While in Greenland we experienced two major types of ice: Iceberg’s and the bergy bits that accompany them; an, pack ice. Both have their inherent dangers but pack ice was by far the most intimidating because it could encircle the boat in a short time and crush it.
The large icebergs move like slow Goliaths taking about three or so years to travel around Greenland to the coast of Newfoundland where they melt adding their fresh water to the gulf stream and sediment to the Ocean floor. These massive icebergs move with the currents and maintain a somewhat predictable path.
Pack ice on the other hand is much more unpredictable. Pack ice is ice that has formed during the winter from the surface of the Ocean freezing. It can be several meters thick but when summer arrives the ice starts to melt and crack and these chunks of ice begin to move becoming serious navigation obstacles travelling in condensed packs across the Arctic. Pack ice tends to move with the currents but are far more influenced by the wind and can quickly encircle, trap and crush a yacht.
Understanding the way pack ice moves and being able to predict its movements is the key to successfully sailing across the Arctic but this is close to impossible to do correctly all the time. In nearly every account I have read about boats sailing in the Arctic they have spent a certain amount of time trapped by pack ice. These accounts have included pack ice pushing the boat out of the water on to the ice, or pushing right on to shore or most commonly puncturing the hull, bending the rudder post and sheering the blades off the boats propeller.
Being able to push through certain types of pack ice without damaging the boat is essential. Boats have long tried various techniques to protect the bow of their boat by reinforcing the bow or by building ice deflectors around the prop and rudder. We will be reinforcing the bow this spring and would like to buy a backup diesel outboard just in case we lose both rudder and propeller we can still navigate without requiring assistance.