It’s finally becoming that time of year. The sun is up all the time and the winds are dying down. The temperature is starting to rise. Most days it’s 20-30 degrees. And our propane is no longer freezing so our heaters work all the time.
As the snow melts it flows down toward the ocean, but it doesn’t quite make it to the ocean as it is still covered in ice. So the water has been collecting between our camp and the sea ice in a place we call the moat. In the moat, the water is much fresher and melts more quickly than the sea ice does. By mid afternoon, everything is melted and crossing the moat takes thick boots, fast feet, and an eye for shallow spots. By midnight, the sun is lower on the horizon and everything freezes up. However it doesn’t freeze all the way. The dirt under the ice is very dark and hold heat. This causes the ice to freeze only on the top layers and in a slushy fashion. When you walk across this kind of ice, it gives and flexes under your feet. It feels like walking on a trampoline.
For our diving, the melt can start limiting the places that we can go. We are working quickly to collect all our data that we need before our dive spots become inaccessible. For the past week, Cecil and I have been diving Ice Wall every day. Ice Wall is named for the 30-40 foot underwater ice wall where land ice meets the sea ice. Everyday is different. New brine channels (the long ice tubes coming down from the ice) are forming and growing to enormous lengths. Yesterday there was one that was at least 20-30 feet long. There are also hundreds of scallops along the sea floor and the fast ice (ice forming on the bottom of the ocean floor). Sometimes these scallops become frozen in the ice and over several years, incorporated into the sea ice itself. The other day, we came across some multi year ice that was melting on the surface. There was a layer of dirty ice and incorporated into it were all these beautifully preserved scallop shells. It looked as though someone had cut a section of the sea floor and brought it to the surface.
As the snow and ice melt, other things on land are starting to be uncovered. Take, for example, this mummified seal pup. This pup died of natural causes, but was incorporated into the dirt and permafrost and preserved.