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    The Uses of Ice

    Encyclopedia Arctica 7: Meteorology and Oceanography

    The Uses of Ice

    Unpaginated      |      Vol_VII-0627                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. (Vilhjalmur Stefansson)




    Aviation Uses 2
    Lake and River Ice 4
    Salt Water Ice 13
    Coastal Ice 13
    Drift Ice 21
    Pack Ice 22

    Unpaginated      |      Vol_VII-0628                                                                                                                  

            This copy of “Uses of

    Ice” read & marked

    by Roberts.

    007      |      Vol_VII-0629                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Donnels: Industrial Structures



    Unpaginated      |      Vol_VII-0630                                                                                                                  

    The entire area outside of the heavy solid line may be called the “Zone

    of Approach by Ship”; the area within the “Zone of Man-and-Dog

    Travel.” The stippled portion of the latter is the “Zone of Comparative

    Inaccessibility.” The distance between the isochronic lines is five days’

    dog-sledge travel, or 60 miles. Incidentally the map shows the superiority

    of Peary’s position of 1908 over all others on land as a base for a dash

    aimed at the point of latitude 90° N. It is also favorably situated for an

    attack on “Pole of Inaccessibility,” which is only 200 miles farther away

    from Peary’s base than the North Pole.

    001      |      Vol_VII-0631                                                                                                                  
    EA-I: (Vilhjalmur Stefansson)



            In the history of transportation, water has been of paramount importance.

    We have used oceans as highways between continents; within the continents the

    lakes and rivers have had a similar role. Even with the supplement of avia–

    tion, inland waterways are still of prime importance wherever roads and railways

    have not as yet been built. It is, therefore, of consequence in relation to

    the Arctic to note on a globe, or on a pole-centered map of the Northern Hemis–

    phere, that the Arctic Sea is a mediterranean sea, central with relation to

    Eurasia and North America, the great rivers so radiating from it that they

    furnish to boats in summer transportation routes to the heart of their conti–

    nents. At least four of them have a relation to the Arctic Sea which is like

    that of the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico. The Mackenzie reaches 2,000

    miles south into North America; the Ob, Yenisei, and Lena reach equally far

    or farther south into Asia.

            To Europeans the rivers, lakes , and the ocean have had their chief trans-

    portation use as liquid highways. If they froze at all, they froze so briefly

    that wein Third person? have thought in terms of navigation seasons and have left the inland

    waterways idle the rest of the year. We have felt similarly about the northern

    ocean, as valuable around the edges for boat rather than sleigh transportation.

    002      |      Vol_VII-0632                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice

            But as our culture moves farther north, and as our thinking looks

    farther and farther ahead, it becomes Increasingly hard to reconcile ourselves

    [ ?] to using water transport facilities only during summer. In the case of

    the great north-flowing rivers, the season of navigation is less than half

    the year; with the Mackenzie it is considerably less, for that stream runs

    through Great Slave Lake, and big northern lakes hold their ice in spring

    several weeks longer than the rivers. Some northern lakes are free of ice

    only a third of the year; the time for sea navigation is in places even briefer.

            Accordingly, It is the more important the farther north we are to consider

    how the waters may be used during those parts of the year when they are not

    wholly liquid. There are also lands partly or wholly covered by ice, derived

    from snow which has not melted. This article, then, considers some of the

    uses of ice, under thres heads: L l ake and river ice, sea ice, salt water ice, and inland or snow

    ice. We have in mind chiefly the lands and seas north of 60° N. latitude,

    and chiefly the uses connected with transportation but also those which re–

    late to encampment or residence.



            Length of Ice Season . Excepting parts of the south coast of Alaska, the

    whole of Iceland, and portions of the Scandinavian p P eninsula, lake ice north

    of 60° can be used fox airplane descents landing take-offs for six or more

    months a year, and river ice almost as long. In some parts, lake ice is

    usable for eight months and even longer.

            Coastal salt water ice is good for airplane use along few coasts for

    more than seven to eight months. The variation ranges from no availability

    at all in southern Alaska, around Iceland , and around the northern shores of

    003      |      Vol_VII-0633                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson Uses of Ice

    the Scandinavian peninsula, to a maximum of perhaps ten months around Peary

    Land and Northern Land (Severnaya Zemlya).

            Salt water drift ice, as distinguished from pack ice (for definitions

    see Glossary), is never, properly speaking, usable for air fields, although

    it may serve for emergency landings — has, in. fact, been so used on many


            In the pack region of the Arctic Sea, the season for air - base use varies

    between seven or eight months near the outer edge of the pack to nine or ten

    months near its center. This refers to landing strips that can be maintained

    in first-rate operating condition. Air bases for what type aircraft? can function through, the twelve months

    in the central pack, with the qualification that from late June to early

    September it will be difficult to maintain good landing conditions.

            Inland or glacier ice, with exceptions which will be brought out, is

    suitable for planes at all times of year. This form of ice has been found

    especially useful in summer; during winter it has generally proved more

    convenient to land upon river, lake , or coastal sea ice. The unavailability

    of these three ice forms in midsummer is compensated for, in some places,

    by the permanent availability of glaciers. For instance, at the most northerly

    air base permanently occupied before World War II — Rudolf Island in the

    Franz Josef group — planes used sea ice during winter but land ice during


            Rarity of Land Ice in Arctic . It is important to keep in mind, with

    regard to the Arctic, that land ice is by no means as common or persistent

    as we used to believe. Irrespective of latitude, ice which is formed from

    snow does not endure from one winter to the next in large sheets, except on

    004      |      Vol_VII-0634                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice

    mountains or near enough to them so that glaciers can spread from the high to

    the low land. Even small sheets are rare in the Arctic, for in only a few

    places do snowdrifts persist, then usually in east-west ravines which are so

    deep that the sun does not strike, or, in rare cases, along the north slopes

    of hills, (The reason that a northward slope often fails to preserve snow,

    in the most northerly countries, is that the night sun strikes from the north.)




    Air Stations Dependent on Rivers

            Air Stations Dependent on Rivers . The use of river ice for airplane landings is well known to all who have

    been connected with pioneer flying in lands of cold winters; for such fields

    have no doubt exceeded in number all others combined, during the pioneer stage.

            Although better than rivers, lakes have been less used because trading

    posts and villages are usually located along rivers. There was the advantage,

    too, that (in the days before radio aids) airplanes could find their way along

    valleys or by hitting them at some predetermined angle.

            Among the well-known river landing fields in Canada were those at Fort

    Nelson, on the Nelson River, and at Fort Norman and Norman Wells, on the Mac–

    kenzie. In Alaska, the ice of the Yukon, Kuskokwim, Colville, Canning, and

    other rivers furnished the usual winter landing fields, although lake ice was

    used by a few towns. The history was similar in northern Eurasia.

            Drawbacks of r R iver Ice Fields . In comparison with lake fields, which can

    usually be laid out so that they are wide enough for take-offs in any direction,

    a river field has the disadvantage that descents and take-offs are necessarily

    005      |      Vol_VII-0635                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice

    upstream or downstream. However, this difficulty is mitigated by the circum–

    stance that in deep valleys the winds usually blow up or down, not crosswise

    of the river bed.

            Another disadvantage of river fields, in comparison to lakes, is that

    where currents are at all strong it is likely that thin ice will form in autumn

    and then break, to refreeze with many of the ice blocks standing on edge at

    various angles. If this sort of broken ice cannot be avoided, it has to be

    leveled with pickaxes or by other methods. Usually this ice is so fragile

    that it is not difficult to break with machinery of the bulldozer type, or

    to crush with heavy rollers.

            Except for the difficulties already implied, the problem of keeping a

    river ice field level in winter is the same as that of keeping a neighboring

    land field in good condition.

            Lengthening the Season . If nature is allowed to take its course on a

    river, there is the special difficulty that after the freeze-up a heavy snow–

    fall may come along which puts down an insulating blanket such that the river

    current eats the ice away to a point where it becomes unsafely thin, or may

    even disappear, leaving no roofing over the water, in certain spots, except

    the snow. This trouble can be obviated by, removing, rolling or tramping ? tamping down the snow

    after each fall, to change it from a poor to a good conductor.

            Care in tramping down or rolling the first snowfall permits the use of

    the field earlier in autumn. This is only half the advantage; for the gradual

    building up of compressed snow, snow concrete (see (Glossary), will lengthen

    the use of the field from a week to three weeks in the spring. The advan–

    tages come chiefly under two heads, those of the avoidance of both thaw–

    water puddles and candle-ice formation.

    006      |      Vol_VII-0636                                                                                                                  
    EA I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

            Avoidance of Puddles . If the landing strips are rolled after each snow–

    fall you gradually build thorn up higher than the surrounding ice and snow.

    Then, when the spring thaws come, the water trickles to where it can gather

    in the low places, thus draining off the landing s trips, with resulting

    lessened trouble from slush and standing water.

            Besides, the thicker the ice the longer it takes to thaw, and the ice

    beneath will be much thicker where the snow has been rolled than in other

    places alongside where the better Insulation against atmospheric chill, due to

    snow fluffiness, will have prevented the ice from thickening as rapidly. This

    advantage, however, may prove to be less than that from the prevention of


            Candle Ice . One of the differences between fresh and salt water ice is

    that when salty ice thaws the process is gradual and works from the outside,

    after a manner to which we are accustomed through seeing ice melt in a water

    glass. Bat large outdoor formations of fresh water ice, in addition to thawing

    in the way we look upon as normal, will disintegrate through a process known.

    as candling. This is the formation of ice crystals that are sort of pencil–

    shaped and vertical, each of them with a length (at right angles to the surface

    of river or lake) equal to the full thickness of the ice. These candles are

    separated by films of water so that, when the condition is just right, you

    could go out on fresh - water ice which is three or four feet thick and push

    a rod of wood, such as a broom handle, right down through into the water


            Few things are more surprising to the inexperienced than the behavior of

    007      |      Vol_VII-0637                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    candle ice. For instance, it may happen during the break-up of a river that

    chunks of ice as big as pianos will be thrown up on the river bank. If these

    are composed of candle ice, then as you walk past them you can give each a

    smart blow with a light club and the whole ice boulder will slide apart,

    flattening out into a heap composed of Innumerable ice candles.

            Even more striking is it to watch a dog that has been thrown into open

    water adjoining a field of candle ice, which may be as much as three feet

    thick. When the dog swims toward the ice and gets his front paws up on it,

    preparatory to climbing out, the candles will give way and he will sort of

    swim or scratch his way Into the apparently solid ice, making a canal for

    himself of perhaps several feet, or even yards, before he comes to the point

    where the ice has enough supporting power to enable him to get on top of it.

            But snow concrete, formed on a lake or river airfield by the compression

    of repeated snowfalls, does not candle. The field then has on its runways

    a different sort of ice from that on either side of them. This structural dif–

    ference can by itself make a favorable seasonal time difference, in the

    lasting of runways in the spring, of anything from a few days to one or two


            It appears that candling (of each ice as will candle) takes place only

    under the influence of direct sunlight. River and lake ice seemingly does

    not candle so long as it has an unthawed snow cover.

            Qualifying Statements . It is only in a few places that rivers break up

    by direct thawing from sunlight delivered at a given spot; they more usually

    break up by relatively warm streams beginning to flow on top of the ice, which

    streams derive their water from small tributaries and from rivulets flowing

    008      |      Vol_VII-0638                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice

    down the banks. It is, therefore, on lakes rather than rivers that the

    full effects which we have tried to describe are noted.

            As we shall bring out later, it is possible so to locate two or more

    lake fields in the vicinity of an airport that one shall be receptive to

    flying boats when another is in condition to receive wheel or ski planes.

    This is scarcely possible on a river. Rivers therefore have longer periods

    than lakes during which the ice is not strong enough for land craft and

    the water not open enough for sea craft.

            Naturally it is often possible to have a river airport so located that

    a lake suitable for airplane landings descents is near; then the difference in

    freezing dates of autumn, and again of thawing dates in spring, can be uti–

    lized so as to lengthen the active season of that airport.


    Air Stations Dependent on Lakes

            Air Stations Dependent on Lakes. In most of the Arctic, and in much of the Subarctic, the ground is per–

    manently frozen below a certain level. Where the subsoil is frozen there

    can be no underground drainage and, without that sort of drainage, there

    are bound to be innumerable lakes. In hilly country, where the main determi–

    nants are the contours, these lakes will average large but will cover usually

    less than 25% of the ground. Where the land is gently rolling or level, the

    lakes may cover more than 50% of the surface; but these lakes will average

    smaller and more shallow.

            Alternative Landing Fields for a Single Air Base . In rolling country,

    it is usually possible to locate hangers and other structures so that there will

    be available in different directions alternative lake landing fields. Many

    009      |      Vol_VII-0639                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    lakes differ so in freezing and thawing characteristics , that the time gap

    can be closed, nearly or quite, which on rivers intervenes between the

    periods of safe ice and safe open water.

            Deep lakes freeze slowly, shallow ones more rapidly. If a base has

    near it both a deep and a shallow lake, then it may be possible to continue

    in autumn using the deep one for water gear, perhaps nearly or quite to the

    point where the shallow lake becomes safe for land gear. (Naturally, in

    order to make the shallow lake usable earlier, the snow will be rolled after

    every fall and converted into concrete so as to prevent its acting as a

    blanket that [ ?] slows down ice formation.)

            In the spring, shallow lakes thaw out faster than deep ones. Although

    we are being repe t itious, overlapping the river ice section of this paper,

    we go here into some detail as to how the thawing of the ice on the deep

    lake can be delayed while the thaw on the shallow lake is being advanced.

            Protecting the Deep Ice Lake . As explained already in the river dis–

    cussion, a main consideration in spring, to prolong the ski and wheel landing

    season, is to prevent the ice from candling. On a lake, even though no more

    than two or three strips running in different directions are needed upon which

    to descend and take off, it might be advisable to roll the entire field,

    therefore , several square miles. This need not be difficult, for very heavy

    rollers are not required to compress snow if the rolling is done immediate l ly

    after each snowfall. Since the rollers are light, they can be very wide,

    and the number of back-and-forth trips in covering the whole field will not

    be great.

            If the airfield, then, has several [ ?] square miles of ice, all of them

    010      |      Vol_VII-0640                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    with an upper layer of snow concret e , then there will be sufficient strength

    so that, even if the untreated ice round about becomes very weak or even

    disintegrates, there still is an ice island from which planes can operate.

    Obviously, we do not have in mind here indefinite operation, but merely the

    lengthening of the possibility of the use of land gear by a few days.

            Accelerating the Thaw on the Shallow Lake . To advance the thawing of

    an ice airfield, the principle is [ ?] employed that the sun delivers no heat

    hut only light that is converted into heat by absorption. This absorption

    is least on spotless white snow; it is greatest on a black surface. Several

    methods then suggest themselves for speeding up the thaw on a shallow lake,

    so as to prepare it for an early reception of water-equipped airplanes.

            If there is sand anywhere nearby, the easiest thing may be to hitch

    a sand sprinkler to the rear of a tractor and sprinkle the lake, or the parts

    of it where early melting is wanted. Sand must be lightly spread and Care must be taken to use just the

    right amount of sand. Each grain Each grain or pebble must be separated ? must be separated from all others;

    for if the deposit is a continuous layer it forms a blanket over the ice,

    which, true enough, gets hot with the sun but which has an insulating power

    that tends to protect the ice beneath it from thawing.

            The chief difficulty about using this process is the possibility that

    snow will fall just after the field has been sprinkled with sand. A thing

    of importance, then, is the accuracy of weather forecasting; there should

    be at least a day of sunshine between the sprinkling operation and the next

    snowfall. When the snowfall does come, the new snow will have to be sprinkled,

    to give the sun a purchase.

    011      |      Vol_VII-0641                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

            Better than sand may be black, dirty oil, like crankcase oil. The plan

    would be, then, throughout the winter, to save all the dirty grease possible,

    for use in the spring as a blackener, In place of sand.

            A third way, and perhaps the best, Is to sprinkle lampblack, or some

    other dark powder, over the snow from airplanes in the manner used when

    dusting an orchard with insecticide, or, Indeed, after the manner of laying

    a smoke scree n .

            The method just described; ordinarily with sand, has been used by polar

    explorers when they have wanted to destroy in the spring the ice which was

    Immediately around ships that were wintering, so that each ship could come to

    float in a basin of water while the ice round about was still strong. It

    has not been uncommon for ships to float free several weeks before the ice

    thawed generally in the bay where they were wintering.

            One place where melting with dirty oil has been in long use is Lake

    Bennett on the Yukon River, downstream from Whitehorse. What they have done

    there, in springs, is to trundle beck and forth with their sprinklers until

    they have covered a belt about two or three times as wide as a steamer. This

    belt thaws out, making [ ?] a canal through the ice. In some years this Lake Bennett canalizing has worked very well, giving

    passage to steamers across the lake from one to three weeks ahead of the

    general thaw. (In the North, rivers thaw from one to several weeks ahead of

    lakes through which they flow ). .) In other years the canal scheme has not worked

    well because the ice on one side o f r the other of the channel became loose from

    the shore and floated in, closing the thoroughfare.

            To prevent this sort of

    thing, one would preferably use, for an air base landing field, a lake of

    012      |      Vol_VII-0642                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    such moderate size that it would be feasible to sprinkle the whole of it

    for early melting. Even so, it would not really be necessary to melt away the whole sur–

    face. It would be enough to clear one end : for lake ice does not move except

    under the pressure of the wind, which means that, with a south wind, there

    is open water in the southern part of the lake; with a north wind, the north

    end of the lake would he open. Planes would then descend at whichever end

    was ice-free.

            The Cooperation of Rivers and Lakes . Instead of using two lakes, one

    shallow and the other deep, the same result can be attained by using a deep

    lake which has a considerable river that enters one side or end, there being

    no corresponding stream which enters opposite. n the spring the river pours

    warm water upon the lake ice in its vicinity, melting out in one part a space

    suitable for pontoon craft and flying boats, while at the far side the ice

    remains relatively firm. This arrangement may reduce or even close the spring

    transportation gap by having wheeled planes descending on ice far from the river

    almost or quite up to the time when watercraft can use the river mouth.

            Keeping Lake Ice Level . Unless a lake is very large, say ten or more miles

    in diameter, ice will form on it smooth and level in the autumn, except per–

    haps right near shore. There will be, then, no such problem in leveling it

    originally as one may have on a river.

            If the lake is in a forest, or other sheltered location, there will be

    little bother from winds and snowdrifts, so the only problem will be to roll

    the field after each snowfall. But many lakes are so windy that snowdrifts

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    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    will form. Then the problem of leveling the drifts, and keeping the ice field

    in the right condition, will be the same as on land.

            Variable Time Element . The freeze-up of rivers and lakes is so dependent

    upon a number of things other than the season that a separate timetable is

    needed for each section of a river and for each lake. A good library will have

    this information available for many rivers and lakes. In the Arctic?

            Lakes are even more variable than rivers. For instance, there will be a

    difference of several weeks between the freeze-up of McTavish Arm, in Great

    Bear Lake, and that of small lakes in the immediate neighborhood which are,

    nevertheless; big enough for air base purposes.

            An example of the difference between lakes and rivers is that, where the

    Mackenzie River passes through Great Slave Lake, the ice on the lake will

    hinder steamboat navigation in some seasons for more than a month after the

    river, both north and south of the lake, is free of ice.

            Speaking roughly, the ice of lakes in northern Greenland, or in the more

    northerly Eurasian and Canadian islands, can be used by ski and wheel planes

    nine or ten months per year. In the middle Canadian islands the lake ice can

    be used seven or eight months. In the northern part of the North American

    or Asiatic mainland it can be used six or seven eight months.




    Coastal Ice

            Coastal ice falls into three main subdivisions: I i ce foot, bay and lagoon

    ice, and landfast ice.

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    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

            Ice Foot . This type, as distinguished from the more general landfast ice,

    is found on shores which have considerable [ ?] rise and fall of tide.

            Most arctic shores have small tides; for instance, the north coast of Alaska

    and of northwestern Canada into Coronation Gulf, and the channels which run

    eastward from the Gulf , have tides that range between six inches and two

    feet, insufficient to form a proper ice foot. But other coasts have consi–

    derable tides. There, in autumn, a certain width of ice will adhere to the

    land, freezing to the bottom and refusing to fall and rise with the tide.

    This is the ice foot.

            The ice outside the tide crack, which does rise and fall, will never

    be higher than the ice foot; for, if it were, then there would be a flooding

    of water inward along the top of the shorefast ice, this water freezing

    and adding enough to its thickness for making the surface of the ice foot level

    with the highest tide.

            There are not many places where the ice foot is wide enough so that an air–

    field could be laid out which has landing strips at right angles to the shore.

    Usually such runways would have to be parallel to the shore. This ice is seldom

    very level originally, and so would have to be leveled with pickaxes or mechani–

    cal levelers.

            Bay and Lagoon Ice . Bays and lagoons are usually of such limited size that

    large waves do not form, so their ice is normally level; or else it has small

    snags of broken ice, like those of rivers which have a strong current, and they

    are easily leveled with pickaxes or machinery.

            Bay ice occurs on practically all coasts in the Arctic. The lagoon variant

    of bay ice is found chiefly off low coasts. There are some lagoons to the south-

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    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    west of Point Barrow, on Alaska’s northwest shore. To the southeast of Barrow

    is first a chain of lagoons which runs toward Cape Simpson, and then another

    chain which begins east of the Colville River and extends to Flaxman Island,

    with smaller lagoons east toward the international boundary. We discuss these

    as typical for many other coasts.

            Between the sand bars and islands of the chain that fences off the

    northern Alaska lagoons are openings deep enough for floe ice to drift in during

    summer. Some years there will be a considerable number of these vagrant hum–

    mocks scattered through the lagoons, particularly in such places as behind Cross

    Island, east of the Colville, where the entrance channels are fai l r ly deep.

    It will not be difficult, however, to find areas free from the drifting chunks

    (that have been set fast when the bay ice formed) aid which are big enough for

    landing fields containing strips laid out in any direction.

            In selecting a bay or lagoon landing field, one would keep in mind, among

    other things, that the location should be ordinarily reachable by drifting sand;

    for, as explained, sand grains on ice produce an early break-up in the spring,

    shortening the season during which the field can be of use. And, for a similar

    reason, a field should not be off the mouth of a river, for the warm water from

    it will break up the ice early in the spring.

            There is, however, the same consideration here as with lake ice, that it

    may be desirable to have in mind landing facilities for both wheeled planes and

    flying boats. Usually a bay or lagoon field can be so located that, although

    not exposed either to drifting sand or to river water , , it will nevertheless be

    only a reasonable distance from another area base which has early melting

    due to sand storms or river flow. The base would then have, in spring, on one

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    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    side of it ice still strong enough for wheeled planes, while on the other side

    there would be water lending facilities.

            For hay and lagoon operations, as for those oa on an ice foot, hangars and

    other buildings will no doubt be on an adjacent shore. The field must be

    far enough from all buildings so that snowdrifts formed in their ice do not

    extend out upon the landing strips.

            Landfast i I ce . Apart from the special variants already discussed, winter

    ice [ ?] in the Arctic which is landfast may vary in breadth, as measured from

    the shore, between a few feet and several hundred miles. Among places which

    have only a few feet or a few yards of landfast ice, even toward the end of

    winter, are promontories like Cape Lisburne in northwestern Alaska, Cape Lyon

    in northwestern arctic Canada, Nelson Head, at the south tip of Banks Island,

    and various promontories among the Svalbard and Franz Josef Islands. Off the

    mouth of the Mackenzie River lie, in winter, from thirty to sixty miles of

    landfast ice. The greatest known width of this type is in the New Siberian

    Island section of the northeastern Soviet Union, where the landfast ice may

    be up to 270 miles in [ ?] width toward the end of winter, as off the mouth of

    the Yana River.

            “Typical” Landfast Ice . A case history of the formation of landfast ice

    is more explanatory than a description.

            With no slush previously in the sea, the first frost of the year may pro–

    duce only a few inches or a few feet of very thin ice which adheres to the

    shore along one edge, the rest of it, as a floating apron, rising and falling

    with any gentle wave motion. For salt water ice is not brittle like glass,

    017      |      Vol_VII-0647                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    but is more of the consistency of ice cream, and, in that sense, flexible.

    More often, however, there is adrift in the sea near shore a mass of sludge

    ice, a kind of ice porridge, and a night of calm frost may produce a harden–

    ing of this to the width of several feet or yards, and sometimes hundreds of

    feet or hundreds of yards. This belt of landfast ice may continue growing

    for several nights until an expense of it one or several miles wide fringes

    the lend, none of it strong enough for a man to walk upon , but all of it,

    nevertheless, a single sheet.

            Now in case of an offshore wind, particularly if accompanied by a rise

    of water, all this ice — excepting a few inches or feet near shore — will

    go adrift and disappear seaward. But if the wind blows from the sea, and

    particularly if there are drifting floes offshore, the ice apron will be crushed

    up and pressed toward land. We have, then, in case of only a moderate pressure,

    the formation of smell ice ridges, from a few inches to a few feet in height

    and lying mainly parallel to the shore, but with others at various angles.

            If this sort of pressure is followed by a calm, there is a cementing to–

    gether of the various blocks, which have been pressed upon edge with their

    flat sides meeting each other. This makes such a strong fortification of the

    shore that, even though stiff gales come later from seaward, and even if these

    bring in heavy drift ice, the apron of shore ice will likely become permanent

    for the year.

            What usually takes place in such a case as we are describing is that a

    big pressure ridge forms anything from several hundred yards to several miles

    from shore, this ridge becoming firmly grounded because of being heaped so

    high that its weight presses heavily against the sea bottom. For the time

    018      |      Vol_VII-0648                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    being at least, this ridge marks the outer edge of the landfast ice.

            On the outside of the heavy pressure ridge is the shore lead, or whet the

    Yankee whalers in northern Alaska used to call the shore flaw (so written, but

    pronounced usually as if spelled floe or flow). This flaw is, then, the meet–

    ing place of the landfast ice with the moving pack, and may be represented

    at different times by an open lead several miles wide, by [ ?] a narrow water–

    filled, crack, by grinding ice that is moving past the landfast ridge, or by

    ice frozen to the shore ridge and temporarily immobile but ready to go

    adrift, particularly with a combined rise of water and increase of wind.

            Take Flaxman Island as an example: The original flaw may be three or

    four miles from shore and this may continue throughout the winter. However,

    it can happen, under special circumstances, that heavy pressure will pro–

    duce another ridge half a mile, or even a mile, farther out at sea, which

    will be so firmly grounded that the ice between the original and the new

    flaw may remain immobile all winter.

            But experience has taught the seal hunters to the north of Alaska that

    this second ridge, and second belt of shore ice, cannot be relied upon to

    stay put. There was, for instance, the case of the Stefansson party of

    1914 when they were about to start sledge travel northward from the coast of

    Alaska at Martin Point and were five or six miles from land upon ice that

    had formed between the first and second ridges — ice that normally would

    have stayed the whole year. In thin case a gale sprang up so violent and

    with such a rise of “storm tide” (probably six or seven feet) that the second

    pressure ridge floated free of the sea bottom end went adrift, with its

    019      |      Vol_VII-0649                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    adjacent Ice, carrying the party with it, so that when the gale cleared the next

    day they were twenty or thirty miles from land and forty or fifty miles east

    of where the camp had been pitched originally.

            The picture we have tried to draw applies to the formation of land ice

    that is going to be five miles wide, as off Flaxman Island, fifty miles wide,

    as off the Mackenzie delta, or two hundred miles wide, as off northeastern

    Siberia. Of course, the process is more complicated the wider the shelf of

    landfast ice.

            To make a reasonable determination as to whether shore ice is safe

    for the building of temporary winter airports, we need more knowledge and

    experience than can be reduced to writing in a brief statement, if it be

    desired to have the base as far as possible from shore. However, an

    observer can tell by mere common sense, even without much experience, that

    certain parts near shore are definitely safe.

            Leveling an Airfield . A landing field on shore ice is, in its pris–

    tine stage, usually different from bay or lagoon ice in that a good deal

    of it will require leveling with picks or machinery. Leveling an ice field

    is simple, compared to leveling a rough field composed of frozen earth.

    True, salt ice (unless very young and therefore slushy) is tougher than fresh

    ice, and does not splinter so easily; but this difference between fresh and

    salt ice is negligible compared with the extreme toughness and unworkability

    of frozen muck.

            The problem of using heavy machinery for leveling fields on sea ice

    will be discussed in relation to stations maintained on the pack.

    020      |      Vol_VII-0650                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

            The Time Element . On lagoons and bays, such as those along the north

    coast of Alaska, the ice near shore may become firm enough for dog - sledge

    travel in middle or late September. There is, in this respect, a seasonal

    variation of perhaps five or six weeks. The very earliest sledging season

    begins in this locality around or just before the middle of September, while

    a corresponding stage may not be reached in another year until late in October. ,

            Even for the lightest ski planes, the season will be a bit later than

    for dog sledging. There will be few years when heavy wheeled planes can

    safely descend land on northern Alaska lagoons before late October. However, the

    preparation of the landing strips can begin before the ice is strong enough

    for planes to use it. This preparation, as already indicated, is in the main

    to roll the field after each snowfall, to produce a snow concrete surfacing.

            In a very [ ?] early spring, difficulty with the ice on North Alaska

    lagoons may start the first or second week of May. Fields properly selected

    and tended, as discussed heretofore, may nevertheless be usable into late May.

            On ice that extends far offshore, autumn use will start a little later

    than on coastal lagoons --in practice, at least a month later, because the

    risk to men and equipment of working far from land is considerable during the

    early part of the season, while near shore the risk is small. Similarly, the

    danger that ice may go adrift under a violent gale and a sharp rise of storm

    tide also is considerable. The general principle will be, then, that for

    both earliness of season and for safety it is better to have the air field

    on a bay or lagoon than to have it on shore ice, unless very near a beach

    that has shoal water offshore.

            But a field located on shore ice immediately outside of a lagoon may, in

    021      |      Vol_VII-0651                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    some years, be usable later into the spring season than if on lagoon ice, with

    a possible maximum difference of two or three weeks. So the leader of an ex–

    pedition may think it worth while to level off, outside of the lagoons, a

    temporary field for use during two or three extra weeks in the spring.

            The foregoing is with reference to northern Alaska and northern Canada;

    the autumn freeze-up begins, however, somewhat earlier to the east of Cape

    Parry, and the spring break-up a little later. On the Siberian shore ice, the

    sparing break-up will be a little later than off the Canadian mainland, and

    the autumn freeze-up a bit earlier.

            Proceeding north among the Canadian islands, the autumn freeze-up be-

    comes earlier and the spring break-up later. For a rough comparison with the

    eastern north coast of Alaska, the season of usable bay ice will be a month

    longer near islands like Banks and Victoria, two months longer on the north

    coast of Melville Island, and a bit longer still in islands farther north

    than Melville.


    Drift Ice

            Outside the shore flaw is the belt of drift ice which separates the nor–

    mally stationery shore ice from the heavy pack. This middle area will contain

    in winter somethng less than 20% of all the ice of the northern sea. The floes

    and fields which make up the drift are in such rapid motion, and are so rela–

    tively fragile, that we do not consider them as po possible air stations of semi–

    permanence, even if only a month or two were in mind.

            But the floes and fields of the drift are nevertheless of aviation sig–

    nificance, for many of them have received safe descents by airplanes in dis-

    022      |      Vol_VII-0652                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    tress. Take-offs have usually proved successful also, when it proved feasible

    to remedy the trouble which brought the plane down. We do not follow this up,

    however, for we deal here not with the general problem of flight safety in the

    Arctic Sea but only with the feasible use of semipermanent airports.


    Pack Ice

            Triple Classification of Sea Ice . On the basis of how things are in late

    winter, the ice of the northern polar sea may be classified under three heads:

    ( 1 1 ) about 15% or 20% landfast; ( 2 2 ) about 15% or 20% drifting and of such

    nature that next summer it will be penetrable by stout surface vessels; ( 3 3 )

    the remainder, 60% or 70%, also in motion though more sluggish than the “drift”

    section, and of such nature that it will not be penetrable next summer even

    by the best icebre k a kers we now have.

            As already brought out, we consider that air bases can be maintained

    satisfactorily on the landfast ice for a considerable part of the year, on

    the drift ice for no part of the year, and on pack ice for the whole year —

    with the provision that landing conditions in the pack are not going to be

    good during the “summer months,” which poor season is of longer duration near

    the edges of the pack than toward its center.

            Natural Thickening of Ice . As to the safety of drifting air bases and

    research stations, and the ease and safety of operations like hunting, sledge

    travel , and emergency landings, it is important to consider how sea ice thickens

    with age and changes in character.

            It has been considered that, with a “normal” amount of snow covering, sea

    ice far from land will develop a thickness of from seven to nine feet the first

    year, two additional feet the second year, with a [ ?] maximum of thirteen feet no

    023      |      Vol_VII-0653                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    matter how many years are involved. These figures must be treated as rather

    vague approximations, for there is no defining what is a “normal” amount of

    snow covering.

            From considerations already advanced, it appears that additional snow

    hinders the thickening of ice. Also, the insulating qualities of snow vary

    with the kind of snow — a fluffy cover of three inches would probably have

    a greater insulating power than a wind-packed snowdrift of six inches.

    Then, snow undergoes a granulating change during winter; the more granular

    the snow, the less efficient it is as an insulator.

            Paleocrystic Ice . For that semipermanence which is desired for an air

    base in the pack, and for safety, an extensive field of paleocrystic ice

    would be chosen. For this ice, five years or more old, combines the two

    necessary qualities: the greatest available thickness and the relative fewness

    of snags and high projecting ridges.

            There are considerable areas within the pack where paleocrystic ice re–

    presents 5%, 10%, or even more, of the total surface, occasional fields of

    it being several miles in diameter — some perhaps twenty or even thirty

    miles wide. It is rare, however, that these vast fields are wholly paleo–

    crystic, for most of them have cracked here or there, with resulting pressure

    ridges formed one or several years ago. These ridges have not yet been

    rounded down fully by rain and sun and thus have not attained true paleocrystic


            Thickness of Paleocrystic Ice . No one questions that, for average thick–

    ness, paleocrystic floes excel all others, but this is about all that is known

    defi d nitely. However, there is some apparently reliable theory.

    024      |      Vol_VII-0654                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

            A true paleocrystic floe or field, of some age above five years, in the

    heaviest ice that can be found within the basin of the arctic mediterranean;

    and, it more than 200 miles from land, is in a district of relatively gentle

    pressures. Paleocrystic ice presents, on a lower scale, the same visual ef–

    fect as a snow-covered rolling prairie, such as in western Kansas, the Dakotas,

    or Saskatchewan. All sharp angles have disappeared, the pressure ridges that

    formerly appeared like small, jagged mountains now remind of gently rolling

    grassland that is sufficiently snow-covered to hide the grass.

            The greatest upward extensions of paleocrystic ice, the knolls, are swept

    clear of snow by each considerable wind that blows. From the known greater

    temperature conductivity of ice than snow, it is to be assumed that, wherever

    there is an upward swell of ice to make a knoll, there is a corresponding

    downward swelling on the submerged side of the ice. For the low surface

    spots are filled with relatively non - conducting snow almost level with the

    tops of the knolls. These knolls were originally the diminutive but craggy

    mountain ranges of broken blocks forming pressure ridges. Each upward–

    projecting peak was likely repr e sented originally by a deep and ma xx ss ive base,

    caused by pressure at the time the ridge was formed. Each knoll or peak may

    he thought of as pyramid-shaped, with the wide base submerged.

            It does not follow, then, from the known laws of ice buoyancy, that for

    every one foot of emerging ice there are five, six, or seven feet of submerged

    ice. Actually a pressure ridge that rises 60 feet above sea leve l may not

    indicate more than perhaps 100 feet of draft. The observation of the Stefans–

    son expeditions is that sea ice rarely, if ever, grounds in more than about

    120 feet. Admiral Peary was consulted on this and replied that 20 fathoms

    025      |      Vol_VII-0655                                                                                                                  
    EA I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    was the greatest depth in which he had ever noticed sea ice aground (sea ice

    here not including ice foot chunks and, of course, not including icebergs).

            If a pyramid-shaped or wedge-shaped pressure ridge has, soon after its

    formation, a maximum draft of 120 feet, it appears safe to assume that some

    years later, in the paleocrystic stage, it would draw at least half of this.

    To be very conservative, we will divide that estimate by two and assume here

    only a quarter of the draft indicated by the Peary and Stefansson observa–

    tions. We would then have a rounded knoll which rises 10 feet above sea

    level with a submerged portion of 30 feet, making a total maximum paleo–

    crystic floe thickness of 40 feet.

            In the case of those portions of paleocrystic floes which are thickly

    crowded on their top surface with knolls, we might assume that the base sec–

    tions of the various wedges or pyramids would coalesce on the under surface,

    or nearly so. However, the glare knolls are separated on their upper surface

    by bowl-shaped and channel-formed intervening spaces that are filled in winter

    with snow insulator. From the universal agreement that the sea ice does not

    become more than 13 feet thick through successive freezings, it would seem

    that a thickness greater than 13 feet would not persist in areas which during

    summer are covered with puddles of water, and therefore during winter with

    thick snow insulation.

            There is, then, something of a contradiction between two theories. Accord–

    ing to one, the thawing of submerged parts of the ice equals the freezing, after

    13 feet have been attained; according to the other (a view based partly on

    observation), paleocrystic floes would ground in 30 or 40 feet.

            True, the assumption that melting equals freezing, after 13 feet have been

    attained, is based on assuming the mentioned indefinite “normal snow cover.”

    026      |      Vol_VII-0656                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    This leaves us free to assume that the glare knolls, at any rate, are repre–

    sented below the surface by extensions considerably greater than the submerged

    portion of a 13-foot ice cube.

            Taking the view that is least optimistic, from the angle of those who

    want to maintain a base station semipermanently, we find that, when ice rests

    uniformly on water, its supporting power is adequate for anything we desire

    to erect, with the exception of possibly a very heavy hangar or machine shop.

            Perhaps the beet positive evidence of carrying power in paleocrystic ice

    so far published in some detail is related to e case which is reported on

    pages 514-515 of Stefansson’s The Friendly Arctic :

            “On all our ice trips and at every distance from shore we have found ice

    with a certain amount of earth or gravel upon it and sometimes fragments of

    rock or small boulders. The day after coming upon the sandy hummock we found

    on top of some ice that was two years old or over, a gravel and boulder ridge

    eighteen paces long. At its highest point it was about [ ?] five feet higher

    than the ice on which it rested and had an average width of between ten and

    fifteen feet. The ridge was composed of mud, gravel, slate and boulders, the

    largest weighing over a hundred pounds. Some lumps of soil with lichens I

    took to show that it had been formed by a landslide from some steep and not

    entirely barren land. Apart from this earth ridge, the ice was a perfectly

    ordinary old floe. It was now lying thirty or forty miles from the nearest

    land and the depth of water underneath it was probably over thirty fathoms,

    although we were unable to sound right at that point; no sounding we got in

    the vicinity showed lees than twenty-six fathoms ( [ 156 feet ) ] .”

    027      |      Vol_VII-0657                                                                                                                  
    EA-I Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

            There are other stories, in a way more impress lye than this report, but,

    since they are less specific with regard to the weight carried by the [ ?]

    paleocrystic ice, they are not repeated here. The reports taken together

    attest to the “incredible” load-carrying power which resides in a field of

    heavy sea Ice.

            Air Search for a Base Location . Although, by definition, the outermost

    floes and fields of the pack can be reached by a well-navigated and stout ice–

    breaker, we nevertheless consider that, if an air base is to be located in

    the pack, it will have to be established by air transport; for good judgment

    would dictate that the location selected be at least 100 miles farther in than

    an icebreaker could penetrate. The alternative would be establishment by sub–

    marine, which, though considered feasible with the right sort of undersea

    vessel, is not dealt with here.

            From an airplane the relief of a white surface is most readily discerned

    when the sky is perfectly clear and the sun relatively low, to cast effective

    shadows. Fortunately, the winter sun is much lower in the Arctic than nearer

    the E uq qu ator, and, at any rate, it will be low mornings and evenings — except,

    of course, right at the North Pole where its height is practically the same

    throughout the twenty-four hours.

            A moon near its full throws even clearer shadows than the sun, and moon–

    light is, in some respects, even better than sunlight for ice - scouting purposes.

            Search for a likely air - base site should, therefore, be made by the full

    moon or by the light of a sun that is not too high. The beet month of all

    for this type of flying is March, with ample daylight in skies as yet usually

    clear. February and April are the next best months, although daylight is a

    bit scarce in early February while fogs and snowfall increase gradually through


    028      |      Vol_VII-0658                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

            The tentative choice of a base will be a paleocrystic field through which,

    or along which, runs a wide and long-frozen lead. The prospecting plane will

    be mounted on skis, with a fairly low landing speed, and there should be no

    difficulty about a safe descent landing if the flyer is of the “bush pilot” type, used

    to snow surfaces. After descending upon the comparatively thin level ice

    of the lead, the plane will taxi up onto the safer paleocrystic ice. (By

    definition, a lead is a crack in sea ice too wide for a man to jump over —

    a sailor may define it as wide enough for a ship to pass through. A lead

    may be several miles wide and scores of miles long.)

            Paleocrystic Traits . As stated previously, a true paleocrystic floe or

    field, of some age shove five years, is the heaviest ice that can be found

    within the basin of the Arctic Sea, sod, at distances of more than 200 miles

    from land, is subjected to relatively gentle pressures. Still there is no

    guarantee that the chosen floe or field may not crack under an effectively

    applied stress from wind or current.

            However, if the floe does crack right across an air field, repairs are

    much easier than one would think, analogizing from land. Nor is it likely,

    if ten bases were scattered throughout the suitable part of the Arctic Sea,

    that more than two or three of them would be seriously injured each six months.

    Here the experiences of drifting ships near land are not applicable — such

    ships as De Long’s Jeannette and Stefansson’s Karluk . For enlightening ex-

    perience read the accounts of Nansen’s Fram and of any of several Soviet

    vessels that have drifted far from land. One of the best accounts, from our

    present point of view, is Storkers e o n’s unpublished narrative in the National

    Archives of Canada, for he drifted far enough from land and had no ship. The

    029      |      Vol_VII-0659                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    field on which his party camped six months, living by hunting, was a near

    analogue to an airfield that might find itself temporarily out of touch with

    supply agencies. (A brief account by Storkerson is found as an appendix in

    Stefansson’s The Friendly Arctic .)

            The surface of the paleocrystic floe is rolling, as we have said. The

    tops of the knolls look blue, for they are glare ice. The hollows are so

    nearly filled with snow that, superficially, the field looks nearly level,

    although , the snow in the hollows is too soft for a landing with wheels.

            Leveling a Paleocrystic Field . To prepare the field, then, it is neces–

    sary to tramp down the snow in the hollows and cut down some of the hillock

    tops with miners’ pickaxes. Picks weighing from 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 pounds are

    probably the hast. Accustomed as we are to heavy machines of spectacular

    efficiency, we may want to consider the use of one or another of these for

    leveling paleocrystic floes. However, it must be remembered that, in addi–

    tion to the difficulty of transporting such machines to the drifting air base,

    there is the danger involved in case of e breakage of the ice. It is not so

    much that the machines would be likely to sink into the water as that they

    might get separated from the base and drift off on another floe. Besides,

    there is the almost magical efficiency of miners’ picks when used on ice.

            If the need is for a really level paleocrystic field, for extensive and

    long use, pumps will no doubt he employed to raise sea water from below the

    ice to where it fills the hollows end freezes in them level with the pickax -

    lowered hillock tops.

            The field once level, the problem of keeping it level will be the same

    for a land field in any arctic or subarctic locality.

    030      |      Vol_VII-0660                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

            Alternative . If, for any reason, the trouble of leveling a paleocrystic

    field is considered too great, the alternative suggestion is to select a lead

    of this year’s ice that runs through or past a paleocrystic field. Descents

    would be upon the lead ice, the planes taxiing up on o nearly paleocrystic

    floe where they would be tethered or placed in hangars.

            Problem of Snowdrifts . The Arctic Sea is not stormy, as demonstrated

    when Nansen’s ship, the Farm , drifted for three years (1893-96) at distances

    of several hundred miles from the margin of the pack to the north of Siberia.

    Writing up his scientific reports later, he considered it one of the chief

    discoveries of his expedition that the interior of the Arctic Sea is one of

    the least windy regions in the world.

            All later explorers have confirmed this finding and the credit usually

    goes to Nansen — perhaps rightly, because he was the first to formulate it

    and emphasize its scientific and practical importance. However, the first

    men to put the same thing on record may have been Lieutenant Commander George

    W. De Long, of the U.S. Navy, whose ship, the Jeannette , drifted a course simi–

    lar to that of the Fram about fifteen years earlier, in 1879-81. One of his

    diary entries says that it is strange how seldom the wind blows and how gently

    it blows when [ ?] it does.

            Since the difficulty of keep i ng a land strip level enough in a snow country

    is large y ly a matter of the winds, it will appear that this trouble should not

    be inordinate when a base has been located several hundred allies from land or

    from any extensive open water.

            Timing . Practically anything can be done in the Arctic at any time of the

    year, if one knows the ropes ropes and is willing to recognize the difficulties and

    031      |      Vol_VII-0661                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    adapt himself to them. However, a first consideration is to discover the

    easiest and best way. For locating an air base within the moving pack, about

    the most important consideration is the time of year.

            Winter is the Best Season . For practically every form of travel and work,

    the beat season within the pack runs from the middle of February to the middle

    of April. We list the chief reasons, with part of the supporting evidence.

            Nansen reported from his three-year drift in the Fram that, in the region

    of light winds, deep within the pack, there is practically no fog during the

    months December to March, inclusive, and that overcast skies are then rare

    and snowfalls light. These Nansen conclusions have been confirmed since.

            Peary laid down the principle that, for traveling afoot over the pack, the

    good season is from middle to late winter. In autumn and early winter, the

    snowfalls, though not as heavy as in places like New England, are still much

    heavier than in midwinter. The spring season is snowy, too, with clouds

    and fog, though there is more daylight than during the fall months.

            Snow is a Handicap . Fluffy new-fallen snow acts as an insulator over

    young ice, protecting it from the chill of the air and enabling the relative

    warmth or the sea water beneath to interfere seriously with the strengthening

    of the ice, even in some cases producing a thinning — if there is both a

    heavy snow cover above and a current below. Moreover, the snow blanket makes

    it difficult or impossible to tell visually whether the ice beneath is strong.

            As winter advances, the snowfall becomes lighter and the cold more intense.

    It is, however, less the cold itself than the decrease of precipitation which

    accelerates the thickening of the ice; for snow is severalfold better as an

    insulator than ice can be. Moreover, the flakes that fell some months ago have

    now become granular, furnishing relatively poor insulation as compared with

    feathery, new-fallen snow.

    Unpaginated      |      Vol_VII-0662                                                                                                                  


            In this pgf. DO NOT

    change the “you” and “yourself”

    Unpaginated      |      Vol_VII-0663                                                                                                                  




    NEW YORK 14

    032      |      Vol_VII-0664                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

            By Christmastime the snowfall is approaching its minimum and the cold

    in gradually working toward that maximum which develops either in January

    or February and remains substantially through March.

            The Use of Moonlight . With the winter decrease of clouds the effective–

    ness of moonlight increases.

            A questionnaire sent out in 1934 by Stefansson, on behalf of Pan American

    Airways, to a number of bush pilots in Alaska and northern Canada, brought

    replies to indicate that most of the experienced flyers in Alaska considered

    the full moon about as favorable as sunlight for airplane landings and take–

    offs, and gave the length of adequate light at two or three days either side

    of the full. Canadian pilots tended to be more favorable to moonlight than

    the Alaskans, giving a longer period for the moon’s effectiveness, some voting

    the moon to be as good as the sun for six days either side of the full, thus

    for just under half the lunar month.

            The difference in verdict between the Alaskan and Canadian pilots is it–

    self enlightening. You do not readily appreciate, without seeing it you r self,

    the extent to which small patches of black (forests, willow clumps, rocks,

    ground swept bare by wind) will decrease the effectiveness of the moonlight.

    Steep hills throw shadows when the moon is low, and these also detract from

    the over-all effect of reflected moonlight. Alaska is, on the average, more

    rugged than northern Canada, has more rock exposures and more patches of willow,

    even beyond the forests. It was the subtractive effect of these, no doubt,

    which caused the Alaska pilots to give the moon only about half the effective–

    ness rating that was given it by the Canadians.

            Flyers whose experience is mainly or wholly in the Antarctic are usually

    skeptical of the value of moonlight. This seems strange at first, for the moon

    033      |      Vol_VII-0665                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    ought to be even more effective there than in the Arctic, since the snow sur–

    face is more nearly uniform. The reason for the difference of opinion is

    clearly that in the Antarctic, so far, most journeys, whether afoot or by

    air, have been made in the sunlight of summer; there has been little travel–

    ing by moonlight. Pilots who have never landed by moonlight seem nearly

    always to underestimate its usefulness.

            The Values of Cold . The Eskimo point of view is that most winter conditions

    are more favorable than those of summer. So the winter is with them the chief

    traveling season, the more so the farther north. Whites at first disagreed

    with this; but finally the explorers were won over. The first complete con–

    vert was Peary. It was gradually established by him that, for purposes like

    his, winter is the time of travel, summer the time of rest or preparation.

    The reason, of course, is the mobility of the arctic ice and the importance

    to the traveler of having a solid footing, without the danger of breaking

    through into liquid water. In the Antarctic, travel afoot has been on land

    and in a climate where little thawing takes place, even in midsummer. The

    explorers there could afford to idle away the winter, for they knew that the

    long summer was coming as an uninterrupted working season.

            From For planes the Peary generalization applies almost as well as for sledges.

    The flying is better when clouds are few, when snowfall is rare, and fogs are nearly

    absent. So the good flying weather deep inside the pack starts in late Novem–

    ber and improves through December and January. From the light angle, there is

    only the moon during the early part of this time, with the daylight steadily

    increasing after the New Year, (It is only north of 80° that daylight is wholly

    absent on the shortest day. There are various ways of figuring; some would

    034      |      Vol_VII-0666                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    put the limit of total absence of daylight on the shortest day at around 83°

    N. latitude.)

            Behavior of Moon and Sun . At the season when the Arctic Sea depends on

    moonlight, it is important for advance planning to remember that in high

    latitudes the moon behaves much like the midnight sun of summer that disappears

    in winter. For daring part of each lunar month the moon circles in the sky

    without setting; during another part it circles below the horizon without


            At the very pole the sun is above the horizon a little more than half the

    year; but almost as much light (say 80% as much) is lost through having the

    sun below the horizon nearly half the year. In the case of the moon, the

    loss is negligible through having it below the horizon, for this occurs at

    the new phase, when no appreciable light is yielded in any case. The period

    of constant revolution without setting is at and near the full, when the moon

    is giving its maximum light.

            To a flyer looking for a suitable landing place or air - base site in the

    pack, few things are therefore more Important than to have in mind a clear

    picture of this part of the moon’s behavior. In addition, he should have with

    him tables or a graph showing what to expect from the sun at any high latitude

    at any time. There are available several such graphical presentations. One

    was published by the international journal Arktis , 1/2, 1930; Wilh. Meinardus:

    “The Seasonal Change of Illum i nation in the Polar Regions” (title translated).

    Another, and perhaps the best yet published, was worked out by Dr. Edward M.

    Weyer, and published in the Geographical Review , of the American Geographical

    Society of New York, in July 1943. This presentation has since been further im–

    proved by Dr. Weyer and is included in Encyclopedia Arctica .

    035      |      Vol_VII-0667                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

            Daylight in the Pack . As February advances, daylight increases a good

    deal more rapidly than indicated by conventional astronomical calculations;

    for they usually neglect, among other things, refraction, snow reflection,

    and the appreciable diameter of the sun. Without any increase of clouds or fog,

    there is, then, through February a steady improvement both in the thickening

    of this year’s ice and in the increase of daylight.

            In most of the area which is for other reasons tentatively suitable for

    the establishment of semipermanent air stations, 24-hour daylight is available

    roughly from the last week of February.

            Best Scouting and Building Time . It follows from the above that, in normal

    times, the scouting for a prospective air - base site would begin in early

    February and the building of it late in February or early in March.

            Clouds and fog will begin to interfere [ ?] the earlier in the season the

    nearer the base is to the margins of the pack. In this matter latitude is

    of some consequence but distance from open water is more important. Distance

    from land is also material; for when the sun begins to strike dark surfaces

    on the islands or continents and to create heat, the humid air from them, pass–

    ing out to sea, works for the deterioration of flying weather. There is

    going to be ice deterioration, too, but this unfavorable development lags

    behind the weather.

            The Lands Produce Summer Fog . On the lands which surround the polar sea

    (partially excepting the few which are mountainous and therefore extensively

    glacier-covered), evaporation increases rapidly as the sun mounts.

            The slowness of evaporation when temperatures are around 50 ° F. below

    zero is indicated graphically by the drying of a linen handkerchief. Hang

    one up soaking wet at that temperature and it becomes stiff almost instantly,

    036      |      Vol_VII-0668                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    regaining its softness only in a period of between one and two weeks; while

    at around zero the handkerchief would be soft in a day or two — at most

    three or four days, depending, of course, also on wind and sun.

            The invisible steaming of surfaces, indicated by the drying of our

    frozen handkerchief, increases rapidly when the temperatures begin to swing

    between thaws in the day and frosts at night, and this produces local fogs

    over the lands that surround the polar sea. The third Stefansson expedition

    found, in charting the coasts of the islands which they discovered (Brock,

    Borden, King, Meighen, Lougheed) and those of the neighboring islands, that

    in May there is unlikely to be more than one clear day per week. However,

    this extreme fogginess is of more significance for stations located on shore

    than for drifting stations out in the pack.

            Fogs are Low . Arctic fogs average lower than those of the temperate

    zones. It was a common experience of the whalers north of Alaska and western

    Canada that when ships could not see each other from the deck or bridge the

    captains and lookouts could see each other from the mast heads, which were

    from 60 to 100 feet higher. It is common, too, on the arctic prairie for an

    observer to be surrounded by a thick fog on every hand, while, on looking

    skyward, he can see birds flying overhead, practically as if there were no fog.

    Accordingly, a flyer searching for an established base in the pack would have

    no difficulty in seeing it dark against the white landscape, if the plane

    were passing over the base and able to look vertically down, or nearly so. This

    is a corollary of the general proposition that fogs are less of a handicap

    to arctic aviation than would be inferred from a study of the old-fashioned

    weather records, as they were taken up to a few years ago.

    037      |      Vol_VII-0669                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

            Drift Bases Will Not Be in Foggy Areas . The like in true at sea, where

    fogs are many (and dense, horizontally speaking), especially in the drift

    ice that fringes the pack. However, we are postulating that the drifting

    bases will be one or several hundred miles from the margin of the pack, so

    that none of them will be in the very foggy area until toward the end, when

    each is about to drift into the open water between Greenland and the Franz

    Josef Islands, as indicated in this discussion, post , under “Drift of Base


            Even Central Pack More Foggy in Summer . While the margins of the pack

    are foggier than its center, and while conditions from the flying point of

    view improve at any time of the year as you approach the middle of the pack,

    still it is true that, even near the Pole of Inaccessibility, or Ice Pole,

    there is as summer advances an increase of cloudiness, of precipitation , and

    of fog.

            As said, this increase begins earlier near the margins, perhaps sometime

    in April, and reaches the center of the pack within the next few weeks. So

    May is a bad month near the margin of the pack but good near its center; June

    is a bad month throughout the pack; July and August are worse. Still, con–

    sidering the over-all flying conditions, it may be that things are at their

    worst in October, for then occurs a rapid decrease of daylight without a

    correspondingly rapid decrease of [ ?] clouds and fog.

            Snowfall in the Pack . It is probable that, taking the pack as a whole,

    the snowiest spring month is May or June and the snowiest autumn month either

    September or October.

            Rain in the Pack . In 1937 k , liquid rain liquid rain – is this a good term? took the place of snow as precipi–

    tation for about five weeks in the immediate vicinity of the North Pole, as indicated by the reports

    038      |      Vol_VII-0670                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    of the Papanin expedition. No one has yet spent a summer in the vicinity of

    the Pole of Inaccessibility, which is about 400 miles from the North Pole in

    the direction toward Bering Strait; but in all probability the season of

    liquid rain liquid rain ? is there about the same as at the geographic pole — thus between

    three and six weeks in different years. The rain season grows longer as the

    margins of the pack are approached.

            Summer Deterioration of Ice . Rain produces maximum deterioration of the

    ice in s given time, but the direct sun is nearly as bad.

            Some conditions which are inimical to foot travel are also handicaps in

    air operation. The third Stefansson expedition found, when traveling by sledge

    over the pack some 300 miles north of Alaska, that movement afoot began to be

    seriously impeded by the climate in May. As the season grew warmer, the

    thickening of the young ice on leads became slower. A lead which would have

    frozen over in two days during March, giving ice strong enough to support

    men and sledges, took three or four days to freeze over in April, five or six

    days in early May, and a week or two in late May.

            This slowing up of ice formation was only in part due to the decreasing

    chill; it was in greater part due to the increased depth of new snowfalls

    which blanketed the ice and protected it against the freezing effect of the air.

    There was also the added problem that the level uniform snow cover made it

    visually difficult to tell whether you were about to enter upon safe or unsafe

    ice surfaces.

            Judging Ice from Aloft . These same difficulties apply to the aviator. No

    matter how skilled and experienced he is, no matter how sound his judgment, he

    will find it increasingly hard to judge from above whether he is about to land

    on safe ice. Its strength may not be what he thinks, and snags will be hidden

    039      |      Vol_VII-0671                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    both by the thickness of the new snow and by its uniform whiteness. For there

    is a difference in color between snow and ice if both are exposed, while color

    differences disappear, and only shadows serve, if the ice is snow-covered; and

    even the shadows are decreased by the uniform and considerable reflection of

    light from the snow — the light that casts [ ?] shadows no longer comes in the

    main direct from the sun but now increasingly from surrounding objects, by

    reflection. The more numerous and effective the snow reflectors, the less

    clear-cut the shadows.

            Changes in Snow . As the temperatures grow higher, thare are two [ ?]

    pronounced changes in the snow — it melts and it turns granular.

            To the traveler afoot, granular snow is more of a nuisance than liquid

    water. He splashes easily through ponds which are at first ankle-deep or at

    most knee-deep; then he comes to snowdrifts of several feet in depth. Across

    these, dogs, sledges , and men used to pass when the weather was cold, leaving

    barely a trail. But now the drifts are slush, and the dogs sink to their

    bellies, the men to their hips; the sledge runners cut in until the body

    of the sleigh drags like a plow.

            The aviator who wants to come down landing under these conditions in spring will have to allow for un–

    safe ice, ponds of water , and snow that no longer behaves like snow.

            Degradation of Pack Ice . Water runs down any slope, so there are little

    rivulets trickling down the sides of the miniature mountains that have been

    formed during winter by the crushing of ice under pressure. Most of these

    ridges are low, but some reach the extreme height of 60 or 70 feet above the

    level of the surrounding ice.

            Near the edges of the pack, these small-scale mountain ranges of crushed

    040      |      Vol_VII-0672                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    blocks may crisscross each other every which way at distances varying from a

    few yards to a few hundred. Well out in the pack the pronounced ridges are

    likely to be separated by miles rather than yards. Whether close set or far

    apart, the thaw produced by rain and sun changes them gradually from the

    angular peaks and pinnacles of the first year to the rolling prairie contours

    of the fourth or fifth year.

            Ice is not as white as snow and therefore melts sooner through more of

    the sun’s light being transformed into heat. Surfaces at right angles to the

    sun melt more easily than those which receive slanting rays; ice slopes melt

    faster than similarly tilted snowbanks and the snow persists while the ice

    disappears. This in turn means that instead of open water in the hollow places

    you have mushy, water-soaked snow.

            The conditions which we are describing appear sooner near the margin

    of the pack and also, to a certain extent, earlier the farther south. Be–

    cause most people overestimate the effect of southerliness, we emphasize

    that with the midnight sun, which means a twenty-four - hour light delivery,

    there are potentials of heat creation that approach the tropical. (This is,

    of course, why the U.S. Weather Bureau has recorded temperatures as high as

    100° F. in the shade north of the Arctic Circle. That figure has been reached

    officially at one spot only, Fort Yukon, Alaska; but records of 95° F. in the

    shade are available from many arctic localities, while 90° is a common figure

    on all arctic continental lowlands that are far from the sea. )

            According to some calculations, the sun delivers a little more potential

    heat each twenty-four hours at the top of the atmosphere over the North Pole

    on the longest day of the year than it delivers over the Equator. By atmospher [ ?] ic

    041      |      Vol_VII-0673                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    absorption, it is considered that this is reduced, so that near ground level

    the heat delivery (light convertible into heat) is a little less than at the

    Equator. But only a little less.

            That we do not have a [ ?] sudden melting away of all the ice and snow in the

    polar sea under this terrific downpour is naturally because most of the light

    is never turned into heat, but is reflected back by the snow and, to a less

    extent, by the ice.

            But all over the polar sea are dark spots and patches that do not reflect

    the light effectively. Some of these are produced by dead crustaceans, fish,

    seals, polar bears, or other forms of animal life, and some by the excrement

    of live animals, including birds. Other dark spots result from vegetable

    matter — seaweed and that sort of thing. Then there are plants that grow and

    prosper in snowbanks, most conspicuous ly or are the algae that produce “pink snow” or

    [ ?] “crimson snow.” Whenever there is such a dark or darkened patch or spot,

    the sun gets stronger play, turning more of its light into heat; and these

    dark things, heated, melt their way down into pockets in the ice.

            When the black object has sunk beyond the direct reach of the sun, the

    thaw nevertheless continues to be facilitated, for we have now a bowl of water

    which reflects less light than the snow does — apparently also less than the

    ice. Besides, there are considerable snowfalls at this time of year, so that

    the ice is constantly being clad with a thinner or thicker snow mantle that

    stays undampened enough to be white for hours or even days; but the snow that

    falls in water melts at once, or at least darkens upon becoming soaked, so that

    the surface there creates more beat by the increased absorption of light.

            In the whole of the polar sea there is animal and plant life beneath the

    042      |      Vol_VII-0674                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice

    ice. One animal which lives there, the seal, has the ability to make holes up

    through the ice with his teeth. Each hole so made becomes a funnel down into

    which flow the thaw waters of spring. As it flows, the water enlarges the

    hole of the seal, while the network of affluent streams drains a small sur–

    rounding area of ice.

            There are other holes in the ice, produced, as we have indicated, by melt–

    ing that [ ?] starts around some dark object. As each pit finally breaks

    through and becomes a hole, a new drainage area is set up, with rivulets

    coming in from all sides.

            We have said already that there is no floe or field in the entire pack

    which is so strong that it may not crack under pressure. Some of these crocks

    were made early last in winter and are now healed by six or seven feet of ice;

    others are covered with thinner and thinner ice, according to their relative

    youth, and the thinner the ice the more likely it is to have numerous seal

    holes in it. Accordingly, there is an intensified drainage wherever leads

    are covered with relatively new ice.

            Then, of course, any fresh lead that forms by cracking of the ice after

    the beginning of the thaw period is a ready-made drainage outlet. Little

    streams begin at once to pour their thaw water into these leads.

            When a lead forms in cold weather, it divides a floe into pieces which

    freeze together again quickly into a floe of new composition, perhaps bigger

    than the old. But toward s spring the ability of the ice to heal its own

    wounds in this way decreases. Under very slight pressure the floes will now

    break along their lines of growing weakness, and these breaches cannot heal

    before autumn. The number of leads increases steadily as summer advances ; , so

    043      |      Vol_VII-0675                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    that ice fields of ten, fifteen, or twenty miles in diameter become more and

    more rare.

            Toward the end of summer there are probably not many fields in the polar

    sea which are more than ten or fifteen miles in their minimum diameter. ‘The

    average diameters are, of course, greatest near the center of the pack and de–

    crease toward its edges. At the extreme margins of the pack, wave motion, not

    appreciable without precision instruments if you are more than ten or w s o miles

    from open water, begins to cooperate in the breaking of fields into floes and

    of floes into cakes.

            Landing Places in Summer . From the point of view of travelers afoot, every

    seal hole that provides drainage and every open lead in a blessing, for now

    the water is draining from the slushy snow, and some of the slu s h itself flows

    along with the miniature currents into the drainage holes. The ice along the

    shores of leads now seems dry and it becomes relatively easy to walk and sledge

    along their banks.

            For a pilot in case of a forced landing, or a desire to land, the beat

    hope now — practically the only one — is to come down alongside and parallel

    to a lead. This must not be a lead through paleocrystic ice, for the hilliness

    of the very old floes is now at its maximum. To find even tolerably smooth

    ice, the pilot will have to select a new lead that runs through an older lead.

            As the summer advances , the drainage channels, which were a blessing to foot

    traveler or aviator, have less and less merit. For instead of remaining a few

    inches wide they become a few feet wide, and instead of being a few inches

    deep they are now several feet deep. These channels, however, are seldom wider

    than four or five feet, nor is the water in them often deeper than three or four.

    044      |      Vol_VII-0676                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

            But the channels come from or run through small ice-surface lakes. If

    the ice is paleocrystic, the lakes are innumerable, but seldom of a diameter

    of more than a few score yards and usually only a few yards, though relatively

    deep. On the third Stefansson expedition men sometimes had to wade across lakes

    of this type that were hip-deep. (They used empty kerosene or gasoline con–

    tainers lashed to the sleds to float them across? the dogs had to swim.)

            Where the channels between lakes cut through ice ridges they may be four

    or five feet deep, although the water in them would not likely be deeper

    than two or three feet. Where the lakes within the pack have been formed on

    relatively level ice, they are much larger, at times several hundred yards

    wide; but they are shallow, seldom deeper than two feet.

            Near the margins of the pack this process continues until the channels

    have cut their way right through the ice in which the waters flow, or until

    the ice is so weakened that a minor stress breaks it. Toward the center of

    the pack the likelihood decreases that a stream will cut all the way through

    to the sea below.

            At this stage of ice deterioration even a ski plane can hope for little

    better than a crash landing. It may be that it can descend along the edge

    of a lead and slide along far enough to reduce its speed considerably before

    it stubs the toe of a ski into an obstruction.

            Possibly special types of skis could be designed for this sort of lead–

    shore landing, ones more curved up at the tip than now usual.

            Leads Carry Fresh Water in Summer. The condition we have described is

    at its worst — or at least at its height — toward the end of summer. The

    leads are then fresh-water rivers, or canals. If, when traveling afoot, you

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    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    come to a lead which is less than a few hundred yards across, you can scoop

    up drinking water with confidence that there will be not a trace of salt

    discernible to the palate.

            For the third Stefansson expedition a rough measure of the depth of this

    fresh layer was furnished by the seals that were shot. When dead, the seals

    would sink through the fresh-water layer and float on the top of the salt

    ocean water beneath. They were seen at depths of ten and twelve feet. Probably

    in some instances the fresh water that lies upon the salt water in a lead

    has a depth of more than twenty feet.

            But if leads are one or several miles wide they are not fresh at the

    surface, except that they are relatively fresh after a calm of several days.

    For in a wide lead the winds produce a wave action that stirs up the sea,

    mixing the fresh water with the salt.

            Autumn in the Pack . When autumn frosts come in clear weather, ice forms

    rapidly over the lakes and channels; but if snow falls, to rest upon the new

    ice, thickening is retarded. The combination of thin ice with thick snow makes

    a situation that is doubly dangerous for men afoot, insofar as getting one’s

    feet wet is concerned; for the flow of thaw water continues through the

    channels as the lakes are being drained. When the lake is big the ice, with

    its weight of snow, will collapse down into the water; but if the lakelet

    is small, only a few feet across, the ice may be strong enough to act as a

    roof, maintaining an air space of an inch or several inches between itself and

    the water. W T hen a man afoot readily breaks throug h , even if he is walking on


            As winter advances, the freezing of the small lakes is slow, for they are

    located, in bowls that are filled with drifting snow. In some cases the

    046      |      Vol_VII-0678                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    traveling parties of the third St e fansson expedition were able to get fresh

    water out of such lakes six or eight weeks after they originally froze over.

            Skis vs. Snowshoes . There is enough rough ice on the pola e r sea to inter–

    fere with skiing. Several members of various traveling parties of the

    expedition were Norwegians, or otherwise accustomed to the use of skis, and

    the sledging parties always had skis with them; but they carried snowshoes

    also. It was only on rare occasions (when traveling before a fair wind,

    and usually in the early spring) that skis were used at all. Snowshoes are

    easier to carry, and should be preferred, unless both are carried.

            Natural and Artificial Strengthening of Ice . We described some way back

    how a base can be located on a paleocrystic floe or field. We might explain

    here how a floe that is being used as a long-term camp site may be strengthened

    for safer residence.

            As indicated, there are weaknesses in a typical floe or field at the end

    of summer, due to the lakes which have been absorbing more sunlight than

    the surrounding ice, and due to the network of channels connecting the lakes

    and leading to drainage points. These weaknesses tend to be perpetuated as

    winter advances; for the lowest places, where the ice lo thinnest, have the

    softest and deepest snow that most retards the thickening of ice.

            Now if there is a crew of men around an air base or scientific station,

    they can be sent out after each snowfall, armed with long poles that have at

    their ends some kind of knob or masher. They can follow along the “river”

    channels, walking on the solid old ice at the sides, and can break the snow

    and ice roofings, pounding them down into the water, where the snow gets

    saturated immediately and becomes a good conductor, a quick freezer. By a

    047      |      Vol_VII-0679                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    sensible adaptation of method, you can do similar things with the lakes.

            Later, when the ice roofing on the channels and lakes has become too

    thick for breaking, the men can stamp the soft snow down after each snowfall;

    they can roll it with a mechanical roller or drive back and forth over it

    with a track-laying tractor. Thus they will promote an equality of freez–

    ing, the weak parts of the floe being strengthened to where they nearly or

    quite match the originally strong parts.

            When midwinter approaches, with decreased snowfall and intensified cold,

    pumps would be used to fill with water the little lakes and the stream beds.

    This will produce not merely a floe with a surface level above but also one

    which can be visualized as fairly level below, on its water side. For thin

    ice will conduct cold a little faster than thick ice, with consequent equaliza–

    tion of the freezing, the hollows on the lower side of the ice being gradually

    filled in.

            Special Applications . The principle of helping along the thickening of

    ice by removing snow or tramping it down has long been known. Special appli–

    cations of this have been reported by Soviet explorers. There is, for instance,

    the creation of a drydock in ice.

            If a disabled ship which is not too large is wintering in the pack, the

    crew may, for drydock reasons, promote the thickening of the ice around the

    vessel in the manner we have indicated. When the ice is thick enough, they

    can cut it away from around the sides of the ship and expose parts where repair

    is needed. (This method is described and diagrammatically illustrated in “Ice

    Dock,” by Engineer K. Zhukov, Teknika Molodezhi ( Techniques for the Young ),


    048      |      Vol_VII-0680                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.


    Drift of Base Stations

            In discussing the locating of air fields on sea ice we must keep in mind

    that there are two sections of the arctic mediterranean in which the general

    trend of ice motion is problematic. One of these is the region to the north–

    west and west of the islands from Ellesmere to Prince Patrick; the other is

    the area of probable, or at least possible, eddy to the north of Alaska, east

    of the Point Barrow meridian. For all other sections we have enough drift

    records to make the trend of ice movement reasonably clear.

            Ice Motion North of Greenland . On his various sledge journeys toward

    and eventually to the North Pole, Peary found that, as he advanced farther

    and farther north from the Greenland-Ellesmere region, the drift to the east–

    ward became more and more rapid, until he got to that zone of maximum frac–

    ture which he calls the Big Lead. Since the intensity of ice motion, and

    sometimes even the direction, will depend in most parts of the Arctic Sea

    upon winds blowing at the time, or during the preceding few days, the Big

    Lead will not necessarily be at the same distance from Greenland at the same

    date of successive years, nor at different dates of the same year. However,

    this “lead” can he reckoned as being roughly 70 miles offshore from Ellesmere

    Island and 35 miles offshore from the Peary Land part of Greenland. It doubtless

    continues approaching nearer land the farther east we go. We can safely think

    of it as practically hugging the shore when we get as far southeast as North–

    east Foreland, Greenland.

            Speed of Ice Drift . The betl belt of greatest ice speed, in the direction

    of the Greenland-Norway gap, will be along the poleward side of the Big Lead.

    Soviet writers have spoken of 3/4 mile per hour as the maximum speed, and this

    049      |      Vol_VII-0681                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    may be right for any motion that depends in the main on winds of large scope.

    But, under the pressure of the violent local gales which blow near land, a

    motion estimated by the third Stefansson expedition at two 2 miles per hour has

    been observed to the north of Alaska — this being the notion, of the pack in

    relation to landfast ice.

            It may be that what Soviet writers have in mind is that, within the pack,

    the greatest differential motion of opposite sides of a load, with respect

    to each other, is 3/4 mile per hour. But in such case it is possible that

    the ice on both sides of the lead .is moving in the one direction and that

    the absolute motion with respect to the sea bottom is, in the case of one

    side of the lead, 2 miles per hour, against 1-1/4 miles per hour for the other

    side of the lead.

            Charles D. Brower, who had more experience than any other Alaska white man

    in whaling off Cape Smythe (Barrow), used to speak of ice drifting at two 2

    miles per hour. However, his estimate, and the mentioned one by members of

    the third Stefansson expedition, should be marked down as no more than esti–

    mates. It may be that they represent considerable exaggeration.

            If there is anywhere in the Arctic a motion of wide streams of ice as

    high as two 2 miles per hour, even for a few hours at a time, this will most

    likely occur in the gap between Northeast Foreland and Spitsbergen, in Bering

    Strait, or in some other of the straits leading out of the arctic basin into

    neighboring waters.

            Direction of Ice Drift . We know, then, that to the north of the islands

    Axel Heiberg, Ellesmere, and Greenland the motion of the ice, although occa–

    sionally reversed by a contrary wind, is to the east, and that the speed in-

    050      |      Vol_VII-0682                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    creases as we approach the slacking-out region between Greenland and the Franz

    Josef Islands. Since theoreticians have long believed, and since the Papanin

    expedition demonstrated, that the drift from the North Pole is in the direction

    of Iceland, we may consider ourselves to know that any floe which at a given

    time is located east of a line drawn from Axel Heiberg Island to the Pole, will

    move thence in a general Spitsbergen direction and with increasing speed.

            A doubtful area in this quarter, mentioned above, would then begin not

    far to the west of the Heiberg meridian. Little is known about the movement

    of ice in that region except what was learned from two sledge journeys, those

    of MacMillan at to the northwest of Heiberg in 1914 and of Stefansson north–

    ward from Borden Island in 1917. Both journeys indicate that there was little

    movement, or at any rate slow, with evidence on direction inconclusive.

            But the Stefansson sledge trip of 1915, to the northwest of Banks Island

    and in the region west of southern Prince Patrick Island, showed a definite

    though slow movement southerly. This trend is open to alternative interpreta–

    tions, that the main pull was toward M’Clure Strait, or that it was toward

    Alaska. It is known that the movement of water ail the year, and of ice

    when Melville Sound is not frozen fast, is easterly through the waterway

    represented by M’Clure Strait, Melville Sound, Barrow Strait, Lancaster

    Sound, to Baffin Bay; therefore it might be contended that southward movement

    of ice located westerly from southern Prince Patrick was only an effort by these

    floes to get into the eastbound stream running through M’Clure Strait.

            However, that the movement observed in 1915 to the west of southern Prince

    Patrick and northern Banks i I slands was really toward Alaska rather than toward

    M’Clure Strait becomes evident when those observations are studied together

    051      |      Vol_VII-0683                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    with the ones taken to the west of northern Banks Island by the Stefansson

    sledging party that made a fishhook-curve track in 1914 from Martin Point,

    Alaska, to northwestern Banks Island, especially the observations of late

    May to June 20. (See the separate route maps for 1914 and 1915 in Stefansson’s

    The Friendly Arctic .)

            Since it is obvious that there cannot be much movement of water easterly

    through the tortuous and shallow channels just north of the Canadian mainland,

    it follows that the ice which moves southerly along the western coast of Banks

    Island must turn west and drift parallel to the north coast of Alaska. P el le nty

    of evidence of this was found by the Stefansson party on their mentioned

    journey north from Martin Point, Alaska, in 1914; but this was only confirma–

    tion of what had long been known, from the British explorers of the middle

    nineteenth century, from the Yankee whalers between 1889 and 1907, from the

    Leffingwell-Mikkelsen expedition of 1906-07 — all of which was re-enforced

    by the drift of Stefansson’s Karluk from the Colville mouth to the vicinity

    of Wrangel Island in 1914. This westward movement from southern Banks Island,

    parallel to Alaska, appears to be chiefly along a line running westward at

    a distance of 150 or 200 miles north from the mainland shore.

            Stations in Doubtful Area . Since there is between the Axel Heiberg

    meridian and a point northwesterly from Prince Patrick Island a region where

    it is anybody’s guess what the trend of drift would be, an air base established

    on a floe in that realm of uncertainty might take either of two courses. It

    might drift woard toward the Spitsbergen-Greenland a aperture, and then probably at

    first with a rate of a mile or two per day; or it might start out southwesterly,

    and then probably at a much slower rate, perhaps half a mile or less per day.

    052      |      Vol_VII-0684                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

            The Y-drift n N orth of Barrow . It has been demonstrated by the drift of a

    number of vessels caught in the ice, among them the Baychimo and the Karluk ,

    that there is a Y in the current to the north of Point Barrow. A ship caught

    in the ice between Bering Strait and Point Barrow will drift northeasterly

    par a llel to the coast, while another ship caught in the ice along the north

    coast of Alaska between Barrow and the Colville, will drift northwesterly;

    the tracks of the two will meet at a point north of Barrow, when both will go

    northerly for a while, then turn west, to pass north of Wrangel Island, likely

    at some distance between 50 and 150 miles.

            The Karluk Drift . The Karluk drift of 1913-14 began at a point about 20

    miles offshore just east of the mouth of the Colville and took s northwesterly

    course parallel to the land, She stopped frequently and occasionally reversed

    herself, but in the long run she forged ahead so as to pass Barrow only a

    little out of sight of land — having been in sight from the lowland to the

    east of Barrow theretofore. With many zigzags the vessel continued westerly

    from Barrow until she sank about 50 miles north and a little east from Wrangel

    Island. This drift occupied the time from September 1913 to January 1914.

            The Jeannette Drift . The previously mentioned 1879-81 drift of De Long’s

    Jeannette started east of Wrangel Island. She first moved northerly until the

    island was well cleared and then began a trend somewhat north of west, which

    course she followed during the next year and a half, getting a little farther

    offshore constantly, until she was crushes in the ice off the islands she

    discovered — Jeannette, Henrietta , and Bennett.

            The Fram Drift . In the 1890’s it was the belief of Nansen, based largely

    on De Long’s work, that a ship placed in the ice in the vicinity of the New

    053      |      Vol_VII-0685                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    Siberian Islands would drift approximately across the North Pole on her way

    to the North Atlantic. During 1893-1996 his ship the Fram actually continued

    in the sort of spiral curve which is forecast by plotting on a map and con–

    necting the Karluk and Jeannette drifts. This line does not trend offshore as

    much as Nansen would have liked and does not go across the immediate vicinity

    of the Pole. The Fram’s drift curve is actually about 300 miles from the Pole

    at its nearest point, where the trend became westerly and then southwesterly,

    coming into open water to the west of Spitsbergen.

            Drift of Soviet Vessels . In the 1930’s and later a number of ships be–

    longing to the Soviet Union were caught in the ice in the New Siberian Island

    region and carried on Fram -like drifts. One of them, the Sedov , followed a

    course roughly parallel to that of the Fram but consistently farther from

    Asia, and made an approach closer to the North Pole by about 50 miles.

            The Storkerson Drift . In late midwinter 1918 a party of four men of the

    third Stefansson expedition traveled by sledge roughly 200 miles north from

    Cross Island, which itself is about 20 miles off the north coast of Alaska,

    somewhat east of the south of the Cl Colville. The leader of the party,

    Storker Storkerson, decided that they were then probably in the most favorable

    location for drifting westward on a course that would be parallel to and off–

    shore from that of the Karluk . So they made camp on a stout floe, planning

    to drift either one or two years, living by hunting.

            It turned out that the drift was not nearly as straightforward as had been

    expected on the basis of the Karluk and Jeannette tracks, so that, with a total

    drift in various directions measured by Storkerson at around 400 miles, the

    party made good only about 90 miles during six months in a resultant direction

    somewhat north of west — thus, however, approximately parallel to the trend

    054      |      Vol_VII-0686                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    of the Alaska coast.

            Travel Afoot Over Pack Ice . When the party had been encamped on the

    drifting floe about half a rear, Storkerson developed asthma, with repeated

    attacks of increasing severity. For this reason, but no doubt also because

    the drift was not so rapid or clear-cut in direction as he had hoped, he

    decided to take the party ashore, the landward journey is instructive in that

    it was made at what is for foot travelers the worst time of year — there was

    little daylight, much snowfall and a depth of newfallen snow which both

    hindered the thickening of young lee and concealed Its weakness.

            The report of Storkerson is therefore one of the most significant in

    the annals of polar exploration: “We started on the 9th of October and reached

    shore the 8th of November, without any trouble.” So, for men experienced as

    Storkerson and his companions were, even a 200-mile ice - pack journey by sledge

    at the worst time of year has only routine difficulties and is without great

    danger. Storkerson believed that the risk to life was perhaps comparable

    to that of coal mining or taxi driving.

            An Eddy in the Pack ? As said, there is, in addition to the doubtful

    area north and west of Axel Heiberg Island, a second area where the direction

    of drift is highly problematic. From the zigzag nature of the Storkerson

    drift, from his making good only 90 miles in six months (when the Karluk , a

    little to the west, cleared 600 miles in four months), and for other reasons,

    some think there may be an eddy between the Point Barrow meridian and Banks

    Island such that, if a floe were caught thereby, it might continue drifting

    around and around for many years, doubtless, however, to emerge finally south–

    bound through the Greenland-Franz Josef gap.

    055      |      Vol_VII-0687                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

            Drift of Projected Air Bases . It is our best guess, then, that if a

    drifting scientific research base were placed on the ice about 150 miles

    west from Borden Island; it would follow slowly the spiral curve indicated

    by the mentioned drifts and by the Stefansson sledge journey observations to

    the west and north of the Canadian islands. The slowest movement would probably

    be near the starting point, the floe moving southwesterly parallel to the line

    of the Borden-Prince Patrick coasts. The speed would no doubt increase

    temporarily, especially in summer, upon approaching the waters of the south–

    eastern Beaufort Sea, which are kept open in part by the tremendous volume of

    relatively warm waters brought north by the Mackenzie River, the second largest

    stream in North America. Then, after passing the Alaska-Canada meridian west–

    bound, the speed might be about like that of Storkerson, later working up to

    the Karluk rate, requiring at least a year between meridians 140° and 180°,

    and another year of two until abreast of the New Siberian Islands. Two

    or three years would then be required to duplicate the Fram or Sedov drifts

    to where they approach the warm North Atlantic Drift waters.

            It may be suggested that if a drift station were established 300 miles

    west of Borden Island, instead of only 150, this drift would also follow a

    curve parallel to the drifts of the Karluk , Jeannette , and Fram, keeping that

    much farther offshore; but the chance of this is no more than fifty-fifty,

    since there is a strong possibility that a base so located might start imme–

    diately toward the North Pole and the Greenland-Norway gap.

            Eventual Gulf Stream Destination of All Floes . It is an important and safe

    generalization that the destiny of every floe of the Arctic Sea, excepti on ing those

    right at the margin of the revolving pack which melt locally, is to float even–

    tually southward into the Greenland-Europe sector to be melted by Gulf Stream


    056      |      Vol_VII-0688                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

            Initial Location of Various Bases . If the reason for establishing drift–

    ing bases in a comprehensive study of the Arctic Sea, the thing to do might

    be to locate them on the map along a curve which would start at a point 150

    miles west of Borden Island. This curve would be drawn on the circump o lar

    chart to run toward the mouth of the Mackenzie, and then westerly parallel to

    Alaska, keeping 100, or more likely 200, miles off the Alaska shore until

    connecting with or beginning to parallel the drift of the Karluk . After that,

    the curve would parallel the Jeannette , and Fram - Sedov drifts. The first base,

    with its attached air field, should then he located at the Borden end of the

    curve, the second perhaps off the Mackenzie, the third at the International

    Date Line, the fourth off the New Siberian Islands, the fifth off Severnaya

    Zemlya (northern Land).

            Other bases might he located on a similarly curved line lying 100 miles

    farther offshore than the one we have plotted (at all points except the initial

    one where we would not dare to go that far offshore for fear of drifting at

    once in the Iceland direction), We might place the bases as far apart on the

    second curve as on [ ?] the first curve, or, rather, on the same meridians.

            Abandonment of Bases . If all these stations were established during the

    same midwinter and early spring period, we would expect to remove the per–

    sonnel and records of the most Europeward station after [ ?]one year, and

    those of the other stations after about two, three, four, and fire years.

            Suggested Base at Ice Pole . It might be interesting scientifically to

    place one more research base approximately at the Pole of Inaccessibility or

    Ice Pole (near 84¼ N., 160¼ (near 84° N., 160° W.). There we would have,

    theoretically, the maximum ice stability. Presumably, that station would

    057      |      Vol_VII-0689                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    drift so as to cross the Severnaya Zemlya meridian only a short distance

    to the Asiatic side of the North Pole. The drift from the Ice Pole to the

    vicinity of the North Pole would presumably be slow and might use up a year,

    so that the removal of personnel and records, perhaps 200 or 400 miles north

    of Iceland, would occur between one and two years after the establishment of

    the station.



            Clothing . For parties spending the whole year at such air-supplied re–

    search stations as here discussed, the recommended winter clothing would he

    somewhat of the type used by lumber jacks in the north woods or by miners in

    the Yukon and Alaska. These clothes are, on the whole, considerably better

    this [ ?] , its clothes [ ?] and not [warmer ?] , therefore [ are ?] discarded with E.A. Mahi his statement? than any issued by the U.S. Army during World War II. Furs, though warmer

    for their weight, are not essential; for during the cold part of winter most

    of the time would be spent within doors, in snowhouses.

            For water boots, useful in summer, follow the Alaska prca practice,

    especially the one used with hydraulic mining. The fresh-water lakes and

    channels on top of sea ice may attain a four-foot depth toward the end of

    summer. It would be well, therefore, to supply hip boots or wading pants,

    such as those used by sports fishermen. Waterproofs are a necessity, for it

    rains a lot in summer.

            Eye Protection . The advantage of spectacles over goggles is that, in cold

    weather, spectacles fog less easily from the moisture of the eye and from the

    “invisible perspiration” which is usually emanating from the human skin.

            Differing shades of amber glasses are better than a variety of “patent”

    substitutes; for they are more effective than anything else yet devised in

    058      |      Vol_VII-0690                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    combining adequate snowblindness protection with improvement in vision. Not

    until cameramen begin to substitute new inventions for amber in the light fil–

    ters of their cameras should the scientific staff of a floating research station

    of the Arctic Sea discontinue the use of amber glass as a combined protection

    and visual aid to the human eye.

            It is among other advantages of amber glasses that with them on you are

    less likely to walk over a precipice, or to stub your toe against an obstruc–

    tion, than you are when using either the bare eye or patent spectacles, You

    can follow a trail in the snow more easily and can better discern a white object,

    on a white surface — as, for instance, a ptarmigan, hare , or polar bear on a

    snow field.

            Housing . The Papanin expedition of 1937-38 brought to its original loca–

    tion, right at the geographical North Pole, ten tons of pay load on four ski-

    mounted planes, a materiel part of which load was a portable house, with appur–

    tenances. The expedition narrative shows that this dwelling proved extremely

    uncomfortable. However, many Europeans are so wedded to the idea of living,

    wherever they are, in the kind of house to which they are accustomed, that .it

    may be necessary to furnish the proposed drifting stations with conventional


            If one gives in to this emotional pressure, there are many choices as to

    the sort of portable house. Some are naturally much worse than others. It

    would seem best to leave an actual choice until the expedition has been pretty

    well formulated.

            Among the material considerations as to portable house is the location of

    the depots at which ships will unload supplies that are later to be flown to

    059      |      Vol_VII-0691                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    the drifting stations, and this we consider below. You can afford heavier

    and bulkier materials if the depot from which they are brought is near at


            No fetched-in winter housing is necessary. For, without any exception,

    those men who have used snowhouses extensively in the Arctic have found them

    to be most comfortable dwellings. But snowhouses are at their best only when

    outdoor temperatures are below zero degrees F . ahrenheit ; in warmer weather tents serve better.

    The tents should foe double; one thickness outside the ridge pole in the ordi–

    nary way, the inner one inside the ridge, suspended from the outer tent so

    as to yield an air space of an inch or two between. Bamboo-ribbed, conical

    double tents of the Shackleton type are good.

            The principles of living in snowhouses and tents are discussed elsewhere

    in this encyclopedia. Attention is drawn here particularly to the risk of

    carbon monoxide poisoning — which is no greater in a snowhouse than in any

    other type of house but needs constant vigilance wherever a chill climate

    tempts people to be stingy with ventilation.


    Supply Bases for Air Stations

            We need not consider supply of ice-pack base stations from land in Norway,

    Iceland, or East Greenland; for the sea ice to the north of these is in such

    rapid southward motion that any drift station readily established from these

    lands would soon find itself on a melting floe.

            West Greenland . For western end northwestern Greenland, the ease of north–

    warn penetration by ship differs a great deal in different years. However, with

    the precious help of airplane scouting and radio reporting, of which the early

    explorers had not the advantage, it ought to be feasible, at least on the average

    060      |      Vol_VII-0692                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    of every other year, to get as far north by ship as the steamer Roosevelt did

    in 1905 and again in 1908, to Cape Sheridan, near 82° 30′ N. latitude, which

    the Alert of Nares had indeed reached in 1875. It is certainly easy, practi–

    cally any year, to supply by steamer a land base at the Danish settlement of

    Thule, near 76° 30′ N. latitude.

            No Ellesmere Base Needed . It does not seem that there is much advantage

    in an Ellesmere Island supply base, as opposed to a Greenlandic one. Sovereignty

    may, however, introduce a material factor, Ellesmere being Canadian and Green–

    land Danish.

            Melville Island . Probably the best all-round arctic steamship base

    locations, from our present angle, that of supply far drifting stations, are

    in Melville. Bathurst , and Cornwallis i I slands.

            Hudson Bay . If desired, a supply base may be readily established at the

    northeastward rail terminal of Churchill, on the west shore of Hudson Bay.

    This is, roughly speaking, less desirable by at least a thousand miles, when

    comparison is made with a base in the Melville Island region.

            Mackenzie River . Westward, the next feasible water supply route is by

    way of the Mackenzie River. There we have the serious difficulty that the

    Mackenzie flows through Great Slave Lake, where the ice persists from four

    to six weeks longer than it does on the river itself; and, moreover, the

    steamers on this lake are such that they may be held up for days at a time

    by strong winds.

            There is (as of 1950) an all-season motor road, the Grimshaw Highway, from the

    rail terminal in the Peace River section of Alberta to the town of Hay River on

    southwestern Great Slave Lake. However, as long as the road terminal is Hay

    061      |      Vol_VII-0693                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    River, there is bound to be trouble with the c or ro ssing of Great Slave Lake.

    But it would not seem to be e vary great part of any large-scale preparation

    if an all-season road were laid out to branch off from the Grimshaw Highway

    at or near Alexandra Falls, going thence past the west end of the lake and

    tapping the Mackenzie near Providence. This would lengthen the season of

    navigation by four to six weeks, besides avoiding storm delay on Great Slave


            Waiving the Great Slave difficulty, we can say that supplies may be

    shipped down the Mackenzie to its mouth during June, so that there would be,

    even by the 1950 arrangement, nearly a four-month river navigation season.

    In recent years, the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police

    have both used this route, supplies being transshipped from river boats to

    ocean-going ones t in the eastern part of the delta, at a point on the main–

    land, opposite Richards Island s .

            The draft of river boats is now ordinarily not much more than four feet;

    but up to and including the summer 1907 there was on the Mackenzie an ocean–

    going type of boat, screw-propelled, called the Wrigley , which drew six and

    a half feet. With expert pilotage and careful buoying of the channel, it

    would no doubt be possible to return to a six-foot draft, if that were desired

    for any large-scale operation. At any rate, the present, four-and-a-half-foot

    draft will no doubt deliver all the supplies needed for a Beaufort Sea drift–

    ing scientific station and air base, if it be desired to use this supply route.

            Delta Facilities . There is no good harbor, properly speaking, at or near

    the eastern side of the Mackenzie delta; but about 90 miles west of the West

    Channel of the Mackenzie is the excellent, though small, harbor of Pauline Cove

    062      |      Vol_VII-0694                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    on Herschel Island, which in the great days of Yankee whaling, 1889-1906,

    accommodated probably s maximum of 16 ships of tonnages from 100 to 400.

    The depth, however, is adequate for any freight steamer that customarily goes

    into the Arctic, 20 to 25 feet. Supplies could then come down the West Channel

    of the Mackenzie in a river boat to watch for a chance to dash for Herschel

    Island, where freight could be transferred to ocean - going ships with a

    capacity of several thousand tons.

            The depth of the various channels of the Mackenzie delta, as in other

    great deltas, varies not merely from year to year but practically from day to

    day. It is not definitely known, but is probable, that you can carry as much

    water down, the West Channel of the Mackenzie as you can down the East Channel.

    (The reason why the Police and the Hudson’s B a y Company have used the East

    Channel is that they are chiefly interested in supplying the region thence

    eastward, as far as Bellot Strait.)

            Yukon Supply Base . If a Yukon route of supply if desired, shipment can.

    be made by steamer from Seattle to Skagway and thence by narrow-gauge rail to

    Whitehorse. If desired, freight can be shipped thence by river steamers to

    points down the Yukon River.

            ( The winter use of northern rivers, such as the Yukon end Mackenzie, is

    discussed farther on in this article. )

            Central Alaska Base. Central Alaska Base. If an Alaskan overland route is wanted, shipment

    is by steamer from Seattle to Anchorage (Seward or Whittier) and by standard -

    gauge U.S. government railroad to Fairbanks. Thence it is possible to ship by

    water up and down the Yukon.

    063      |      Vol_VII-0695                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

            Bering Coast of Alaska . The Pacific route proper will run from any

    North Pacific coast port north through Bering Sea and. Strait. The last good

    North American harbor on this route, however, is Port Clarence, near 65° N.

    latitude. It is considered a bit on the large side and also keeps its ice

    late into the season. There is an inner harbor for small ships at Teller,

    within the Port Clarence basin.

            Alaska North Coast . When a ship once rounds Point Hope, to move eastward

    to and beyond Point Barrow along the coast, it she finds no good harbor at all in

    the whole of Alaska and does not reach one till at Herschel Island, Yukon

    Territory, Canada. Thence eastward there are many harbors, some of them good,

    along the north coast of the mainland and among the islands to the north.

            Ships of moderate draft — perhaps ten or twelve feet — can get in

    past some of the north Alaska islands into the lagoons that stretch east–

    ward from Point Barrow toward Cape Simpson. It used to be that any of the

    whaling ships (with a maximum draft of sixteen feet) could get in behind

    Cross Island; but the last time that Ste f ansson was there (1913) each changes

    had taken place from the year before in the submerged sands pits or reefs

    that it would seem advisable to have annual reports from this shelter.

            Changes of depth are sudden and spectacular along arctic shores, for we

    deal not merely with the power of liquid water that is moving as a current

    or wave but also with the ploughing effect of vast ice fields which may have

    projecting snags that are placed almost as though they were a graver’s tool

    in a in a giant hand. Stefansson has reported such ice snags to scoop out

    a ten-foot channel through a sand bar at the tip of Shingle Point sandspit

    (halfway between the Mackenzie River and Herschel Island), where immediately be–

    fore the depth of water had been less than two feet.

    064      |      Vol_VII-0696                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

            Sometimes when ice moves gravel to open up or close a channel, its work

    is undone during the next few days or weeks by a current which may sweep away

    gravel that was heaped up, or may redeposit sand into an opening. Some of the

    ice-made channels, however, will persist for years, if not decades, and may

    conceivably become “permanent” [ ?]

            If some point on the north coast of Alaska is to be a base for supplies,

    the ship-shore movement of cargo will need to be handled by lighterage methods,

    which can be employed almost anywhere, or ships of extremely light draft

    will have to be used. Generally speaking, the lighterage method, has been in

    the past the main one, in Alaska, from the south of the Yukon north past Nome,

    Kotzebue, Wainwright , and Point Barrow east to the Canadian boun d da ry; on the

    Canadian north coast, unloading in harbors has been general; on the north

    coast of Siberia, both methods have been used, for there are long stretches

    of shoal coastal waters intervening between the excellent harbors.

            The North Coast of Eurasia . The establishment of drifting stations for

    scientific research is relatively easy from the Soviet Union for, unlike Canada

    and northern Alaska, the north coast of the Old World has a commercial seaway

    in operation every year with (according to 1940-50 figures) more than a hundred

    ships in regular operation as against two or three supply vessels that ply

    the arctic coast of Canada. This relatively heavy traffic has required the

    development of seaports with facilities both for the handling of large car og go es

    and for the interchange of cargoes between ships and planes. The biggest of

    these ports are Dickson, at the mouth of the Yenisei ; , Tiksi, at the mouth of

    the Lena ; , arid Ambarchik, at the mouth of the Kolyma. To Dickson and Tiksi

    supplies for a drift station could be delivered either through the ocean

    065      |      Vol_VII-0697                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    shipping of the Northern Sea Route or from downstream river traffic by the

    Ob-Yenisei and Lena routes.

            Murmansk, a port otherwise well located, would not be used for the estab–

    lishment of the discussed research drifting establishments, because of the same

    reasons we gave for the non-use of Norwegian seaports — there is too little

    ice to the north because of the warm North Atlantic drift; and the ice move–

    ment in any case is southward, thus precluding a long-continued drift even if

    an establishment were set up on a floe a thousand miles north of Murmansk.

    Dickson Island is also too westerly for convenient use. In the Soviet Union,

    then, the discussed ship-plane liaison would need to be with Tiksi — or a

    port on the Gulf of Anadyr.



            From the point of view of air - borne supply for research stations located on

    land, this section will deal with ice formed from snow. We consider this ice

    in its principal forms, which are: ( 1 1 ) permanent snowdrifts, ( 2 2 ) glaciers, and

    ( 3 3 ) inland ice inland ice or icecaps icecaps .


    Permanent Snowdrifts

            Snow p P reservation and Transmutation . Broadly speaking, snow in nature is

    preserved on land from one winter to the next, and thus turned to ice, only

    upon mountains or through the if influence of mountains. There are some par–

    tial exceptions, as will appear, ever, on land. At sea, a certain relatively

    small amount of snow may last on drifting floes from one year to the next.

    066      |      Vol_VII-0698                                                                                                                  
    EEA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

            Permanent Snowbanks . There seems to be general consent that certain drifts

    of snow, which in a few places are known to have been preserved from one year

    to the next, should not be called glaciers. For one thing, glaciers are

    thought of as large, and normally moving, while these “permanent” snow–

    drifts are thought of as small and stationary.

            Permanent snowdrifts large enough to serve for airplane landings are said

    to occur in a few valleys of the Brooks r R ange in northern Alaska. In more

    southerly Alaska ranges these drifts have developed into glaciers and bear

    that name. There are also a few glaciers in the northward face of the Brooks


            Except in mountains, permanent snowdrifts do not seem to occur in northern

    Alaska nor have they been reported from the northern Canadian mainland,

    which contains no mountains except in Yukon Territory. However, snowbanks

    have been seen in the vicinity of the Coppermine, northeast of Great Bear

    Lake, as late as mid-August, so it is possible that permanent snowdrifts do

    exist somewhere in the nonmountainous northern parts of the North American


            In Victoria Island no permanent snowdrifts large enough for airplane use

    were observed by the third Stefansson expedition, nor have reports of them

    come to notice. Almost certainly there are none in Banks Island, unless

    possibly in some valley along the north coast. Probaby there are few permanent

    drifts of size anywhere in the southernmost tier of the Canadian a A rctic i I s-

    lands until we get as far east as Baffin., where mountains come into play.

            But permanent snowdrifts, or ones that last rtoug through some summers, are

    067      |      Vol_VII-0699                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    found in a number of places on Melville Island and in all Canadian islands

    equally far or farther north.

            The situation in northern mainland Siberia appears to be about the same

    as in northern mainland Canada and Alaska.

            Permanent Snowdrifts as Landing Places . Particularly in the islands

    Borden, Mackenzie King, Ringnes , and Melville, Stefansson has seen snowdrifts

    in late summer upon which aircraft could have landed in emergencies. These

    drifts have usually been in the bottoms of narrow ravines, trending east and

    west, and, of course, have been on the southern sides of the ravines — on

    the sides that face north. The valleys have usually been so narrow that it

    would be difficult to set a plane down without a wing touching the cliff within

    the shadow of which the snowbank was preserved.

            Since these snowbanks are so unfavorably situated locally, it will probably

    be better in most cases not to use them but instead to make belly landings in

    wet grassy fields.

            In Melville Island, up on some of the plateaus, snowbanks remain large

    enough to the end of summer, and exposed enough, so that they would make

    fairly good emergency landing places.

            It occurs to one that these snowbanks could be used the year round as

    landing fields; for obviously a bank which is still there in late August is

    bound to be there through all the other months. This is true, but of little

    significance; for in the period from September to June, in islands like Mel–

    ville, the ice of lakes is much better for aviation purposes than any snow–

    bank. What aviation significance these embryonic glaciers have is, therefore,

    confined to the summer period.

    068      |      Vol_VII-0700                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.



            Glaciers as Landing Fields . Glaciers are more numerous in southern

    Alaska than in most other parts of the world, so it is natural that extensive

    use or glaciers for airplane landing purposes has been reported from this


            According to United States press correspondents who were in Norway at

    the time of the struggle between the British and the Germans, Nazi planes

    landed invasion troops at the heads of glaciers in the mountains back of


            It has been stated concerning the establishment of what was before World

    War II the most northerly permanent air base in the world (at Rudolf Island

    in the Franz Josef Archipelago, about 500 miles from the North Pole), that

    the pioneer airplanes which went in there landed on glaciers, and that

    glacier landings have continued to be used during summer. No doubt most winter

    descents and take-offs at this air base are now on land or on landfast sea ice

    near shore, for that will be more convenient to the village.

            Selecting Glacier Landings . The first rule about the aviation use of

    glaciers is that the very head of each glacier is usually the safest place,

    for up there you have little motion and few or no crevasses. Besides, the slope

    is not likely to be steep / .

            Glaciers are like rivers in that some parts of the bed have a steep

    grade with a rapid flow, others have gentler grading with slower movement.

    If you cannot land at the head of a glacier, you will then select those lower

    sectors which are level and slow-moving — this for the double reason of few

    crevasses and a relatively gentle slope of the surface as a whole.

    069      |      Vol_VII-0701                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

            In spring and summer, when thaws have melted away the snow bridges over

    crevasses, it may on rare occasions be advisable to come down at right

    angles to the trend of the glacier, which means coming down parallel to the

    crevasses. This will he only when the pilot’s judgment tells him that the

    belt between two crevasses is level and wide enough so that his plane is

    not going to slide sidewise down one slope or the other.

            [?] In winter, when crevasses are hidden by snow, the plane will come down

    at right angles to what the pilot thinks will be the trend of the crevasses.

            If the descent is upon a glacier which is so large that it divides Into

    two or more branches, or rivers, then a good place for landing will usually

    be back of the peninsula of land, or the land hummock, which has divided

    the ice stream; for there is less ice movement back of an obstruction than

    there is back of an open channel.

            Comparative Safety of Ice Landings . Bare earth in the Arctic is seldom

    smooth. In summer it is either rocky or muddy, often both. In winter the

    frozen mud is as hard as rock and sometimes angular. During winter in the

    Arctic it is usually safest to come down on lakes. Sometimes in summer about

    the only way you can make a good landing in many arctic islands is to come

    down on a glacier, which can often be done successfully with wheels down.

    The next choice will be a belly landing in a meadow (wet grassland) or on a

    part of a glacier which looks smooth. (Most arctic islands are either flat

    enough, to have meadows or rugged enough to have glaciers.)



            The nature of icecaps is most readily understood, and the misconceptions

    usually connected with them are most easily avoided, if we consider theory

    070      |      Vol_VII-0702                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    first, particularly the history of the theory.

            Icecap t T heories and Beliefs . The icecap concept derives from the ancient

    mediterranean theory of Five Zones: a middle or torrid zone, considered too

    hot for plant or animal life, because the sun was too near and too vertical;

    two temperate zones on either side, where the sun’s distance and slant were

    thought to be just about right; and two end zones believed eternally frozen

    and without life, because they were too far from the sun, with its rays too


            While the theory of Five Zones is considered to rest upon Pythagorean

    speculation of 500 or 600 years before Christ, there were after that sons

    centuries during which the philosophers, the scientists of that day, still

    continued to believe the stories found in Herodotus and elsewhere to the effect

    that the tropics were habitable and crossable. The rigid theory, with both

    tropics and polar regions looked upon as unlivable and uncrossable, seems not

    to have won full sway until in the second or first century before Christ, after

    which time it retained its unbroken control of Europe’s thinking until the

    fifteenth century, when the concept of the burning and lifeless tropics was

    finally broken down by the southward voyages of the Portuguese.

            A part of the concept of the frozen polar zones was the idea that life

    is difficult or impossible if snow covers the ground for a considerable time

    each year. This view doubtless came in part from the observed fact that when

    mountains are very high, and therefore snow-covered, no readily noticeable

    life is found above the snow line.

            So from the concept of the Five Zones with equatorial superheat and

    polar supercold, developed the concept of icecaps which were thought to have

    071      |      Vol_VII-0703                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    their centers at either geographic pole and to stretch their ice toward the

    Equator uniformly in all directions.

            The Shrinking Icecap . In the first century after Christ, Strabo, destined

    to become the controlling geographical thinker for the Middle Ages, considered

    that the southern edge of the northern icecap was a little north of Scotland.

    That was the main reason why he refused to believe the narrative of Pytheas,

    which claimed that around 330 B.C. the Greeks had sailed from Scotland to

    Iceland, a day’s sail beyond which (thus north from northwestern Iceland)

    they finally met the dense fog and sludge ice of the East Greenland current.

            Although the Pytheas narrative was generally disbelieved by the learned

    of Europe for more than a thousand years, northward exploration still gradually

    broke down the concept of the northern icecap; or, rather, moved its southern

    theoretical edges farther and farther north upon the maps. Finally, almost

    complete superficial exploration of the Arctic has now shown that there is

    no northern pole-centered icecap of the nature postulated by the Greeks, who

    thought of the Arctic Sea, and the North Atlantic to the vicinity of Scotland,

    as frozen to the bottom.

            Contrast between Arctic and Antarctic . Antarctic exploration has shown

    that there is in the south an icecap which fits in roughly with Greek theory.

    Therefore, in the sense of cosmographic thinking, it has been proved that the

    Greeks were right about the Antarctic although wrong about the Arctic.

            Greenland Has an Icecap . But it has turned out that there is one notable

    icecap in the Arctic, though not pole-centered. This covers the island conti–

    nent, or continental island, of Greenland, a land which has approximately the

    area of those twenty-six states which are east of the Mississippi, from Maine

    072      |      Vol_VII-0704                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    to Florida and back to Wisconsin. This semicontinent is now estimated to be

    about 84% permanently snow-covered. However, the estimated percentage of

    snow - free land has thus far been increased by every advance of exploration,

    and it way turn out that snow which persists from one season to the next

    does not cover more than 80% of Greenland. The largest free areas are on

    the southern west coast, on the central east coast, and on the central

    north coast.

            What has been called the largest natural airplane landing field in the

    northern Hemisphere is the said 80% ice coverage of Greenland. However, the

    crevassed portions of the edges of the inland ice ear hardly be called natural

    landing fields although planes have made safe descents upon them. (The

    first of such descents was made by Bert Hassel and Parker Cramer in 1928,

    and was, indeed, the first airplane descent ever made upon any sort of Green–

    landic inland ice. This was back of the Holsteinsborg district.)

            The Theory of Inland Ice Formation . The most popular theory to account

    for the permanent snow coverage rests on the premise that there are in Green–

    land two fairly continuous coastal ranges of mountains, along the east and

    west coasts, and the eastern ones occasionally rising above 10,000 feet,

    the western range being 2,000 or 3,000 feet lower.

            The supposition is that with the rise of these mountains, or perhaps with

    a combined rise and a change of climate, snow that did not melt from season

    to season began to gather in both eastern and western ranges. Glaciers then

    flowed seaward from both coastal mountain chains, to break up and float away

    as icebergs. But those glaciers that flowed inland from the two ranges were

    destined to meet near the center, there to build up gradually until now the

    east-west contour of Greenland, along most parallels, is something like that

    073      |      Vol_VII-0705                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    that of the upper half of an old-fashioned watch placed face down on a table:

    fairly steep gradients upward from the seaward margin of the ice at each

    coast to an elevation of 3,000 or 4,000 feet; a gentle gradient thence to

    6,000 or 7,000 feet; and from there to the center a grade which is not per–

    ceptible to unaided human faculties and determinable only by instrument.

            One of the disputes about this theory is in relation to the “original”

    height of the mountains. Some think there might have been, at the start of

    the ice formation, fairly high mountains pretty well all over Greenland, and

    that those not at the edges have been squashed down since by the tremendous

    weight of the central ice. This variant of the theory would seem to imply,

    then, that if the ice were removed, a geologically - speaking rapid re-elevation

    of the land would take place.

            Theory of a Local Wind System . Although not first to climb the inland

    ice, Peary, who made his first icecap journey in 1886, may have been the first

    to emphasize the prevalence of down-slope winds. He found that when

    he advanced eastward and upward from the west coast there were strong winds in

    his face most days, and that on his return journey they were usually at his


            From the confirmation of Peary’s observation by travelers, on both east

    and west coasts, there has developed a theory of gravitational flow of the

    winds. According to this there will be, along the north-south median line of

    Greenland, or a little to the east of it, an area of relative calm, with snow–

    falls that are level and remain soft until gradually pressed down through

    gravity and the physical changes that take place in snow with time.

            The theory does not necessarily deny, however, that there are occasionally

    in this area of relative calm some strong winds, which are considered to be of

    074      |      Vol_VII-0706                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson s : Uses of Ice.

    large cyclonic character. These winds have been looked upon as interrupting

    temporarily the gravitational circulation.

            A necessary part of the concept of a central calm area is the one that

    when you go east from the calm belt there are winds of increased frequency

    and strength at your back, with a predominance of violent gales when you

    reach the steep downward slope in the vicinity of the ocean. The like would

    be true of increasing east winds at your back as you move west from the postu–

    lated calm area.

            By this theory, the winds blowing westward toward s Baffin Bay would not

    be as violent as those blowing eastward toward Denmark Strait and the Green–

    land Sea. The difference would result partly from the greater height of the

    inland ice in the east, and the resulting steeper descent, but would be

    influenced even more by the relative warmth of the eastern sea. (At all times

    of year the air would be colder over the inland ice than over the ocean on

    either side, but the difference would be less to the west, where Davis Strait

    and Baffin Bay are colder than the main body of the Atlantic which lies to

    the east of Greenland.)

            [?] The Glacier Broom . The above theory leads to the concept of the Glacier

    Broom — winds that sweep eastward and westward toward either coast, brushing

    the snow along before them.

            Surface Characteristics . There would be, then, near to central Greenland,

    a prevalence of level snow. If this levelness is not of fundamental importance,

    it is nevertheless significant. For one thing, the hard snowdrifts ( sastrugi sastrugi )

    from the occasional gales would usually be covered by soft snow in a manner to

    make them [ ?] visually hard to detect, particularly from an airplane.

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    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

            So, as we approach either coast, coming from the inte n ri or, we find an in-

    crease of harder and harder snowdrifts, which will make landing with ski

    planes,, and belly landings, more bumpy and more likely to cause injury to



    Central Icecap Research Stations

            If it be desired to establish research stations with airplane landing

    fields near the north-south median line of Greenland, it will be necessary

    to try out, through long-continued and varied tests, the usefulness of snow concrete.

            Snow Con c rete . It is a commonplace in the Arctic that, if a sledging

    party travels in cold weather during or immediately after a fall of snow, and

    if a gale comes within the next few days, the trail will stand up in the

    form, of what has been called snow concrete. Where the runners have passed.

    and especially if the load on the sledge s was heavy, there now are two ridges

    that look like the rails on a railway track. The footprints of the men will

    be elevated, each on its pillar and of the same area as the sole of the foot.

    These elevated footprints, altar a stiff gale, may be as such as two or three

    inches higher than the rest of the snow surface; for the gale has swept away

    the uncompressed snow but has not been able to carry away the hardened

    columns underneath each footprint. The prints of the dogs will be elvetaed

    elevated similarly, each standing on its slender stem, like a flower.

            Here and there the rail-like trail of the sled, and the elevated foot–

    prints of the men and dogs, will, he hidden by snowdrifts. Between these new

    drifts is where you see the old trail as described.

            Perhaps even more impressive than the hardness and consequent durability

    of this kind of snow trail, is the difference between snow blocks and soft

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    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    snow when you are building a snowhouse.

            The workman cuts the house building blocks from drifts which are bard

    enough so that a man who walks across them leaves barely a trace of his steps

    — snow that is so hard that, although a block 30 inches long, 18 inches wide ,

    and 4 inches thick may weigh 50 or more pounds, still the material is [ ?]

    strong enough so that, if he avoids jars, he can handle it with safety. As

    he builds the snow wall he leaves cracks between the blocks. When the house

    has been completed, he finds some soft snow in the neighborhood, or he makes

    some by grinding fragments of broken blocks under his heel till they are

    powdery. With mittened hand he now rubs this into the crevices or seams

    between the blocks. If, with a fingertip or a pencil, he feels this snow

    immediately after it is pressed into the crevice, it will be soft in compari–

    son with the blocks on either side. But next morning this erstwhile soft

    snow will be much [ ?] harder than the blocks, so much harder that if a house

    is being demolished it will prove that the breakages are more likely to be

    athwart the blocks than along the seams.

            In a way this greater strength of what were last night the weak places of

    the wail is analogous to the case of a broken human bone, which, after a good.

    healing, is stronger where it broke than it is on either side;. However, this

    analogy should not be pressed; for apparently the increased strength of the

    bone is due mainly to a greater amount of osseous tissue at the location of

    the previous break, while the seams between the snow blocks are, on the con–

    trary,, nearly always thinner than the blocks themselves, so that the greater

    strength in the seams is not due to a greater mass of snow but to its superior


            It is important to remember that the formation of snow concrete, of which

    077      |      Vol_VII-0709                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    we are giving this s uperficial description, does not take place readily or

    spectacularly at temperatures that are only a little below freezing. So far

    as we know, the process works the better the lower the temperature.

            The formation of snow concrete must not be confused in one’s thinking

    with that formation of ice which results from slushy snow when a thaw is fol–

    lowed by a freezing. For one thing, a crust formed by snow freezing after a

    thaw reminds of fresh-water ice, or of glass, in its t exture, and breaks some-

    what after the manner of glass. Snow concrete reminds, rather, of ordinary

    concrete — hence its name.

            Hardening Icecap Airfields . So far as we know, it ought to be feasible,

    with mechanical rollers and the power, to produce, by rolling after every

    snowfall, an airfield of snow concrete such that even the heaviest wheeled

    planes could eventually land safely.

            It would be a matter of experiment to determine how long this would take

    and what the best method would be. For instance, we do not know at present

    whether it would be a wise thing to have the rolling continuous during a

    snowfall, so as to do the field over again for each one or two inches of

    fluffy snow, or whether it is better to wait until the snowfall is over and

    then compress several inches, perhaps a foot of fluffy snow, at one operation.

    Neither do we know what the optimum pressure would be. Probably the heavier

    the rollers, the stronger the snow concrete.

            Artificial Surfacing for Snow Airfields . If it should prove that stamping

    or rolling the surface after each snowfall does not, in course of time, pro–

    duce a surface hard and strong enough for large wheeled planes, the alterna–

    tive will be to use steel, or other matting or aprons, after the manner customary

    where planes have to land on muddy or otherwise soft ground. About this there

    078      |      Vol_VII-0710                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    will be the difficulty, however, that the mats are going to get buried in snow.

    This is not serious on land in the Arctic, tor the snow of winter is going

    to melt away the next summer. It might be serious on the inland ice where

    no melting ordinarily takes place.

            However, should it be decided to use matting to give a sustaining surface

    to a snow landing field, and should the matting get buried, it might prove

    feasible to thaw it out next summer by the use of lampblack, crankcase oil,

    or some similar dark material, after the manner we have detailed in connection

    with lakes.

            Winds at a Central Station . If the icecap station is located in the belt

    of relative calms, the blizzard element of the problem should be less serious

    than in prairie districts like the state of North D a kota or the province of

    Saskatchewan. Apart, then, from the production of snow concrete, which we

    have just dis uc cu ssed, we could no doubt take over for Greenland in a body

    the winter upkeep practices used in the northern prairie states.

            It will always be important on the icecap, though of less moment near

    its center than near the margins, to see to it that buildings are not near

    enough to the landing strips so that snowdrifts formed in their lee during a

    blizzard can extend out upon the runways. Similarly, one would have to be

    careful that tractors, and even small gear like a sledges, shall never be left

    as snowdrift gatherers on the field, or just to windward of it. The prevail–

    ing winds, or the direction of the strongest winds, would be determined and

    the buildings placed to leeward of the field.

            Temperatures in the Relatively Calm Area . It is possible that the Cold Pole

    of the northern Hemisphere will, eventually be discovered on the [ ?] inland ice

    of Greenland, then probably somewhere near 78° or 79° N. latitude, between

    079      |      Vol_VII-0711                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    W w est longitudes 30° and 50° . If so, the minima of certain winters may drop to

    lower than 93° F. below zero, 125° below freezing, which is about the lowest

    temperature ever recorded in the Oimekon-Verkhoy i ansk “Cold Pole” region of

    northeastern Siberia.

            A temperature of −90° may seem forbidding to those not used to it. An

    apparently reliable man who spent two winters at Verkhoy i ansk reports, first

    that he never observed extreme cold there unless the air was “perfectly

    still,” meaning that smoke would go straight up. When the air was still, at

    Verkhoy i ansk the weather was not considered too cold for children to play out

    of doors. On being asked what games the children played at this temperature,

    he reported that during recess the pupils would divide into equal groups

    on either side of a school building and throw a ball over — which is our

    game of “ante-over,” and which is played in states like North Dakota at

    temperatures which sometimes drop to the vicinity of −50° F. (Sixty degrees

    below is the lowest temperature reported by the Weather Bureau from North

    Dakota; towns in Montana have minimum records of 63° below zero; in Wyoming

    the minimum record for a town is −66°.)

            If it be suggested, then, that an inland ice research station and air base

    should be established at or near the Greenland pole of cold, the planners

    will not be facing any insuperable difficulties, and there will be some ad–


            For the pole of cold will necessarily have, in winters at least, a pre–

    ponderance of weather which is both calm and clear, and these are cardinal

    advantages in aviation. Being very cold, the air will be very heavy in rela–

    tion to altitude, so that it will have a greater lifting power on airplane

    080      |      Vol_VII-0712                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    wings than would be expected, at the given altitude in less cold regions. So

    far as we know, the concreting quality of snow improves with a drop in

    temperature. If this theory be correct, it will follow that rolling the land–

    ing strips will produce a stronger and harder surface at the pole of cold

    than elsewhere.

            Keeping the surface in condition by rolling will be easier at the c C old

    p P ole than elsewhere, since the snowfalls will be relatively light and the

    snow will tend to lie both evenly and long enough to give time for rolling.

            With some of our machinery, as it is now, there will undoubtedly be

    difficulty in operating at 90° below zero. But experience in operating

    machinery at extreme low temperatures would add to the importance of a scien–

    tific station connected with an airfield located at the pole of cold.

            Buildings at the Pole of Cold . The more uniform the cold, and the lower

    the minima, the greater the need for insulation in buildings. But there are

    few better insulators than snow. The problem is, then, to make effective

    use of this inexhaustible and superior local supply of insulating material.

    We do not go into that problem here for it is covered in this Encyclopedia

    under housing housing and under snowhouses snowhouses . — remove underscores


    Air Stations in the Marginal Areas

            As you move east or west in Greenland, from the median line of relatively

    few strong winds, you naturally progress into more and more windy areas. This

    produces a progressive change in the snow surface as you approach either coast.

            Effects of Strong Winds . Since the winds are stronger and more numerous

    near the margins of the inland ice, the snowdrifts [ ?] become both harder and

    081      |      Vol_VII-0713                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    larger — especially harder. So the problem of keeping an air landing strip

    level becomes more and more difficult as you approach either coast.

            Working Hard Snow Surfaces . The very fact that the wind pounds the snow

    to a certain degree of hardness makes it more difficult to secure the further

    hardening that is available through rolling soft snow. Trial [ ?] may show,

    however, that it will be feasible to use rollers so extremely heavy that they

    will crush down even the hard drifts. Alternatively, it may prove feasible

    first to level the drifts by appropriate machines and to follow this process

    immediately by a rolling of the field. For next in ease to forming snow

    concrete from new-fallen flakes comes forming it out of snow that has

    recently been finely crushed.

            Perhaps some kind of rotary machine could be developed which at [ ?] one

    and the same time could take off the tops of the snowdrifts and convert the

    removed portions into fine powdery snow. If that can be attained, the

    concreting process through rolling will be facilitated.

            It is clear, then, that the nearer you get to the margin of the inland

    ice, the less suitable the conditions are for an air base. The snowdrifts be–

    come more and more of a handicap; blizzards that interfere with visibility

    will increase in. number and violence. Crevasses become more and more numerous,

    as well as tending to be wider.

            Landing Fields Below the Margin of the Inland Ice . A number of places have

    been found in Greenland which are close below the margin of the inland ice and

    are areas of calm. In these it seems that the air which comes off the edge

    of the snow-covered island continent is behaving like a vast Niagara; and just

    as it is possible to walk behind Niagara Falls, so is it to walk under or behind

    this aerial cascade. Air is lighter than water and will overshoot much farther

    082      |      Vol_VII-0714                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    than possible with a waterfall. So there are, in some places, several square

    miles of calm territory right in under the edge of the ice. When there is a

    violent gale pouring off the ice escarpment, it strikes the ground to the

    seaward of this overshot space, and tears along the earth’s surface from there

    outward until it is neutralized by a local static condition of the atmosphere,

    or by a contrary wind.

            The calm under - cascade places of this nature that have been reported

    so far are without a permanent ice covering. But it does not seem unlikely

    that if a search were made on e could discover a number of peninsulas, on

    either coast of Greenland, that have upon them relatively static ice, with

    few crevasses and a comparatively level surface, and where an area large

    enough for a landing field would be sheltered on our behind-a-waterfall


            If temporary landing fields are in view, areas like those just described ,

    can no doubt be found in glacier-free localities that have lakes. The ice of

    the lakes can then be used in winter for wheel and ski plane landings, while

    the liquid water will give boat facilities in summer.



            Introductory . This paper began with the aviation uses of ice; for in the

    current stage of progress the natural transportation approach to a vast un–

    coloni s z ed region, like the combined area of the northerly Subarctic and Arctic,

    is through the airplane; it is as natural now to pioneer by air as it formerly

    was to do it by water, the plane taking the place of every water [ ?] device,

    from canoe to steamboat and ship. In the North the plane attempts also to

    083      |      Vol_VII-0715                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    take the place of land devices, such as sledges drawn by dogs, reindeer , and

    horses. The plane will have growing arctic competition from other transpor–

    tation agencies, among them railways and highways.

            In liquid water transportation, lakes and rivers now compete with the

    combined forces of airway, highway , and railway. However, the rivers and

    lakes, and even the sea, are handicapped in the North through being frozen

    over during a part of the year; end this handicap increases the farther north

    we go, the open season on some parts of some of the great rivers being only a

    third of the year; some lakes, and parts of the N n orthwest and N n ortheast sea

    passages, are still more handicapped for boats in that the open season is

    only a quarter of the year , in some places and during some years even less

    than that.

            Motivation therefore Increases northward for using ice roads for sledges

    to supplement the water routes of boats. Especially river ice, but also the

    sea ice along coasts, has been used extensively for freighting with sledges

    drawn by animals. Now tractor trains are coming in. It seems that, through

    tractor freighting, the rivers are on the threshold of great development.

            This brings us back to what we said in the introductory pages of this

    article about the strategic relation which the Arctic Sea and [ ?] its tribu–

    tary rivers hold to northern transportation, particularly in the developmen–

    tal stage before railways and highways are built. For the north-flowing

    streams radiate, like the spokes of a wheel, away from a hub which is the

    arctic mediterranean sea, each of the four greatest rivers navigable by steamers

    In summer for 2,000 miles and penetrating to the heart of their respective

    continents, the Mackenzie for North America, the Ob, Yenisei , and Lena for


    084      |      Vol_VII-0716                                                                                                                  
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            These roughly estimated mileages refer to the main streams, not to their

    tributaries. Some branches of the Mackenzie, like the Athabaska, have been

    navigated commercially by steamers drawing as little as 20 inches, which

    practice will add a thousand and more navigable miles to each of the four

    great systems. But then winter comes, closing the steamer season but opening

    that of the sledge; and sledges can travel over ice made from less than twenty

    inches of water.

            So each of the four greatest northern river systems will furnish in

    winter a system of ice roads of at least 5,000 miles and fanning out, or rather

    palming out like the fingers of a giant hand, southward into the regions of

    wheat farming and of east-west railways. The southward river traffic [ ?] carries

    the people and produce of the Arctic and Subarctic to the railways; the north–

    ward traffic carries people and manufactured goods through Subarctic and

    Arctic to the Arctic Sea. Food supplies move both ways, the beef and mutton

    north, the reindeer meat and fish south. Incidentally, traffic in fresh meats

    is easier by sledge in January than by boat in July, through the convenience

    of natural refrigeration.

            The additional factor, freezing, which increases the winter transportation

    mileage of northern rivers beyond that of summer, is also a factor of con–

    venience, as illustrated on the Mackenzie system between Edmonton and Aklavik.

            In summer, a northbound railway freight car loaded at Edmonton has to be

    unloaded at Waterways for transfer to a cargo steamer; the steamer is unloaded

    at Fitzgerald for trucking to Smith, and the truck unloaded at Smith for trans–

    fer to a steamer that covers the rest of the distance to Aklavik. But in

    winter a freight package, say a ten-ton piece of -machinery, can be placed in

    Edmonton upon a sleigh that does not have to he unloaded till it reaches its

    085      |      Vol_VII-0717                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    final destination, at the end of steamboat navigation in Aklavik or even at

    some farther destination, perhaps on the arctic shore of Canada.

            The Former Role of Northern - Rivers. In heavy freighting the northern

    rivers have long been important during summer, for they have connected the

    railway belt of the middle north temperate zone with the Arctic, serving the

    multitudinous and growing industries of the greet valleys. But the steamers

    operate less than half the year, because of the freeze - ups, and they do not

    reach far upstream along the smeller branch valleys because of the shoal water.

    So winter sledging has a field longer in time, larger in the area served.

            Walking is older than rafting or canoeing and there is no doubt that man

    walked along the smooth ice of the northern rivers in winter long before they

    were anything but a transportation handicap to him in summer. The sledge may

    also be more ancient than the canoe, and snow-covered frozen streams are

    ideal for sledging. The reindeer may be as old a domestic animal as the horse,

    and the dog precedes both; so it may be that winter travel and freighting by

    dog and reindeer is more ancient than the invention of the wheel and the use

    of wagons anywhere. The use of [ ?] frozen rivers may be one of the earliest

    of man’s great strides of cultural advance.

            Speculation aside, the first European explorers reported sledging by

    reindeer and dog as an established practice along all the north-flowing rivers

    of the Old World, and of dog sledging along those of the New. When the Russians

    began to spread through northern Siberia they introduced the horse in places

    to supplant or supplement the reindeer; in other places they developed further

    and improved upon those methods of reindeer and dog travel which they found

    in use among the local people. In North America the horse never competed with

    086      |      Vol_VII-0718                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    the dog on the lower Mackenzie. In Alaska the horse did compete with the

    dog, particularly on the upper Yukon and its branches end especially during

    the first two or three decades after the 1893 Gold Rush. Then came that

    railway development which made steam boating unprofitable on the Yukon [ ?] in

    summer; it also made horse travel impractical on most sections of that river

    in winter.

            But a new era for ice travel started with the development of the track–

    laying tractor, able to pull long trains of heavy sledges. Before the be–

    ginning of World War II this art had been advanced to a point where an

    estimated 1,100 tons of green logs were hauled on a sledge train behind

    a single tractor. Such s feet is impossible on the best overland snow roads

    that traverse even gently rolling country, for so big a load is at present

    not mov e able by an ordinary tractor except on a water-level highway where

    the upgrade, if any, is imperceptible to human faculties and shown by in–

    struments to be of the order of a foot to the mile.

            Dog Freighting on the Yukon . Although not geographically comparable to

    the Mackenzie and the three great northern rivers of Asia, since it does not

    reach from the Arctic Sea into the farming and transcontinental railway belts,

    the [ ?] Yukon is nevertheless of great transportation importance, almost comparable

    to the big four in length and with a climate which gives a longer season to the

    sledge than to the steamboat. However, its winter freighting has not been impor–

    tant in the past, nor is it easy to forecast a great role for it in the near


            Before the arrival of whites, all winter river freighting was haphazard,

    and chiefly a service to a local community — the s el le dges seldom arrived from a

    distance of more than a hundred miles or so, and their business was things like

    087      |      Vol_VII-0719                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    visiting around to join in midwinter festivals and then the transport of a

    family with its goods from one district to another — usually to no great

    distance since there were tribal hostilities and other reasons for not going


            Our present discussion centers upon the use of the ice, so the details

    of this freighting will be reserved for an article on the transportation section in another

    volume of the Encyclopedia, where we are going to be concerned rather with the

    uses of the sled, under its [ ?] various motive powers of dog, reindeer, horse ,

    and tractor. We shall there discuss the rather extensive use of the upper

    Yukon for horse sledging during the early decades of our century.

            Dog Freighting on the Mackenzie . In prewhite times, and during the pioneer

    stages of the fur trade under the North West Company and the early Hudson’s

    Bay Company, the winter use of the Mackenzie was similar to that of the Yukon.

    But things changed when the Hudson’s Bay Company became more tightly organized,

    particularly under the administration of Sir George Simpson (1826-1860). Most

    of the heavy river freighting was still done in summer, for canoe transport

    was traditional both to the Europeans who made up the Company and to the

    Indians with whom the traders dealt throughout the valley. But the needs of

    administration soon brought about a moderately systematized winter transport

    where packets were carried by toboggan northward from Edmonton in relays

    of 100 and 200 miles from one Hudson’s Bay Company “fort” to another, as far

    north as where the Peel joins the main stream of the Mackenzie at the head of

    the delta.

            Around the middle of the nineteenth century, La Pierre’s House was estab–

    lished on the Bell River, and Fort Yukon where the Porcupine joins the Yukon.

    088      |      Vol_VII-0720                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    This opened several decades in which the Mackenzie sledging was continued over

    the divide from the Peel to the Bell and then down that river to the Porcu–

    pine end thus to the Yukon proper at Fort Yukon. This system was still in

    use at the time of the 1898 Gold Rush, and the Mackenzie became one of the

    routes to the Klondike, at which time a few horses were used on the lower

    Mackenzie. (The last use of the horse appears to have been when the brothers

    Willoughby and Reuben Mason had a pair which they turned loose to shift for

    themselves in 1912. That the country is in a way suited to the horse was

    shown by the sporadic appearance of that team for a number of years when they

    were sighted either by whites or by Indians. They may have died of old age,

    but it is likelier that they were destroyed by wolves — which, after all,

    pull down the moose, an equally strong animal and native to these woods.)

            Dog f F reighting in Siberia . Many of the northern rivers in any part of

    the Arctic have soft snow on them for long reaches; only North America had

    the best sledge for such going, the toboggan. The Lapp sled, a sort of cross

    between a toboggan and a snow boat, is fairly good for soft going; but this sled

    is not found to [ ?] the east in Siberia except that there were toboggans among

    the Evenki of the forest between the Yenisei and Lena. Only the North

    Americans developed the tandem manner of hitching dogs, the one harness

    suited, for thick brush. This harnessing was a great step forward, since the

    pre - white users of the sled had frequent occasion to leave the clear ice roads

    of the rivers for the woods and bushes.

            We can generalize, therefore, that dog freighting on river ice was, in

    northern Asia, of the same sporadic nature as in North America, but less

    developed because of less adequate sledges, harness , and hitching.

    089      |      Vol_VII-0721                                                                                                                  
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            The Reindeer on Northern Rivers . When the domestic reindeer was intro–

    duced into Alaska, through the gradual importation of 1,280 head between 1892

    and 1902, it was done from the point of view of a charity, where the beast

    was intended by the whites as a food supply for the Eskimos. However, the

    industry was to be; developed under the tutelage of Lapps who were imported

    to teach herding. But they were in the habit of driving reindeer in their

    home country, and so there took place along Bering Sea end Strait a slight

    development of reindeer driving for a few years. However, the Lapps soon

    agreed that, for most Alaska uses, and in view of the fashions and prejudices

    of the whites, it was better to use either dogs or horses. Historically

    speaking, then, the use of the reindeer was of slight extent and small sig–

    nificance upon and around the lower Yukon.

            Although reindeer were introduced to the lower Mackenzie in 1935, and

    although they are having there a moderate development, this has been strictly

    as a food animal and there has been no reindeer freighting anywhere on the


            On the Siberian rivers, reindeer freighting was in extensive use when

    the first Russians got there, and they presently developed it still further.

    In Siberia the reindeer, besides continuing to serve the purposes of the

    local people, now began to play its role in the special activities of the

    Russians, among them fur trading and the exile system. Many a group of

    exiles, coming from European Russia, made direct and speedy progress north–

    eastward, first by horse and then by reindeer, until they reached the deltas

    of the great rivers. Overland routes, from one arctic river to another, dis–

    tributed both traders and exiles along she smaller streams as far as to and

    090      |      Vol_VII-0722                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    beyond the Kolyma. Measured lineally from starting point to destination,

    and considering both the horse and the reindeer, the longest of these were

    by far the longest sledging routes that history chronicles.

            Tractors on Northern Rivers . After this slight historical sketch of

    river ice, in its relation to dog team, reindeer , and horse transportation,

    we turn to motorized river traffic, without attempting any history, consider–

    ing only generalities and so-called principles. The Arctic is so new for

    tractors that there has not been time for much history, nor have methods or

    routes been stabilized as yet. For Alaska and arctic Canada, the information

    has been scattered and difficult to come by, but these difficulties have

    now been largely overcome, especially as regards Alaska, through the gather–

    ing together of data for this Encyclopedia. (See various articles, dealing

    wholly or partly with transportation problems, elsewhere in this volume

    and in other volumes.)

            For the Soviet Union there are the same difficulties of scattered and

    hard-to-find information, and the additional one of secrecy. It is difficult

    to guess even approximately the degree to which northern freighting by river

    ice has been developed by the Soviets since World War II. The development is

    no doubt considerable. For, in comparison with Alaska and Canada, they made

    extensive and efficient use of river roads as winter highways in the stage of

    the reindeer and horse, which it would be natural for them to follow up with

    h correspondingly greater emphasis upon motorized river freighting. For one

    thing, many of those now highest in the Soviet government, among them Stalin,

    were during Cz Ts arist days carried by horse and reindeer sleigh as prisoners

    down, the Yenisei and Lena, also crossing by sledge from the great to the

    091      |      Vol_VII-0723                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    smaller river valleys and thus becoming personally familiar with, the Cz Ts ar’s

    extensive network of horse and reindeer winter transport. This network they

    would in consequence naturally include, when they came to power, in the

    general mechanization program of the Soviet Union — we know they did before

    the W w ar and may presume they have so continued.


    Northern Rivers as Winter Roads

            Rivers as Winter Roads . Rivers as winter freighting routes have been so

    little used as yet in the United States or Canada that their possibilities

    appear to be little appreciated and even misunderstood. For Instance, it is

    commonly said that sledges will break through the ice, and that the river ice

    in many places is too rough even for the use of caterpillar tractors. Both

    statements are true if the rivers are used carelessly and without knowledge

    of their nature as well as without any preparation. However, knowledge of

    the the nature and behavior of a given river is readily acquired [ ?] and the

    preparation of winter roads, though it has to be repeated every autumn, does

    not entail, on the average, more work than does the ordinary yearly upkeep

    of paved motor highways.

            Laying Out of the Road . In the autumn, when the river begins to freeze

    over, the proposed winter trail should be staked out or flagged. The first

    objective is that, when feasible, the road shall not follow or cross any

    places where the current in the river is so strong that ice is going to be

    kept thin thereby, This is sometimes difficult on narrow rivers but in seldom

    difficult on wide streams, where the current will usually be swifter at one

    bank than the other. Difficult stretches are possible even on great rivers,

    as on the Mackenzie at the Good Hope ramparts; but the difficulty will not be

    insuperable, as appears below.

    092      |      Vol_VII-0724                                                                                                                  
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            The trail can be so chosen as to avoid a good deal of the second diffi–

    culty, roughness; but it is not compulsory to avoid this, for it can be

    smoothed out readily.

            Formation of Rough River Ice . Rough ice at sea is formed through pres–

    sure of wine and current; on rivers the case is special. An extreme case is

    a swift northern stream like the Coppermine, where two things happen at

    once, that the freeze-up comes swiftly through a rapid drop in temperature

    and that the river level drops fast because the freezing of the land stops

    water from seeping into the river. Take, then, a boulder-strewn rapid. Ice

    an inch to four or six in thickness will form on the water surface and then

    settle down, upon the rocks as the water level drops. At first the stones

    support the foe as if it were a flat roof said up by pillars; but sooner or

    later the ice will break and huge, irregular flakes of it, like plate glass

    from a smashed window, will fall into the water, which starts carrying them

    along. But there come a time and a place where the water cannot transport

    the broken ice farther and it heaps up, most of the plates irregularly rising

    on edge, some of them a few inches, and others a few feet, higher than what

    is now the water level. The water freezes, holding the slivers of broken

    window-glass ice in a matrix. The next blizzard fills all the interstices

    with snow and you have what may look from a distance like a level surface

    but where a man or dog will find difficult walking.

            Leveling Rough Patches . It has been suggested that this kind of rough

    river ice can be leveled with bulldozers, which may be advisable in some cases;

    but ordinarily; when a winter road, is being laid out, the ice is not as yet

    strong enough to bear heavy machinery and the work should be done with miner’s

    093      |      Vol_VII-0725                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    pickaxes. For the time to do it is as soon as the river has set firmly, as

    soon as it becomes probable that the ice will not break again, forming more

    rough patches. There are at least two additional reasons for doing the work

    early: it is the easier to splinter ice with a pick the less snow there is

    in the crevices; and, in any case,, you want to get such things done in that early,

    idle part of the season when the main body of river ice is not as yet strong

    enough for heavy freighting.

            It will not be appreciated by those who have not tried it how easy it

    is to work ice if one has the right tools, or rather the right tool, a medium

    weight miner’s pick. For this job, on a river like the Mackenzie, Indians

    or other residents along the stream would be employed. It is not likely that

    there are many stretches where it would take more than two days with the local

    manpower readily available to smooth sufficiently the comparatively few rough

    places between one village and the next. It may be true that on certain parts

    of the river more than two days per year will be needed; but surely the aver–

    age for an entire river, Mackenzie, Yukon , or Lena, will be less than a week

    a year. Naturally the number of days needed will increase if manpower is re–


            Snow Blanketing . It is well known to all travelers on northern rivers that ,

    although no warm weather has intervened, ice which is a foot thick this week may be only an inch or two thick next week ,

    although no warm weather has intervened, if there has intervened been a heavy snow-

    fall and if there are involved stretches of river which have rapid currents.

    This is the reason why so many travelers make the general statement that sledge

    travel, and more especially tractor travel, on northern rivers is unsafe. How–

    ever, the difficulty can be dealt with in several ways , .

            We have already indicated the main way of circumventing the difficulty --

    094      |      Vol_VII-0726                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    by staking out in the fall a trail which avoids parts of the river where the

    current is swift.

            The trail should he so staked as to avoid locally known places of heavy

    snow accumulation, as under certain cutbanks.

            There are in certain stretches of any river well-known “blow holes,” where

    the wind sweeps the snow from certain stretches of ice and piles it up on

    others. Stretches thus swept free, possessing no w snow insulation, will a l most

    necessarily have thick ice — it would have to be a terrifically strong cur–

    rent to keep them open. Therefore we have in these stretches sections of the

    trail that are automatically safe.

            What makes the snow such a marvelous insulator that it allows a current

    to eat away ice previously thick, is its fluffiness — the numerous and com–

    paratively large air chambers which it contains. Snow which is packed down by

    traffic, thus converted into snow concrete, contains relatively few and small

    air spaces; indeed, with continuous traffic and packing after every snowfall,

    the snow is pressed almost to the consistency of ice. But ice, unlike snow,

    is a good conductor. Therefore it will be true that the river ice will be

    considerably thicker beneath the trail itself than it is at either side.

            If it is desired to make the belt of thick ice broad, this can be attained

    by rolling the snow. The difficulty of this roiling will be no greater than

    what we are used to with snow plows and other means for keeping ordinary high–

    ways open during winter in districts near cities like Minneapolis, Helsinki ,

    or Irkutsk.

            If it should prove that more work is required on a river road each year

    than the equivalent of the upkeep of an ordinary Vermont highway, then it is

    095      |      Vol_VII-0727                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    to be remembered that, with a river, the ice highway was provided by nature,

    free of charge except for the improvements and upkeep. If we hold this in

    mind, we become reconciled to considerably more seasonal work.

            Rapids in Rivers . The foregoing presentation does not apply in places

    like the Whitehorse Rapids of the Yukon system, the Smith Rapids on the Slave,

    or Bloody Fall on the Coppermine.

            Numerous winter journeys up and down the Coppermine River, one of the

    swiftest in North America, have convinced Stefansson that heavy tractor freight–

    ing can be done on the ice of even this specially difficult river at all points

    except Bloody Fall, where a portage is necessary — and still this is not quite

    certain, for Stefansson did sledge past the Fall by a ledge along the cliff

    which, although narrow, was apparently thick and strong.

            Portage Roads . However, there are sure to be along most great northern

    rivers a number of places where it is advisable to portage rather than to

    follow an ice ledge along a bank. This may be merely because the stream

    in crooked end distance can be saved by cutting off an ox bow; it may be

    also because there are difficult river stretches at points where the portaging

    is not difficult and where time can incidentally be saved. Therefore, it should

    be a part of the method of staking-out the river road in autumn not to follow

    the stream slavishly but to go up on the land whenever that is desirable. On

    such portages it will no doubt be necessary to “construct a winter road,” mean–

    ing the elimination of trees and the preparation of a few grades, especially

    where there are cutbanks.

            Grades at Cutbanks. In some cases it will no doubt be advisable to construct

    a permanent grade from earth, as customary in road - building farther south. In

    many places, however, it will probably be advisable to make the grade construction

    096      |      Vol_VII-0728                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    afresh each autumn. This will be done by cutting down trees or bushes, piling

    them up in a suitable way, and filling the interstices with snow which can then

    be soaked in water pumped or sluiced, from the nearby river or from a lake.

            Portage Roads and Muskegs . When there is difficulty on portages with

    tractors sinking down into a muskeg during winter, this must be either because

    there are warm springs in the neighborhood or because the snow is extremely

    heavy, blanketing the ground. Warm springs are rare in the [ ?] North and will

    simply have to be avoided. The difficulty with the snow b al la nket decreases,

    and nearly disappears, when traffic is heavy — for the reason already given,

    that heavily packed snow gets the qualities of ice and ceases to be an effec–

    tive blanket.

            The difficulty with muskegs is, on the average, less the farther north;

    for the permafrost approaches nearer and nearer to the surface. It will not

    be long, then, until the autumn chill of each year reaches down to the perma–

    nent frost, making everything solid.

            Type of Tractor . There is said to be s considerable difference in tractors

    with regard to how easily they break through ice. It has been used as sales

    talk for certain tracklaying tractors that they will go over places that

    would break under certain others and that most any tracklayer will, go where

    ordinary wheel trucks sink in. It is, of course, advisable that the pressure

    on the ice by any vehicle be applied to as large a surface as possible, and

    as uniformly as possible.

            The Use of Sledges . Especially on rivers, freighting should be on trains

    of sledges. A heavy truck, carrying its own load, will break through thin

    autumn ice where a track - laying tractor of medium weight can pull a train of

    097      |      Vol_VII-0729                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    several sledges with a great total load.

            Crossing Rivers . When rivers have to be crossed, instead of being followed

    lengthwise, the crossing will be in those parts of the stream which are wide

    and therefore have a sluggish current. But even in wide places there are some–

    times localities of comparatively [ ?] swift current. Where those places are

    is easy to discover in the autumn, during the time when the stream is freezing;

    when a road is being staked out for crossing a river, such patches should be


            The Use of Corduroy . There may be places where rivers have to be crossed

    under such conditions of swift water that it is believed the ice is likely

    to be thin, as in November just when traffic is opening. Those places will be

    marked in advance, from local knowledge of the river, and across them an impromptu

    or one-season road can be prepared by laying willows at right angles to the

    direction of motor traffic, imbedding them in snow or shoveling snow upon

    them, and then pouring on water. (Sea [ ?] transportation over land and over ice and Sea bridge) (This is analogous to the process used by

    motorists in Australia when they have to cross dry rivers, the beds of which

    are filled with such soft sand that vehicles sink down. The travelers then cut

    down bushes and hew the branches from trees, laying them in the sand at right

    angles to the direction of [ ?] traffic. Frequently each Australian traveling

    party makes its own corduory; there are other places where a sort of permanent

    corduroy is laid each year, soon after the water disappears from the river bed

    after the rainy season, the corduory serving until the next rainy season. In

    northern Canada and Alaska we would, then, be doing on the ice of northern rivers

    in autumn what the Australians do on their rivers also in autumn.)

    098      |      Vol_VII-0730                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice

            Fuel Supply . With an exception to be noted for the Mackenzie, petroleum

    fuels for winter use on the northern rivers have come from outside their

    basins and have been distributed along their courses, and up some of their

    branches. The distribution has been generally by steamers pushing scows up

    and down stream, or else by scows floating downstream from a railway or an

    overland tractor terminal. Thus depots have been established at villages and

    other convenient spots from which trucks and tractors could refuel during the


            The Ob, Yenisei, and Lena are supplied in either of two ways — from the

    south, where railways or trucks bring the supplies to the head of navigation;

    or from the north, where ocean - going ships reach ports in the deltas or at some

    distance upstream. (In the case of the Yenisei, ocean - going steamers continue

    several hundred miles upstream to Igarka where they unload varied cargoes,

    chiefly in exchange for lumber.)

            There [ ?] are three ways of supplying the Yukon River with winter fuel —

    by rail w road from Skagway to Whitehorse on the upper reaches; by rail from

    Anchorage to Fairbanks and the Tanana, hitting the middle Yukon for both upstre m am

    and downstream distribution; and by ocean steamer to the delta, where unloading

    in the past has usually been at St. Michael.

            The case of the Mackenzie is special, for of the five great northern

    rivers this is the only one which has both its own petroleum and its own


            To consider supplyi g ng the Mackenzie with petroleum by way of the delta

    is merely academic; it can be done probably nineteen years out of twenty from

    the Pacific by roundabout passage through Bering Sea and Strait and along the

    north coast of Alaska; but this would be a costly, tedious , and uncertain way of

    099      |      Vol_VII-0731                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice

    of carrying coals to Newcastle. To supply the Mackenzie from the couth would

    also be [ ?] open to the coals-to-Newcastle objection though not in itself diffi–

    cult. The problem would have been solved long ago had there been any need for

    solving it.

            The need for outside petroleum supply to a Mackenzie winter freighting [ ?]

    system is obviated through the Mackenzie Valley being recognized as potentially

    an oil-producing region through its whole length, from the oil fields of central

    Alberta through those of northern Alberta (the Athabaska Tar Sands) to Norman

    and beyond. As indicated in the petroleum sections of this Encyclopedia, there

    has been for many years intermittent small-scale production and refining in

    northern Alberta; while the Norman Wells ref i nery, just south of the Arctic

    [ ?] Circle, produces fuels of all the required grades, from aviation gas down.

    These are shipped up and down the Mackenzie, and sideways from it, as the neces–

    sities determine. The chief diversions, thus far, have been eastward shipment

    through Bear River and Bear Lake for theuranium and other mining operations

    around Great Bear Lake, and eastward and northward shipment through Great Slave

    Lake for the gold mining which centers at Yellowknife.


    Lake Ice

            The history of European pioneering in northern parts of Siberia and North

    America goes to show two things which appear contradictory at first glance, that

    tivers by nature have greater transportation significance than [ ?]lakes, but that

    lakes have actually been used more than rivers, or at least have been used on a

    larger scale and with more extensive application of what we think of as modern

    engineering techniques. For instance, winter transport has apparently been of

    great er military significance thus far on lakes than on rivers.

    100      |      Vol_VII-0732                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

            Although we intend to arrive at general conclusions, we find it con–

    venient to discuss particular lakes as theaters of winter transport — in

    North America, Great Bear and Great Slave lakes; in Eurasia, the Lakes

    Baikal and Ladoga,

            Importance of Big Lakes . The importance of winter transport on the

    greater lakes becomes obvious when we see that, of the dozen largest in North

    America, five have ice on them for more than half the year and two others for

    a third of the year. Indeed, two lakes which have ice through two-thirds of

    the year are larger, each of them, than Lake Erie or Lake Ontario; these are

    Bear and Slave. Five North American lakes which are frozen between five and

    nine months (Bear, Slave, Athabaska, Reindeer, Nettilling) aggregate beyond

    30,000 square miles, and that is the combined area of Massachusetts, Rhode

    Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, with half of Vermont added. Such

    great waters are useful to steamers in summer; they are correspondingly

    significant for tractor-drawn sledge trains in winter,

            Importance of Small Lakes . Of lakes that are frozen half the year, only

    a half dozen or so are larger than the state of Connecticut, while a dozen

    or two are larger than Rhode Island; the total area of those which are 1,000

    square miles and over is perhaps only something like that of New England.

            But in the combined Arctic and Subarctic, the region underlain by perma–

    frost in the Old and New worlds, lakes that range in area between an acre and

    a thousand square miles will add up to at least as much as the states east of

    the Mississippi, from Wisconsin to Florida and back to Maine. For a permanently

    frozen subsoil necessarily means a large number of lakes, since there is no

    underground drainage. Now permafrost underlies nearly half of the Soviet

    Union, more than half of Canada, and most of Alaska, adding up to a permafrost

    101      |      Vol_VII-0733                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    area more than double the size of the 48 States. Such land, except in the

    few mountainous regions, is from 20% to 50% covered with lakes. So it is

    a reasonable guess that during half the year we have available for tractor

    transport, in northern North America and northern Eurasia, a million square

    miles of level ice strong enough to bear the heaviest loads that tractors

    have ever pulled anywhere.

            Roads from Lake to Lake . These innumerable lakes, ranging from Baikal’s

    13,197 square miles down to pond size, are often connected by streams, the

    ice of which can be used as a winter road. When not water-connected, lakes

    are frequently separated by stretches of swamp that freeze rock-hard in

    winter, at least if the snow on them has been concreted by traffic or by

    rolling. When there are divides to be crossed between lakes, they are usually

    low; for, be it remembered, those lakes which are due to the prevention of

    underground drainage by underground frost are of necessity on flat or rolling

    land, since a steep gradient, as in mountains, would produce surface drainage.

    So it is ordinarily feasible to lay out winter sledge routes that connect

    lake with lake and which do not wind about much more than motor highways

    usually do in hilly country like New England.

            Laying Out Overland Roads. Since we deal here not with ice transportation

    as such, but rather with the advantages and disadvantages of ice in its relation

    to winter transport, we leave the main discussion of northern winter roads for

    our section on transportation; but a paragraph might still perhaps be inserted

    on the laying out of such sledging roads as depend in the main on chains of

    lakes (the remarks are necessarily applicable also to those river portage

    roads which become necessary for avoiding unfrozen stretches or to save

    distance by cutting across an oxbow, and to such lake-route portages as may

    seem advisable for crossing islands or peninsulas.)

    102      |      Vol_VII-0734                                                                                                                  
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            When the overland road of today is run through a forest, there may be

    available giant machinery that breaks trees or uproots them and shoves them

    aside; but, on the reindeer and horse roads of the past, the method s was to

    use axes and to out the trees so low as to be nearly or quite flush with the

    ground. In summer a gang of shovelers might pile in dirt to level the rough

    places; in winter the same result was attained with snow, sometimes iced by

    pouring on water. If the right-of-way was prairie, there would be merely

    the leveling use of dirt or snow. In forest or prairie, rocks were blasted

    away, buried in dirt or snow, or circumvented. The chief construction work,

    formerly as now, would be where the road descends to a lake or river and

    climbs up again on the far side. Here a uniform and fairly gentle grade

    would have to be provided, against the hauling of big loads, through building

    a ramp of hard-packed snow or blocks of ice, the whole likely cemented by

    water. In some cases the ramps would he constructed in part from trees or

    brush, with iced snow for binding. The annual repairing, or building anew,

    of these structures is, from the engineer’s point of view, a nuisance. But

    here the qualification applies that this is maintenance work which in part

    takes the place of repairs to bridges and culverts on all-season roads.

            It is sometimes urged as a material advantage of an overland road that

    the season is longer than upon a river of a lak d e . This may or may not be

    true, according to the special nature of the case. Generally speaking, an

    overland road will thaw out in the spring and turn into mud even before the

    river road becomes impassable through disintegration of the ice, and much

    sooner than a lake breaks up. But an overland road will usually become

    passable in the autumn, through the mud freezing hard enough, before river

    or lake ice becomes strong enough. This is true, with a margin of several

    103      |      Vol_VII-0735                                                                                                                  
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    weeks, if the river flows through one of the great northern lakes. A

    special and perhaps the most striking case is that of Great Slave Lake,

    where the present winter road around the west end of the lake becomes

    passable some weeks before sledges can use Slave River and several weeks

    before they can cross from the delta of the Slave to the outflow of the

    Mackenzie proper.

            Bear Lake Seasons . Great Bear, irregular in outline, 12,200 square

    miles in area, is the fourth largest lake in North America but navigable

    by steamers less than a third of the year. Indeed, it seems to be wholly

    free of ice, during certain years, for only about two months. One statement,

    furnished by local steamboat operators to the Meteorological Division of the

    Department of Transport, Canada, gives the navigating season as commencing,

    at the latest, July 29, and ending, at the earliest, September 9, thus a

    possible Minimum of only about seven weeks. The same authority places the

    longest observed navigation possibilities as between July 4 and November 3,

    or about seventeen weeks, making the maximum navigation period only about

    a third of the year.

            By mid-September some years, by mid-October most years, people who

    live around Great Bear Lake can start foot travel and dog sledging, but

    only along the shores, in small bays, and other sheltered parts. Gradually

    the ice thickens so that horses or mechanical tractors can be used, but open

    water persists on the larger bays and outside the promontories. It is

    late October or even November before a traveler can make a diametric crossing

    of the lake. (These remarks are diffident, for even now it is hard to iron

    out disagreements among informants.)

    104      |      Vol_VII-0736                                                                                                                  
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            According to the cited Department of Transport information, the naviga–

    tion season of Great Bear Lake may class as early as September 9; but this

    need not mean more than that harbors are freezing over so as to interfere

    with the arrival and departure of ordinary fragile lake steamers.

            A qualified witness on Bear Lake is Dr. Charles Camsell, who, as Deputy

    Minister of Mines and Resources for Canada, has had the best information and

    who was, indeed, long a resident of Fort Simpson on the middle Mackenzie, in

    a similar climate. He said in the Canadian Geographical Journal , March 1937,

    that the ice of Bear Lake “seldom breaks up before August 1 ... and (is)

    drifting usually til l August 15. It reforms early in September and covers

    the entire sheet of water by the end of that month or the first week of

    October.” Conditions were similar a hundred years earlier, for in 1837 the

    boats of the Dease and Simpson expedition were delayed by ice at Gros Cap

    “till the beginning of August;” and the Report of the Select Committee of

    the Canadian Senate for 1891, on conditions in the Mackenzie Basin, has it

    that “the lake (Bear) is very deep and clear and ice is said to be seldom

    absent therefrom for much more than two months of the twelve.” Richard

    Finnie, one of the well-informed writers, says for the 1940’s, in his

    book Canada Moves North , that “between the head of Great Bear River and Echo

    Bay,” meaning the east and west ends of the lake, the season of navigation

    lasts until “at least the end of September.”

            So the Bear Lake navigation season, and reciprocally the sledge-freighting

    season, varies a good deal, and not merely from year to year but also from

    witness to witness, optimist to pessimist, navigator to sledger. But even

    if the lake is ice-free for a good deal more than the two months given it by

    the Select Committee, and even though the season of navigation will lengthen

    105      |      Vol_VII-0737                                                                                                                  
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    with improved boats and methods, still it is clear that the sledging is

    longer than the boating season — about six months for sledging t as

    compared to four boating months, with a spring month and a fall month out

    of the reckoning because of too much ice for boating and not enough for


            But, most significantly, the sledging season varies according to whether

    the need is to cross the full lake, a wide bay, a small bay, or merely to

    travel along the shore.

            Generally the places that freeze earliest in the fall are the first to

    thaw in the spring; these are the shore belts which congeal readily, because

    of being shoal and sheltered from the wind, but which melt early because the

    warm thaw water streams down upon them from the land. The middle of a great

    lake, such as Bear, stays open several weeks after the small inlets are good

    for sledging. The first few weeks of spring thaws account for only a narrow

    ribbon following the beach, and our lake remains 98% covered by a vast and

    immovable pancake of ice that behaves like a floating island. This behavior

    is on record as having deceived even the initiate, which appears from the

    case of George M. Doublas, in his Lands Forlorn , New York and London, 1914,

    pp. 234 ff.

            Behavior of Summer Ice . The Douglas party had been wintering on

    northeasternmost Great Bear Lake, at the mouth of Dease River. The spring

    of 1912 they did not want to break camp, to begin canoeing along the north

    shore of the lake, until the advance of the season would allow a passage a

    little hindered by ice. The evidences of high summer must have been convincing. On the lower Dease, mosquitoes start biting early

    in May; by June 20 temperatures may run into the nineties in the shade a

    few miles up that valley. So by June 26 the travelers thought the time for

    106      |      Vol_VII-0738                                                                                                                  
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    nearly uninterrupted canoe passage must have come; it would have been difficult,

    on the Dease, for men sweltering in its typical steaming heat to believe

    otherwise. Douglas tells us: “Until we actually got out on Bear Lake we

    did not know in what condition the ice was ... The bay behind Big Island

    was quite clear [having been melted by the warmer water of the spring thaw

    pouring from Dease River], but when we passed the straits beyond old Fort

    Confidence we were dismaye xd to find the surface of the lake covered as far

    as the eye could see; except for a small open space around the shore the

    ice lay intact as in winter.”

            The floating ice island, this drifting frost pancake thousands of square

    miles in area, now moved, according to the wind, away from the shore to let

    them pass, as it did the first day, or against the land to block the canoes,

    as for a week thereafter. Finally, on July 3, a breeze “opened up a channel

    along the shore nearly half a mile wide.” The northwest arm of the lake,

    which is considered to thaw earlier than the northeast arm and much earlier

    than did the middle of the lake, was now “solid with ice and no traverse was

    possible for us till this broke up”; so they waited until July 8 when it did

    break and they crossed the bay.

            These things have been quoted, not to enforce the cited testimoney about

    the length of the season, but rather to show the conditions which prevail in

    the spring, when offshore winds furnish canoe water in a ribbon along the

    beach, though-ten-foot ice still covers the rest. To one looking down upon

    the lake from the hills, the ice shows white, reflecting much of the sun’s light

    so that little of it is turned into the heat needed to produce swift melting.

    Winds from the lake blow chill upon the land; but warm winds from the surrounding

    forest do sweep the lake, else the two marginal seasons of lake ice — spring

    107      |      Vol_VII-0739                                                                                                                  
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    and fall — would meet each, other in an icy midsummer.

            Forcing the Seasons . Normally, then, Great Bear has from six to seven

    months during which heavy mechanized sledge freighting can use the ice but

    has only three months or so during which steamers can use both the middle

    of the lake and the harbors. But under stress, as in war, both sledging

    and boating periods can be manipulated, within limits.

            The most important devices for lengthening the sledging and boating

    seasons, whichever is desired, are snow concrete for preserving the ice and

    lampblack, crankcase oil, or sand for melting it, each used as already des–

    cribed. So, for a while, there can be in spring and autumn a combination

    of sledge and boat travel. For instance, one might take a dog team or a

    light tractor in the spring by boat eastward from the head of Bear River,

    or southwest from the mouth of Dease River, to the edge of the main body of

    lake ice, setting the team or tractor on the ice and proceeding across the

    lake, to be similarly relieved at the opposite margin. Or, more practicable,

    one might continue the dog team, horse, or tractor freighting hither and yon

    along the main body of the lake ice, never taking the freighting train right

    to the margin. Such things are, however, desperate measures, to be used only

    when lives are at stake, through war or through some accident of peacetime.

            The Sledging in Season . When we consider the importance of potential

    traffic, across a lake like Great Bear, we think in terms of the area covered;

    and Bear Lake has in it almost as many square miles as the New England states

    of Massachusetts and Conntecticut Connecticut put together. The linear distances are

    considerable — 200 air miles, for instance, between Fort Franklin in the

    southwest and the head of Hornby Bay in the northeast. And be it remembered

    that for more than half of each year this is the sort of level ice road upon

    108      |      Vol_VII-0740                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice

    which a single commercial tracklaying tractor has been certified to haul

    on its train of sledges a load of more than 1,000 tons.

            Great Slave Lake. The winter season on Great Slave Lake is perhaps a

    month shorter than on Great Bear, and the square mileage is less; still it

    is not a negligible transportation field, since this fifth largest body of

    fresh water in North America, ninth in the world, is large [ ?] r than either

    Erie or Ontario. Its shape is irregular; the air distance from the vicinity

    of Providence in the west to Reliance in the east comes to 300 miles, while

    the north-south distance from Resolution to Rae is 150 miles.

            Winter Freighting on the Smaller Lakes. The heaviest freighting done so

    far , on Canadian lakes has been in the lumber regions of Ontario and Quebec,

    where sledge trains loaded with a thousand ton g s of green timber are snaked

    along by tractors. Some of the most picturesque freighting of the past has

    been on lakes such as Winnipeg, Winnipegosis, and Manitoba. These, although

    smaller than Slave, are a good deal larger than may body of fresh water,

    other than Lake Michigan, that is wholly within the United States; with the

    one exception of Sweden’s Vänern, they are a good deal larger than any lakes

    in non-Soviet Europe.

            Before the white men reached Manitoba the fish of such lakes were the support

    of the Indian population; when Europeans came, the fisheries became first a

    main source of direct food supply and later one of the chief commercial assets,

    particularly on Lake Winnipeg but also on many of the large bodies of water in

    southern Canada that freeze over during winter. Men who were farmers in summer

    would be fisherman in winter. They loaded small wooden houses upon sleds,

    pulled them with horse teams to various strategic points on the lakes, and

    lived in them cosily while the fish were being brought up from below through

    109      |      Vol_VII-0741                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice

    holes in the ice. The transportation season for these purposes is between

    four and five months. And if there is not a heavy lake traffic o for other

    things than fish it is because, unlike the provinces of Ontario and Quebec,

    the Prairie Provinces do not have much commercial timber; besides, railways

    now parallel the lakes lengthwise, offering cheap freight.

            When once the freezing-over has been completed, the middle of a northern

    lake becomes safer for travel than certain parts of the margin, for reasons

    we have discussed in connection with river transport but must cover here also,

    the factors being, in part, different.

            Glare Ice Is Safe. Well out in the main body of any big northern lake,

    and indeed well out in the larger bays of such a lake, the wind sweeps the ice

    free of snow or pounds it into low and hard ridges. Ice is a good conductor

    of chill and densely compacted snow is nearly as good; so lake ice thickens

    rapidly when the surface is bare , and fairly rapidly when the drifts are hard

    and only a foot or two deep. It is, then, not long after the freeze-up that

    all of the lake, except special parts of the margin, is safe for big airplanes

    or sledge trains drawn by the heaviest tractors.

            Snow-covered Ice May Be Dangerous . In certain parts of a lake the winds

    are handicapped and the snow may lie in heavy, undisturbed sheets, even in

    soft drifts that are both fluffy and deep. Such snow is a poor conductor

    of chill, almost as f g ood an insulator as a quilt of elder down. In most parts

    of a lake this does not natter, insofar as the safety of winter travel is

    concerned. But it can be of material and has been of tragic importance in

    certain special localities, usually off the tips of promontories and between


            If completely stagnant water has above it a few inches of ice, enough to

    110      |      Vol_VII-0742                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice

    make sledge travel temporarily safe, then it will remain permanently safe,

    for the thickness of this ice will not decrease during cold weather, even

    upon a heavy fall of the fluffiest snow. There are, however, currents in

    the great northern lakes which may cause danger. Some of them are produced

    by the entrance or the exit of a river; others are tidal in nature, for a

    lake does not need to be a large as Great Bear for the tides to produce

    appreciable movement. This tidal disturbance hag negligible effect upon

    the ice near the center of a lake or large bay, for the same reasons that

    make a tide of the ocean nonperceptible to an observer far at sea.

            River-produced water movement in lakes is, of course, to be expected near

    the entrance or exit points, and here travelers will be on guard. But experience

    shows that they are not nearly so much on guard at promontories and between

    islands where they are likely to rely upon the common knowledge that in front

    of most promontories, and in most passages between islands, the currents are

    never strong enough to cut ice, thus never a source of danger. It has happened,

    however, on some northern lakes, and in every month of winter, that a careless

    traveler, sometimes a native Indian or a frontiersman of long experience,

    will disappear with sledge and dogs through an opening produced by the collapse

    of a snow cover which has inadequate support from beneath — the ice that was

    there has been insulated on its upper side from the constructive action of the

    cold atmosphere but not on its lower side from the destructive action of the

    warm current.

            The time of greatest danger is when snow-blanketed ice has been thawed

    from below to where it is eggshell thin; for if the current had had a little

    more time it would have eaten the ice away completely, whereupon the blotter

    effect of the snow would have come into play, the blackness of the upward-seeping

    111      |      Vol_VII-0743                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice

    water giving a color warning to the traveler and eventually producing a

    slump of the soggy snow into the water. When the snow once slumps the danger

    is over, for that locality, since two things have come about — now the

    traveler will see the black water, and now the chill of the air can go to

    work and produce new ice over the open water, ice which gradually develops

    strength enough to support a load.

            Precaution s . The careful traveler on a northern lake will avoid passing

    a promontory close in, if there is fluffy or deep snow, and will be similarly

    careful between islands. He can always give a wide berth to a visible

    promontory, unless there happens to be an island beyond, in which case he

    keeps to the middle of the channel between them and uses a long-shafted ice

    spear constantly to test the going ahead of him, thrusting hard to make sure

    that his spear will penetrate an inch or two of ice, if so w eakened a patch


            There is the danger of an invisible promontory, a shoal sticking out

    from the land, or a shoal producing an isolated danger area of which there

    is no visible sign. So, if the traveler is at all near the land, he had

    better be careful whenever the snow is deep and fluffy. This danger decreases

    the farther he is from visible land and may be considered negligible anywhere

    well out in a large lake or bay.

            Remedies . If a winter ice highway on a lake must pass through a danger

    area, as between islands, the remedy is to destroy there the insulating power

    of the fluffy snow. Obviously, if snow falls into unfrozen water there is

    no trouble; but if it falls upon thin ice, even upon ice a foot or more in

    thickness, the blanketing may enable the slightly warm lake current to eat

    most of the support from beneath. The remedy is to roll or tramp down the

    112      |      Vol_VII-0744                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice

    snow along the right of way before it has lain sufficiently long to give the

    ice a chance to melt. There now are two safety factors ; : one is the strength

    of the ice itself [ ?] ; the other is the strength of the snow concrete which has

    been superimposed upon the ice. We have gone into the details of this suffi–

    ciently when discussing the winter use of rivers.

            Lengthening the Season for Freighting. As said elsewhere in this article,

    the supporting power of fresh-water ice is destroyed in the spring not merely

    through that melting process which we call ordinary, as when a cube dissolves

    in a drinking glass, but also through a phenomenon little studied until

    recently, the separating of ice into crystals that have a long axis at right

    angles to the water surfac t e on which the ice rests, the length of the crystal

    being the same as the thickness of the ice. This process is candling, the

    crystals are candle ice (see Glossary).

            As previously indicated, candling does not apparently take place in salty

    ice, nor in fresh-water ice which has a snow cover. It is therefore important,

    if a transportation iceway leads across a northern lake, to produce snow concrete

    not merely on the road itself (where it is developed naturally throughout the

    winter by vehicular and other traffic) but also upon a belt of considerable

    width on either side of the road. Rolling wide strips on both sides of an

    ice highway after each heavy snowfall will not only make a special belt that

    can be used safely one, two or even three weeks earlier in the fall but will

    also provide a road which can be used in the spring one or two weeks later than

    the regular ice.

            On rivers the use of the snow concrete principle for roads and for airplane

    runways, as already brought out, can lengthen the season by a week or so in

    both spring and fall. The same technique has considerably more importance on

    113      |      Vol_VII-0745                                                                                                                  
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    lakes, because of less trouble with swift currents at all times of year

    and less trouble with land-derived thaw water in spring.

            Leads in Lake Ice. Leads in sea ice are considered to originate from

    pressures due to currents and winds, although it is recognized that tides

    may have an effect. The leads on a frozen lake, such as Great Bear, may be

    looked upon as having for practical purposes none of the above causes and

    as being produced only by the contraction of ice following a drop in temperature.

            The Cracking of Lake Ice. An observer on a shore of Great Bear Lake, when

    a warmish midwinter day is followed by a colder night, will hear what may be

    the eeriest sound in nature. It is a shriek of immense volume which slowly

    dies away in the remote distance, as if a fire siren of incomparably greater

    volume than anybody ever heard were speeding away with incredible velocity.

            The explanation usually assigned for this ghoulish shrieking of lakes in

    the arctic night is that the ice has cracked nearly or quite simultaneously

    between promontories — as, for instance, between Cape MacDonnel l and Etacho

    Point. If the observer were a mile or so from one end of this breach, and

    at right angles ot to it, he would hear the noise made by the cracking of the

    nearest few yards as if it were the report of a rifle. The noise from another

    part of the crack, a little to one side and thus farther away, woul[d?] d arrive

    a little later, and the two sounds would overlap, the second only slightly

    less loud than the first. The bang from the third segment of the crack would

    overlap the second, being still farther away and thus slightly less Intense.

    These three overlapping sounds are the beginning of the shriek.

            Sounds are transmitted far and clear if the night is cold. There is

    testimony that at sixty below zero a noise like the barking of a dog or

    the chopping of wood with an ax can be heard ten or twelve miles; so the

    114      |      Vol_VII-0746                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    cracking of Bear Lake lee if likely audible from twenty miles away. The

    unearthly wail heard dying in the distance le thus produced by noises which,

    though really almost simultaneous, arrive at the observation point as over–

    lapping detonations, each a tiny bit successive to the one before, the farthest

    arriving late and faintly [ ?] from twenty miles away.

            A trav e ler who now comes upon the crack which has just formed may find

    open water which (according to Bear Lake Indian testimony given Stefansson

    in 1910) can be from a few inches to six or more feet, the widest cracks

    form in the coldest weather, for then the contraction of the ice is greatest.

    This means that the open water of the lead would he exposed to temperatures

    of −50° to −60°, even −70 ° F., and it would not be more than a few hours before

    the ice became strong enough to support a man stepping upon it, particularly

    if he wore snowshoes or skis to spread the weight. The freezing of such a

    lead into a safe crossing can be hurried by using a miner’s pick, or some

    such instrument, and filling a section of the lead with cracked ice.

            Pressure Ridges. If the maximum width of a frost crack on Great Bear Lake

    is southing like six feet, it will follow that, when the weather gets warmer

    and the ice spreads, the relatively young and weak formation on the lead will

    be crushed and pressed up into a ridge of proportionate size. A powerful

    tracklaying tractor will go straight through such a flimsy ridge; a traveler

    with a miner’s pickax can make a road through in a few minutes.

            The Old World Lakes . Our discussion of New World, in lakes has covered

    generalities, applicable to all lakes. In Eurasia, peacetime uses have been

    similar, with the exception that reindeer have not yet been used to any ext a e nt

    on North American lakes or rivers. It is in war that the uses have differed

    most notably, as between New and Old Worlds, particularly in modern war.

    115      |      Vol_VII-0747                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

            Lake ice in European War . In North America there have as yet been

    only three opportunities for the military use of lake ice: those of the

    French and Indian War, the Revolution, and the War of 1812. Each of these

    involved a region, the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada,

    where lake and rivers are frozen from two to four months; but in those days

    North American wars involved the principle of going into winter quarters,

    where it was normal procedure for each side to await the convenience of the

    other, so that boats and wagons could be used instead of sleighs; the ex–

    ceptions were small operations, where surprise was intended. Even in those

    days and in earlier centuries, Europeans were more in the habit of using lake

    and river ice, particularly in the Russian sector, and this we consider else–

    where in the Encyclopedia. Here we illustrate briefly the military use of

    lake ice through selected, case histories from the Lakes Baikal and Ladoga.

            Lake Baikal . Baikal, 13,197 square miles, is probably the world’s

    fourth largest fresh-water lake, excelled only by Superior, Victoria, Huron,

    and Michigan. Baikal is frozen (according to the Siberian Soviet Encyclope [ ?] d ia ),

    only about half as long each year as Great Bear; for it has a navigation season

    reckoned at seven ? months, with the usual freeze-up the first week of January,

    the break-up early in May. But, when once it forms, Baikal ice quickly gets

    far too thick for icebreakers, as the Russians found to their cost in the first

    struggle with Japan.

            Lake Railways Follow River Experience . The use of Baikal ice for railway

    freighting, so important in the Russo-Japanese War, was seemingly an extension

    of Russian practice in crossing; frozen rivers. The Trans-Siberian Railway,

    eastward bound, crossed the Volga at Sviazksk without brid g ing it. Car ferries

    were used in summer; each winter, during the period 1893-1913, an ice railway

    116      |      Vol_VII-0748                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    was used, the ice artificially thickened by flooding it, to bear heavy

    freighting early. For distributing weights, exceptionally long ties were

    used. The care, of 15 tons, were drawn by horses and hauled across the river

    one at a time, or widely spaced. The Volga is here ice-covered, enough to

    prevent boating, from about November to April; the season for the described

    railroading was several weeks shorter.

            Ten years later, during World War I, the railway northward from St.

    Petersburg to Murmansk was under construction, and the Kola River was crossed

    during winter in the same way. In World War II the method was used again,

    as for instance, in crossing the Severnaia Dvina at Arkhangelsk.

            Baikal Ice Railway . The first considerable Russian railway on lake ice

    was apparently the on ce e across Lake Baikal the winter of 1903-04, and was

    about 40 miles long. Its purpose was to maintain communication with the

    Manchurian front. When the Russo-Japanese War broke out, the Trans-Siberian

    Railway had not yet been built around the southern end of the lake, and communi–

    cations between eastern and western sectors of the line were maintained as far

    into the winter as possible with Ice-breaking train ferries. When the ice

    became too thick, a railway was laid across it. Long ties were used, after

    the practice established on the Volga crossing; the freight cars were horse-drawn,

    space d 50 yards apart. For much of the time this wide spacing caution was really

    not required, for the ice thickened to nine feet and more; the special precautions

    were needed at the beginning and end of the season, to lengthen it.

            During extreme col [ ?] d snaps (Baikal climate is similar to that of Minneapolis

    or Winnipeg), the shrinking ice would crack to open leads as much as six feet

    wide, causing some delay and involving impromptu bridging. When the weather

    grew war m , the expanding main body of lake ice would crush the young ice of the

    117      |      Vol_VII-0749                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    of the loads into ridges that had to be leveled with pickaxes or such.

            Lake Ladoga . Thirteenth or fourteenth among the fresh-water lakes of

    the world, Ladoga has had the most extensive military history in relation

    to ice. Of old it plays its part in the wars between Scandinavians and

    Russians, more recently in the Soviet-German struggle. Here we consider

    only the relation of Ladoga ice to railway transport in the siege of


            According to the Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary . Volume 33,

    Ladoga has an average navigation season of 191 days, with a maxima of 214 and

    a minimum of 164. The freeze-up usually comes the middle of December, nearly

    a month earlier than at Baikal but a full month later than at Great Bear.

    In 1941 the frosts began early and the chill increased fast. On the shore of the

    lake the city of Leningrad was under siege by the Germans, who had cut the

    overland freighting arteries that supply it from the east; the prolongation

    of the navigation season was desperately needed by the defenders who were

    already suffering the beginnings of that famine which eventually claimed

    650,000 of Leningrad’s 3,600,000 people. So the transport makers and military

    engineers struggled to keep the boating open but, early in November, they had

    to give in to the rapidly forming ice. Now the chief hope of safety, from the

    transportation side, lay in the swift thickening of Ladoga ice.

            The Military Trucking Highway . Windswept as on any big lake, the ice of

    Ladoga keeps itself mainly free from any continuous blanket of frost-retarding

    snow and thickens rapidly, when once it stops moving with the wind. Eventually

    there would be ten feet of it, several times strong enough to bear any required

    freighting load. But the city could not await the ice thickness of normal

    peacetime safeties, for it was the third month of siege and rations had already

    118      |      Vol_VII-0750                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

    been out to where few retained their normal strength . More food had to be

    secured while the workers were strong enough to fetch it.

            During the time which had to intervene between the close of navigation

    on Ladoga and the first trucking, the chief source of outside supply was an

    air lift of DC-3’s (C-47’s) and TB-3’s. But this was under constant German

    air harassment and could bring in only a tiny fraction of what the city had

    been receiving before the siege from 12 railways and 3 trunk highways.

            A new supply road of 191 miles was planned to flank the German wedge that

    had cut the city’s eastern transportation system; this would start with a link

    of 18.6 miles across the ice eastward from the Leningrad side of Ladoga to the

    opposite shore, the rest of the distance being mainly through forest but

    utilizing to a considerable extent the ice on canals and on some small lakes.

    The Ladoga sector would be the last on which the ice would become strong

    enough, so the rest of the winter road was prepared in advance.

            The Ladoga Link . About 173 miles of forest, canal, and small lake roa[?] d

    had been completed by the time the big lake froze hard enough for use. There

    were conflicting; opinions as to when the use of Ladoga ice could begin for

    trucks; fishermen, using horse sleighs, had not been accustomed to begin the

    traffic season on the lake before the middle of January, which date had to

    be advanced as much as possible.

            Because of the exceptionally cold autumn weather, air photographs were able to show

    the lake frozen along most of the desired right of way by November 17 and,

    on November 18, 1941, men on foot set out to reconnoiter, walking eastward

    from tile village of Kokkarevo, near Leningrad. They dragged light hand sledges

    and kept ten yards apart. Most of the ice proved to be 4 inches thick, and

    two days later traffic began with light horse-drawn sledges.

    119      |      Vol_VII-0751                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice.

            Preparations were now made for a multilane trucking highway by sweeping

    all snow away so as to give the frost the best possible chance to c t hicken the

    ice. Antiaircraft batteries were stationed “every few dozen yards along the

    whole 18-mile route,” The German-occupied land was visible on the southern

    horizon, and a defense line of Soviet troops was established on the lake ice

    between the trucking road and the Nazis.

            The night of November 22 the first column of 60 ton-and-a-half trucks,

    empty, left the Leningrad side of the lake, the trucks at first spaced 50 yards

    apart. After several miles, one truck broke through, the ice and was lost. By

    scattering in all directions the rest of the trucks avoided sinking, and, now

    more widely spaced and not following each other’s tracks, they made the rest

    of the crossing safely. The ice being so thin, only small loads were placed

    on the trucks for the return journey, the rest dragged by them on one two, or

    three sledges.

            The ice now thickened rapidly, traffic became heavy, and was safe except

    from German attacks. However, under strafing the ice was found safer than a

    land highway. For on land the trucks have to stay on the road and take it, the

    only chance for the drivers being to abandon their trucks temporarily; but on

    lefel ice the signal of approaching strafers is also a signal for the trucks

    to scatter every which way over the lake. Then the planes can find no straight

    lines of trucks to rake systematically with their guns.

            The Germans attempted to interfere with the trucking by dropping heavy

    explosives, which made big open-water holes. Except in the very beginning of

    the season, when the ice was thin and dangerous, this form of attack was of

    less effect than if bomb craters had been produced in an overland highway; for

    the truck drivers took to the level ice on either side and avoided the holes

    120      |      Vol_VII-0752                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice

    until the winter cold had frozen them over.

            The 18-mile Ladoga road proved to have a danger point about 5 miles

    from the Leningrad side, where a lead would form whenever the weather turned

    colder, the ice cracking under contraction due to the drop in temperature.

    Flat bridges were made which lay on the ice and slid back and forth with the

    expansion and contraction movement on either side. But there were, nevertheless,

    traffic delays, causing traces to bunch up, with three sorts of adverse results —

    the ice would begin to bend under their weight, since the edge along the lead

    was unsupported; the German planes saw the truck groupings and were able to

    concentrate their fire on them; and this bottleneck proved near enough to land

    held by the Germans so they could reach it with their long-range artillery.

    There was, besides, the trouble that the Soviet forces could not set up enough

    antiaircraft batteries in the immediate neighborhood for fear of bending down

    the ice along the lead with the added weight.

            During the first few weeks of the road’s operation the loss of trucks and

    of lives was heavy. Drivers, in some cases, went down with tricks that broke

    through, whether because they were too heavily loaded for the weak ice or else

    because the ice had been weakened by enemy bombing.

            From, the outset the road suffered from all the organizational shortcomings

    of an impromptu service — labor supply, truck repair, maintenance, and dispatch–

    ing. According to a semiofficial statement, “it was a full month before its

    operation resulted in raising the starvation ration in Leningrad by 3½ ounces

    per day.” This was on the basis of trucks making only one daily round trip of

    something over 225 miles. After January 5, 1942, most drivers made two round

    trips, a total distance figured around 450 miles. The daily number of truck

    loads then rea d c hing Leningrad over the ice of Ladoga is given at 754 (tonnage

    unspecified); by January 15, the city was receiving 2,000 tons per day by the

    121      |      Vol_VII-0753                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice

    route. During the worst of the siege this figure does not appear to have

    been exceeded; the reason given is that no more trucks than enough to replace

    losses could be obtained for the Leningrad service.

            At the time of the greatest efficiency of the Ladoga, supply route, trucks

    crossed the lake at varying speeds. They avoided moving in lines following

    one another, both to make strafing action by the Germans more difficult and

    to permit the best drivers, with the best trucks, to make more trips than

    the others. Some trucks are said to have made as many as four round trips

    in 24 hours, thus about 900 miles; the regular, after the middle of January,

    remained at two round trips. Apart from trucks which were a total loss, from

    enemy action or otherwise, 4,000 vehicles were so seriously crippled in one way

    or another that their drivers could not repair them, These were taken care of

    in garages set up along the route, one of which was at either end of the Ladoga


            After the lake ice became thick enough, there was a good deal of troop

    movement across Ladoga, this partly in motor passenger busses taken from the

    streets of Leningrad. Five-ton trucks were now also in use. The troop movement

    brought increased activity of German fighter and bomber planes. For several

    weeks there are said to have been an average of ten fights per day above the

    Ladoga route between Nazi and Soviet flyers. There are reported to have been

    27 German night raids and 142 by daylight. Heavy bombs dropped, for attack or

    intended to break up the ice, are given as around 7,000; German planes downed

    by Soviet planes and by antiaircraft fire are reckoned at 160. When the counter–

    attack started, KV (Klimenti-Vo n r oshilov) tanks of 52 tons, the heaviest in the

    Red Army, moved across the lake toward, the Germans, The first of these crossed

    in January 1942, thus before the ice got its maximum strength, which would have

    been in March.

    122      |      Vol_VII-0754                                                                                                                  
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            The siege of Leningrad was still in progress when spring came, with

    thaw water pouring from the land to melt the lake ice near shore. For a

    while the trucks would approach the land to where the water was shoal enough

    for men to carry bags of flour on their shoulders, wading. But this was soon

    given up and there was a transportation gap between winter trucking and summer

    trucking boating .

            It is reckoned that the siege of Leningrad lasted 194 days after the ice

    transport ceased, and that water-borne traffic brought in during that time

    about 1,000,000 tons of supplies. But this was after the grip of the Germans

    began to loosen. The ice played its role through the height of the German

    power, under the maximum of strafing, air bombing, and cannonade; even so it

    brought in 336,000 tons, in addition to helping Leningrad troops and equipment

    to move in the direction required for the counterattack.

            In any case, the use of Ladoga ice for military purposes during the

    winter of 1941-42 is beyond comparison the most extensive, instructive, and

    [ ?]decisive in military history to that time. In telling the Ladoga story we

    have intended neither narrative history nor military explanation but have

    attempted merely to discuss sketchily the transportation usefulness of lake

    ice in modern warfare.



            Minor Wartime Uses . The principle of thickening ice by flooding

    (mentioned above as used in permitting earlier laying of rail tracks upon the

    frozen Volga) is referred to now and then by Soviet writers in a variety of

    military connections. In Moscow and Leningrad, for instance, there was danger

    during World War II that German bombs would penetrate into the ground to

    123      |      Vol_VII-0755                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice

    interfere with water and other important services. Protection was secured by

    building up mounds of ice through spraying and pouring water during particu–

    larly cold weather. Sometimes these mounds and ridges were nothing but ice;

    at other times they were reinforced with brush or logs, after the manner of

    using iron rods to produce reinforced concrete. This toughening was used

    particularly for construction like that of breastworks of ice, and gun


            Many of the World War II ice structures were permitted to melt as soon

    as the weather became warm, but others were protected by being covered with

    muck, tree branches, leaves, and hay, after the manner of storing ice in

    sawdust. It is said that in and near both Moscow and Leningrad the mounds

    shielding the waterworks remained still thick and protective far into the


            Minor Peacetime Uses . This article has dealt in the main with ice from

    the transportation point of view, but since we have mentioned several military

    uses other than transportation we refer to a few analogous peacetime uses,

    starting with one that has a transportation slant.

            Ice Shoeing for Sledges . Apart from the use of ice as a roadbed, the

    main transportation use of it has been for sledge shoeing where, within the

    necessary limitation, it is the best material so far discovered.

            The experience is that shoeing materials vary in how easily they slide

    over snow according to the relation of their nature to the weather, for

    instance, when the temperature is only a little below freezing a smooth and

    shiny steel shoeing glides over snow about as readily as any other material;

    but as the temperature drops the steel runner slides less and less easily,

    until at −50° or −60° F. it grinds as if the snow were sand. Other materials

    124      |      Vol_VII-0756                                                                                                                  
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    vary similarly with temperature, but each according to its own nature, some

    of them gliding remarkably well at low temperatures, among these copper. A

    shoeing which has been found excellent at low temperatures is ivory, and

    doubtless plastics could be made that would work as well. But apparently

    no material has yet been found which slides with as little friction as ice

    over snow in all its temperature ranges, from bare freezing to the lowest.

            There are several ways of applying ice to sledging, but in all of them

    rigidity of the runner is essential — the runners must not bend as it goes

    over uneven surfaces. The Eskimo solution, adopted by Europeans, is that of

    a plank on edge. Europeans have sometimes put a metal shoeing along the edge

    of the plank and have then swabbed this with water, giving the steel an ice

    glazing a tiny fraction of an inch in thickness. The necessary thinness of

    this glazing, due to the inability of smooth steel to hold ice firmly, has

    the disadvantage that it must be renewed frequently, at a minimum each morning.

    Eskimos have used planks with a fuzzy lower edge, swabbing with water to

    produce an icing perhaps 1/8 or 1/4 of an inch thick, which will last for days

    (though it needs repairing if the sleigh has to be en dragged over rocky ground

    or bare sand).

            More elaborate methods for ice shoeing are common. One of these is to

    prepare a clayey mud so that it kneads like dough; Europeans have tried

    unleavened bread dough, with good results. The sledge is laid on its back and

    with the mud or dough the running edges are built up so that each runner looks

    as if it were shod with half a loaf of bread, giving a slightly rounded gliding

    surface three, four, or even five inches across, the dough coming up on the side of the

    runner as far as is considered necessary for the mixture to get a tight hol e d

    when it freezes, which happens promptly on a cold day. It is a good thing

    to have the wood of the plank runner fuzzy on the sides as well as on the

    125      |      Vol_VII-0757                                                                                                                  
    EA-I. Stefansson: Uses of Ice

    bottom, to give the mud or dough better attachment.

            When freshly applied, this shoeing is uneven and must be shaved down

    with a knife or other suitable tool until it is nearly uniform, The last

    stage is to swab on water, which turns into a glazing.

            Ice Planks . When no wooden plank is available, the entire sledge

    runner can be made of ice, though with something for it to congeal upon.

    The usual Eskimo way is to soak some hairy skin — polar bear, grizzly bear,

    musk ox, or caribou. The skin is then cut into patterns to resemble the

    plank which the builder wishes he had. Several thicknesses of the pattern

    are placed one on top of another until the thickness is 3 or 4 inches, the

    equivalent of the desired plank. Then the wet and pliable skins are taken

    out of doors and laid on the snow where it is level, to freeze into a sort

    of plank. When this has hardened, the Eskimo takes an adze and shapes the

    hide plank as if it were of wood. Thereafter the runner is treated just as

    if it were of wood. Holes are drilled in it for thongs and it is lashed to the

    frame in the ordinary way. The sledge is then turned upside down, the dough

    or mud applied, and then the final icing.

            There are, of course, innumerable other uses of ice and of frozen

    materials which readily occur to anyone who has the boy-scout approach and

    who once understands the applicability of the process.

            Precautions . An obvious difficulty about things made of ice, or of

    soft material hardened by freezing, is that they have to be protected from

    thaws. These occur during the northern winter more often that some might

    think. Stefansson reports, for instance, that in every one of his ten

    arctic seasons a rain or thaw occurred even during the coldest period : [ ,?] which

    is between the months of December and March. These thaws, however, are brief ,

    126      |      Vol_VII-0758                                                                                                                  
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    and the frozen sledge runners may be protected by being buried in snow,

    particularly as there is a good deal of “latent” chill in the ground to

    radiate upward. When ice-shod sledges are traveling on a sunny day the

    drivers will take care, when they stop briefly, to hang up a sunshade to

    prevent direct rays from striking the ice part of the runners.

            With care of this and other kinds, the use of ice runners and other

    things depending on frost may be started fairly early in the fall and

    continued well into the spring. A special advantage, in the fall, is that

    trouble with direct sunlight is not great, since the days are short; in the

    spring, when the days are long, the remedy is to camp during the warmest

    period, with the sled runners safely buried in snow, traveling in the chill of

    the short night and in the early morning before the heat of the long day.

            Ice Depots. For the construction of Eskimo-type houses, and for banking

    those of European type, snow is the preferred material, being a good insulator;

    but snow is porous and animals dig through it easily, so ice is the preferred

    material for stores and depots. When there is in the vicinity a lake covered

    by ice of a moderate thickness, or an arm of the sea that has frozen level,

    the easiest method is to saw this ice Into suitable blocks, in the manner

    usual with commercial ice companies. The blocks are then set in place like

    masonry and cemented together with a spray of water or by dashing buckets

    of water against the wall. This sort of storehouse is excellent for keeping

    out small predatory animals, such as dogs or wolverines,

            A depot that is safe even from a polar bear can be made of ice in the

    manner described; but there would have to be precautions for strength, since

    these creatures may run in weight to well beyond a thousand, pounds and are

    powerful, with efficient claws. Therefore, the best way for protecting against

    127      |      Vol_VII-0759                                                                                                                  
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    polar bears, and especially for impromptu caches, is to dig a pit with

    ice chisels or miners’ pickaxes into ice which is already thick; enough.

    Along the shore of a frozen ocean, or out in the northern pack, the pit

    should be dug in the top of a hummock that is well above the general level

    of the ice. The things to be stored are then placed in the cavity and

    covered over with blocks of ice which are cemented together by filling

    crevices with snow and then by pouring water over the conglomerate.

            This article, naturally, has described only a few sample uses of ice.

    The numerous possible applications of the principles illustrated, and of

    the others, become significant when the below-freezing period approaches

    half the year, and increase in practical consequence thereafter more rapidly

    than indicated by an arithmetical ratio determined by counting the days of


    001      |      Vol_VII-0760                                                                                                                  

            Comments submitted by Major Andrew Taylor, 11 April 1951.

    (See his letter to Stefansson of that date)


    E.A. -. “ The Uses of Ice

            Page 5 - 4th line from bottom, “snow concrete”. Actually, there is

    no reference to “snow concrete” in your glossary, only to

    “snowcrete”, to which latter term I have taken objection

    in my previous letter of 20th March. Among the other re–

    ferences to this term “snow concrete”, to which the same

    remarks apply are the following:

    Page 7, Para 3, Line 1
    Page 10, Para 1, Line 1
    Page 20, Para 2, Line 6
    Page 75-78, passim
    Page 94, Para 4, Line 4
    Page 112, Para 3, Line 3
    Page 112, Para 4, Line 1

            Obviously, the correction of this ambiguity involves chang–

    ing the term in the glossary from “snowcrete” to “snow

    concrete”, giving to the former the “admixture” meaning

    given in p. 8 in my appendix of 20 March.

            Page 15 - Para 3. There is here the important omission of the

    negative, ‘NOT’. In order to preserve the length of time,

    in spring when a bay or lagoon landing field can be used,

    obviously, “the location should not ordinarily be reachable

    by drifting sand, .....”

            — The word “levelling” has consistently been misspelled

    (according to the Oxford dictionary) “leveling”. Among

    the places where this occurs, I note the following:

    Page 19, Para 4, Lines 1, 3, 3, 4
    Page 19, Para 5, Line 1
    Page 29, Para 3, Lines 1, 6
    Page 30, Para 1, Line 1
    Page 92, Para 3, Lines 1, 2

            In this, I may be skating on “thin ice”, for “leveling” may

    be correct according to American usage.

            Page 97 - The Use of Corduroy. It might be well to emphasize here the

    fact that corduroyed ice crossings are easily and readily

    made in the sub-arctic (i.e. within the tree line), but

    that though willows may be available in certain places in

    the true arctic, there are many localities where the ab–

    sence of such vegetation (the rule, rather than the ex–

    ception in such instances) preclude the use of corduroyed


            Page 99 - Para 3, Line 3, “tivers” for “rivers”.

            Page 119- Para 3, Line 5, “lefel” for “level”.

            Page 120- Para 3, Line 2, “tricks” for “trucks”.



            1. May I respectfully suggest that you reconsider

    the selected title for this section of your encyclopedia,

    The material included in it covers a much broader field

    than the title, “Uses of Ice”, indicated. It deals in some

    measure with snow and its compaction, with the geography of

    sea ice, with oceanography, climatology, etc. To use a

    term which seems to enjoy increasing use, I would suggest

    a title like “Practical Cryology”, or alternatively “Arctic

    Ice and Snow”.

    002      |      Vol_VII-0761                                                                                                                  

            2. The material contained in pp. 75 to 78 concerning

    the artificial consolidation of snow could “be considerably

    expanded. Much as I would like to provide this for you,

    I have neither the time nor the opportunity to do so at

    this late date. The best that I can do is give you re–

    ferences to material which you either have or can readily

    procure, as follows:

            (Extracted from the Polar Record, Vol. 5, Nos. 33, 34

    pp. 137-140):

            KONDRAT’YEVA, A.S. Teploprovodnost’ snegovogo pokrova i

    fizicheskie protsessy, proiskhodyashchie v nëm pod vliyaniem

    temperaturnogo gradienta (Heat conductivity of snow cover

    and physical processes occurring in it under the influence

    of a temperature gradient). Vilenski, D.G. (Ed.). Fiziko–

    mekhanicheskie svoystva snega i ikh ispol’zovanie v

    aerodromnom i dorozhnom stroitel’stve (Physical and mechani–

    cal properties of snow and their use in aerodrome and road

    construction), (Moscow, Leningrad), 1945, pp. 14-28.

    (Equations found expressing heat conductivity as function

    of density. Copy in Science Section, Society for Cultural

    Relations with the U.S.S.R., London).

            KONDRAT’YEVA, A.S., KRAGEL’SKI, I.V. and SHAKHOV, A.A.

    Uvelichenie plotnosti snega pod vliyaniem szhimayuschey

    nagruzki (Increase in the density of snow under the in–

    fluence of pressure). Vilenski, D.G. (Ed.). Fiziko–

    mekhanicheskie svoystva snega i ikh ispol’zovanie v

    aerodromnom i dorozhnom stroitel’stve (Physical and mechani–

    cal properties of snow and their use in aerodrome and road

    construction), (Moscow, Leningrad), 1945, pp. 5-9. (Re–

    sults of field and laboratory experiments on relationship

    of density of snow to pressure and temperature. Copy in

    Science Section, Society for Cultural Relations with the

    U.S.S.R., London.)

            KRAGEL’SKI, I.V. O metodike opredeleniya tverdosti i plotnosti

    snegovykh pokrytiy (On the method of determining the hard–

    ness and density of snow coverings). Vilenski, D.G. (Ed.).

    Fiziko-mekhanicheskie svoystva snega i ikh ispol’zovanie v

    aerodromnom i dorozhnom stroitel’stve (Physical and mechani–

    cal properties of snow and their use in aerodrome and road

    construction), (Moscow, Leningrad), 1945, pp. 61-66.

    (Apparatus and system used in determining hardness and

    density. Copy in Science Section, Society for Cultural

    Relations with the U.S.S.R., London.)

            KRAGEL’SKI, I.V. Obrabotka snegovogo pokrova metodom

    peremeshivaniya i posledovatel’nogo razrusheniya (Treatment

    of snow cover by harrowing and subsequent flattening).

    Vilenski, D. G. (Ed.). Fiziko-mekhanicheskie svoystva snega

    i ikh ispol’zovanie v aerodromnom i dorozhnom stroitel’stve

    (Physical and mechanical properties of snow and their use

    in aerodrome and road construction), (Moscow, Leningrad),

    1945, pp. 43-48. (Harrowing and rolling method of obtaining

    hard surface, as used by Red Army. Copy in Science Section,

    Society for Cultural relations with the U. S.S.R., London.)

            KRAGEL’SKI, I.V. Tekhnologicheski analiz orudiy dlya uplotneniya

    snega (Technological analysis of instruments for the packing

    down of snow). Vilenski D.G. (Ed.); Fiziko-mekhanicheskie

    svoystva snega i ikh ispol’zovanie v aerodromnom i dorozhnom

    stroitel’stve (Physical and mechanical properties of snow

    and their use in aerodrome and road construction), (Moscow,

    Leningrad), 1945, pp. 29-42. (Effect on snow of various

    types of roller and harrow examined mathematically. Copy in

    Science Section, Society for Cultural Relations with the

    U.S.S.R., London.)

    003      |      Vol_VII-0762                                                                                                                  

            KRAGSL’SKI, I.V. and SHAKHOV, A.A. Izmenenie mekhanicheskikh

    svoystv snegovogo pokrova vo vremeni (zatverdenie) (Change

    in the mechanical properties of snow cover after the passage

    of time (hardening)). Vilenski, D.G. (Ed.), Fiziko–

    mekhanicheskie svoystva snegaiikh ispol’zovanie v aerodromnom

    i dorozhnom stroitel’stve (Physical and mechanical properties

    of snow and their use in aerodrome and road construction),

    (Moscow, Leningrad), 1945, pp. 10-13, (Study of effect of

    time on hardening of snow. Copy in Science Section, Society

    for Cultural Relations with the U.S.S.R., London.)

            RIKHTER, G.D. Snezhny pokrov, yego formirovanie i svoystva (Snow

    cover, its formation and properties), Moscow, Leningrad:

    Izdatel’stvo Akademii Nauk SSSR (Publishing House of the

    Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R.), 1945, 120 pp.,

    8½- × 5½ in. (Formation of snow cover, its physical proper–

    ties, influence on visibility, drifting action and thawing;

    features of snow cover in U.S.S.R. by regions.)

            3. I am certain that you have most of these in your

    library, in translated form. It would not take one of your

    staff long to extract the pertinent material.

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