Exploring the Polar Ice Cap

Cruising the Polar Ice Cap aboard Silversea Expedition's Silver Explorer! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Cruising the Polar Ice Cap aboard Silversea Expedition’s Silver Explorer! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Tuesday, July 7, 2015 I was brushing my teeth when I felt Silversea Expeditions’ Silver Explorer shudder. It wasn’t much – just enough to rattle a few ceiling tiles and create an obvious disturbance beneath my feet. I could feel the ship bounce in place a few times, then return to normal. I knew then that we’d entered the pack ice that would eventually give way to the polar ice cap.

A truly amazing sight today: not everyone gets to see the edge of the polar ice cap in their lifetimes; a fact not lost on guests today. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

A truly amazing sight today: not everyone gets to see the edge of the polar ice cap in their lifetimes; a fact not lost on guests today. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Today, guests aboard Silver Explorer are being treated to a day above 80°N latitude, exploring the pack ice that exists above arctic Svalbard. Although it might not look like it at first glance, this vast expanse of Arctic Ocean littered with ice floes is actually an area known as the Nordaust Svalbard Nature Reserve. Our goal for the day: to weave in and among the ice in the ongoing search for the elusive Polar Bear. To put where we are in perspective, at 80°N we are very nearly at the top of the world. Only parts of Ellesmere Island in arctic Canada, the northernmost tip of Greenland, Franz Josef Land, and the Severnaya Zemlya islands in Russia are higher. Only a thousand kilometres separate us from the North Pole, but getting there is nearly impossible due to the thick polar ice cap. You’d need an icebreaker – and probably a helicopter – to get the job done.

Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

And how is it that Silver Explorer can cut through this pack ice? She’s been specially designed and built to operate in Polar Regions. Lloyds Register has given her a Class 1A Ice Rating thanks to her strengthened hull and sharper-than-average bow that allows her to literally slice through most kinds of ice safely. And slice through the ice we did. All day, in fact. That in and of itself turned out to be quite the reward.

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Our Live Voyage Report from onboard Silversea Expeditions’ Silver Explorer continues tomorrow with more adventures in Arctic Svalbard! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

 

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