Islands of Ice

by Jack Seigel

In 2011 as we travelled along Devon Island during the Northwest Passage trip last August, participants were fascinated by an unusually large, flat-topped or tabulate ice mass. We speculated that it was an ‘ice island’ resulting from the accelerated break-up of ice shelves on Ellesmere or glacial ice-tongues on Greenland.

I recently discussed our observation with Dr. Derek Mueller of Carleton University and he confirmed that we most likely saw a fragment of the Petermann Ice Island. The Petermann Glacier in NW Greenland has calved several ice islands in recent years and most recently in early August of 2010. The separated piece, 30 km by 14 km in size with an area of about 245 sq km. was the largest iceberg in the northern hemisphere. It subsequently broke into several pieces and one labelled PII-A, made international news as it headed for Newfoundland in August 2011. Another, PII-B, is currently grounded off Baffin Island and the one we observed, PII-Ba is still moving along Devon but has begun to break up and we witnessed many adjacent icebergs.

Tracking beacons were installed and Dr. Mueller was involved in field research on all of these pieces this past summer. Further information is available on the website of the Canadian Ice Service.

If you want to track these ice islands, you can see their positions at: (PII-Ba) (PII-B)

Very few have the privilege of a visit to the Arctic. Our experiences provide graphic reminders of the rapid changes in global climate. Is it not also a reminder of the need to urge our governments into responsible action? With climate events now decades ahead of projections, the rate of change is more rapid than scientists anticipated. This week, April 22-27, more than 2000 scientists are meeting in Montreal for the International Polar year 2012 conference, “From Knowledge to Action”. Adventure Canada is also in attendance. Follow it at:

Jack Seigel

Join us in the Northwest Passage this year! For more information, please email Loretta at or click one of the links below:

Into the Northwest Passage:  August 19 – September 2, 2012

Out of the Northwest Passage: September 2 -18, 2012

Hurry – there are only a few spots remaining!

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