the Bering Sea is found
in the Gulf of Anadyr, the offing of Cape Navain, and to the north of St.
Lawrence Island.

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

Southward of St. Matthew Island the pack characteristically becomes
increasingly scattered and bro ek ke n. In some particularly light ice years
the pack may not reach the Pribilof Islands at all, and seldom, even in
severe winters, will it be tightly massed around them. Under the Influence
of persistent northerly winds, detached floes may in some seasons make a
brief appearance as far southward as Isanotski Strait, the northern offing
of Unimak Pass and Akutan Pass and Unalaska Bay in the eastern Aleutians.
It is occasionally cold enough in January and February for ice to form
locally in some of the sheltered coves and bayds of the Aleutian Islands,
but never in amounts sufficient to interrupt navigation.
The harbors of the southeastern side of the Alaska Peni n sula are open
to navigation throughout the year. From December to April the upper reaches
of Cook Inlet are likely to be more or less obstructed by floating ice formed
over the flats and shallow inner waters. Except along the western side of
this inlet, where large floes are sometimes carried as far as Augustine
Island, briefly to close Iliamna Bay, this ice does not generally interfere
with navigation south of Anchor Point, and full-powered vessels can probably
reach the head of the inlet throughout the winter. To the east and south some
winter ice usually forms in the upper reaches of Prince William Sou n d, and in
Glacier Bay above Willoughby Island.
The massiveness of the Bering Sea pack continues to increase until well
into April, and the freezing of new ice throughout the basin usually occurs,
at least intermittently, until the second week in May. However, the increas–
ingly persistent southerly winds of late April generally start to drive the
southern margin of the pack northward, and the waters around the Pribilof
Islands will probably have been cleared by the first of May.

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As the northward recession of the ice begins, the margins of Bering Sea
clear more rapidly than the center. Under the influence of local winds,
northerly setting currents, and opening river mouths, the ice of the coastal
waters breaks up to provide shore leads extending well to the northward of
the position held by the southern margin of the central pack. Whether the
offing of the Alaskan or Siberian shore opens the earlier is dependent upon
the prevailing spring winds of a particular season, although observations
seem to indicate that in more than half of the years the western side of the
basin becomes accessible sooner than the eastern. After the middle of May,
at which time the southern margin of the pack will probably have retreated
to the vicinity of St. Matthew Island, the heavy winter ice will finally
clear from Bristol and Kuskokwim bays, and, though Norton Sound will still
be closed, the effects of the advancing spring break-up are in evidence,
especially off the distributaries of the Yukon River.
In most years the continuing shrinkage of the Bering Sea pack will have
carried the retreat of its southern margin northward to St. Lawrence Island
by the first of June. During the early weeks of this month, drift ice,
escaping from the especially heavy concentrations to the north and east of
St. Lawrence Island, will be encountered across the approaches to Norton Sound
and southeastward to Nunivak Island. As the disintegration of the pack north
of St. Lawrence Island progresses during June, open water will appear first
to the westward of that island, and northward from Cape Chaplina to the
Diomede Islands on the western side of Bering Strait. The heaviest and most
persistent ice floes hold their position between St. Lawrence and King islands
well into July.

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

Heavily built vessels are accustomed to reach the roadstead at Home by
the first week is June, but ordinary navigation is generally not safe in
Norton Sound earlier than the 15th, and in some years has been delayed as
long as the first week in July. Over a period of 44 years the earliest ship
to reach St. Michael arrived on the 25th day of May, and the most delayed
arrived on the 3rd of July. This port becomes accessible on the average
around the middle of June. The ice of Norton Sound is heaviest along its
northern shores, and the final disappearance of drifting ice is not to be
expected here before the last days of June or the first of July.
Port Clarence is commonly accessible a week or two later than Nome,
and the coastal approaches to Bering Strait are generally navigable be fore the
end of June. By the first of July open passage through Bering Strait is
to be expected, although rough and hummocky ice will probably bar further
progress northward at the Arctic Circle. A branch of the current flowing
northward through Bering Strait follows the Alaskan coast, sets eastward
into Kotzebue Sound, and then northward to Point Hope and Cape Lisburne.
The effect of this current, combined with the increasing warmth of the ad–
vancing season, is to disrupt the connection which, since November, has
existed between the fast ice and the offshore drift ice. This action pro–
vides a shore lead which has permitted whalers to pass northeastward around
Cape Prince of Wales to Cape Sepenburg, and then northward to a rendezvous
at Point Hope by the end of the first week in July. The ice of Kotzebue
Sound, which during, its break-up piles especially large quantities of ice
along the coast between Cape Blossom and Point Hope, does not finally dis–
integrate until mid-July or even later.

EA-Oc. Weaver: Arctic Ice

Northeastward from Cape Lisburne, and especially beyond Icy Cape,
the periodic onshore and offshore movements of the peerful arctic ice,
which serve to destroy the already weakened fast ice belt, makes navigation
extremely hazardous, if not impossible, to Point Barrow before the third
week in July. Even as mid-September is to be regarded as the time of the
onset of winter conditions in this section, mid-July typically represents
the moment of reopening.
Unlike the coastal waters of eastern North America, icebergs do not
seriously menace navigation along the western margin of the continent.
There are no iceberg-producing tidewater glacier along the Arctic Sea
or Bering Sea coasts of Alaska, and while moderate quantities of glacial
ice are set adrift in Huka Bay, Prince William Sound, and Icy, Uakutat, and
Lituya bays along the south coast of Alaska, the pieces are comparatively
small, and do not generally affect shipping because their distribution is
restricted almost entirely to the inner waters of their formation.
The only place in the North Pacific basin where glacial ice occurs
in any quantity along an imp o rtant shipping route is in the Inland Passage
of southeastern Alaska. Although these pieces of ice are extremely small
when compared to the gigantic bergs which infest the northwestern North
Atlantic, they are of sufficient size and quantity to be dangerous to
vessels in these narrow waterways. Bergs may be encountered throughout
the year in the eastern part of Frederick Sound, in Stephens Passage
(between Point Hugh and the western end of Douglas Island), in Taku Inlet,
Icy Strait, Cross Sound (between The Sisters and Cape Spencer), and in
Glacier Bay.
John C. Weaver
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