Late austral summer in Antarctica. HMS Protector blog 5
The months of February and March are late austral summer in Antarctica, and as we head further south beyond the Antarctic Circle the light hours increase to over 18 hours a day. The twilight has a haunting effect and the illumination of the ice is otherworldly and compelling.
Also I am impressed by the ship’s night navigation around the ice. If the grinding and jolting of the ship’s ice breaking wakes me in the early hours I creep up to the Bridge to watch the captain skillfully inch the ship around the larger floes and bergs.
I am astonished at the variety of texture and forms of the ice. Ice found in Antarctica divides into two main types; sea ice and glacial ice. Sea ice forms from the shore during
the winter months doubling the solid surface of the continent. The ice sheet recedes with temperature rise in the summer months. White in colour and measuring up to 1m in depth, it is known as ‘first year ice’ and can generally be broken by an ice breaker such as HMS Protector. Often the floes ‘raft’ over one another, increasing the thickness up to 2m and these can damage the ship. Also older, thicker sea ice becomes much harder, due to the salt content draining away in brine channels. This again is more difficult to break and has to be navigated around. The ship will look for gaps in the sea ice, known as ‘leads’, these form naturally by the environment or by other shipping.