An Arctic expedition to study climate change has ground to a halt thanks to the worst ice conditions seen in the Hudson Bay for two decades.
An icebreaker which doubles as a scientific vessel during the summer months was scheduled to carry the investigative team but had to return to duty early thanks to excessive ice across the Arctic region.
The Canadian Coast Guard Ship (CCGS) Amundsen departed Quebec on July 10 for what was to have been a 115 day expedition to North Baffin Bay, well inside the Arctic Circle. According to ArcticNet, the organisers of the annual trip, the vessel was set to run 24-hour experiments into sea ice and icebergs to gather environmental data.
But The Globe and Mail has reported that it has instead been re-routed to escort commercial supply ships attempting to navigate their way to remote communities in Northern Quebec, on the eastern side of Hudson Bay.
— ArcticNet (@ArcticNet) July 10, 2015
Johnny Leclair, the Coast Guard’s acting assistant commissioner for the Central and Arctic Region, said the current “harsh conditions” in the bay are the worst he has seen for 20 years. He insisted that there was no choice but to pull the Amundsen off the mission, as some remote communities were running out of fuel and supplies.
The two other ice-breakers in the region are already in use: the Pierre Radisson has been deployed to Frobisher Bay to help a fuel tanker which had become mired in the ice, while the Terry Fox has had to return to Newfoundland for restocking after escorting a number of supply vessels through the freezing waters.
Mr Leclair said that two more icebreakers were due to arrive in the Arctic during the next week, which would allow the Amundsen to return to its scientific mission.
But the 40 scientists on board are not happy. Dr Jay Cullen of the University of Victoria said that some of the research projects were four years in the planning. “Some proposed scientific operations will be cancelled,” he wrote in an email, adding “Scientists are frustrated.”
Dr Cullen said that this is the first time in its eight year history that the expedition has had to be re-routed to allow the ship to resume ice-breaking duties.
Martin Fortier, executive director of ArcticNet commented: “Obviously it has a large impact on us. “It’s frustrating for us, but at the same time we were told there is no other ship available and we understand the priority of safety at sea.”
The ship is likely to be on coastguard duties for seven to eight days.
ArcticNet subscribes completely to the global warming agenda, stating on its website: “Earth’s climate is warming and the increase in average global temperature predicted by climate models will be amplified at Arctic latitudes.
“The reduction of coastal sea-ice already hinders traditional hunting by Inuit, reduces the habitat of the unique Arctic fauna, increases exposure of coastal communities to storms and could soon open the way to intercontinental shipping, raising new challenges to Canadian sovereignty and security. In the terrestrial coastal environment, warmer temperatures and permafrost thawing are already disrupting transportation, buildings and other infrastructures.”
Despite the icy setback, however, Mr Fortier was confident that the summer season would still be productive for the research team: “The people planning the large expeditions have a plan B,” he said. “We have already curtailed or either moved to a later date some of the stations and some of the areas we were supposed to sample.”