Xue Long entered the sea – ice zone of the Arctic Ocean.

(Photo: Ingibjörg Jónsdóttir) Sea ice north of SpitsbergenXue Long entered the sea-ice zone of the Arctic Ocean on August 25th, north of Spitsbergen. The sea ice was mainly first-year ice, easily navigable, with a few small icebergs in between.


Footprints of polar bears were soon spotted on some of the ice floes and later on a bear with a newly caught seal was observed on the ice.


After a few moments, the bear swam away with the seal, leaving some seagulls behind that had been waiting for their share of the catch.



(Photo: Ingibjörg Jónsdóttir) A polar bear swims away with a newly caught seal.The ice conditions were monitored continuously along the route, with visual observations, photographs and various sensors, as were oceanographic conditions near the surface.


The ship followed a high Arctic route north of the Russian islands, between 81° and 82°N, east to 120°E where it turned north.


Passive microwave images from satellites were used for navigation. Sea-ice concentration was exceptionally low this year; in fact the year 2012 is a historical minimum for ice extent in the Arctic.


A number of sea-ice stations were set up, to study the sea-ice thickness, various properties of the ice and to collect samples of ice and snow for further investigation.

(Photo: Ingibjörg Jónsdóttir) Polar bear with seal on the sea ice

During the work on the ice, two crew members were on polar bear watch. Luckily, no bears came during ice stations.


On August 30th, another polar bear was seen on a nearby ice floe. This bear did also have a seal, which it dragged away once it spotted the ship.






The bears were possibly mainly noticed since the ice near them was red with blood, and also since they might not have been keen to abandon their catch. 

 (Photo: Ingibjörg Jónsdóttir) Ice cores sampled from the sea ice.

Numerous polar bear tracks were observed whilst the Xue Long was in the sea-ice zone, without polar bears being seen again.


For most of the time that Xue Long was in the sea-ice zone, the ice was from the previous winter;
first-year ice.


There were small pools of melt water on the sea ice, after the summers thawing, ice ridges formed by ice floes colliding together, and various other features.


On the way towards the North Pole, the ice conditions became more severe, with increased proportion of thicker multi-year ice.


On August 30th, Xue Long reached its farthest point north on this cruise, at 87°39'N, 123°11'E. On the way south again, the ship went through patches of new ice formation.

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