I am almost embarrassed to say how much time I have spent pouring over the archives of Canadian ice charts trying to identify re-occuring patterns and to try and estimate when ice will clear from specific areas. In the end while there are clear trends trying to figure the where and when is not a science one can learn but requires divination, clairvoyancy, premonition and prophecy.
Two scientific advances, however, aid in helping us make an educated decision if we are to take a certain course; ice charts and satellite images. While extremely helpful to get the general idea of the lay of an area they are far from exact as conditions change by the minute and once they are published they are usually already outdated. The Canadian ice services produce an amazing amount of precise information on ice conditions in the Canadian Arctic and we will use their charts daily when possible. However, for the new route we plan the Canadian ice services do not produce daily ice charts.
For this leg of the journey we will have to fill gaps with our own interpretations of the ice conditions, guess work, luck and a daily satellite image of the Arctic. Lacking the wonderfully informative and colourful navigational ice charts, we will fall back on satellite images which we learned off the coast of Greenland can be problematic. Clouds mean that a satellite image may provide no ice information at all other then meteorological. Last year we mistook a swath of clouds in a satellite image as ice, to the untrained eye these black and white photos from hundreds of miles up are difficult to interpret on the clearest of days.
Add to this that the navigational charts that we have are either devoid of information because no boats travel these regions or the information is dated. That sums up what we must somehow prepare ourselves for this summer.