Ayles Ice Shelf

more aylesDay 27
: N 78° 38′ W 095° 44
Estimated Temperature: -27 °C / -16 °F
Distance Traveled: 10 km / 6.2 mi

The Expedition Has Reached the Remains of the Ayles Iceshelf.

After 27 hard days through mostly rough ice conditions we finally made it to the remains of the Ayles Iceshelf. This, of course, is one of the main goals of our expedition. It was a dramatic moment when we saw the eight meter tall ice wall of the Ayles on the horizon. We camped this evening below the edge of the iceshelf resting both the dogs and ourselves after four pretty brutal days in the roughest ice we have experienced on the trip so far. It has seemed to get more difficult everyday over the last few days. We really worked hard to get to the Ayles and we are content to witness and document this smoking gun of global warming. From the chaotic world of the rough sea ice, the world below changes drastically when you climb the eight meters up on the ice shelf. Up there it is flat as far as the eye can see. To the northwest all we can see is iceshelf and tomorrow we will try to climb the iceshelf and cross it with our dogteams. The dogs are probably going to be as happy as we are with a days travel on flat surface. As much as it was great to get to Ayles it is also sad to witness this great iceshelf floating around in the sea destined to disintegrate. We are seeing a changing Arctic and this might only be the beginning. This experience has made a serious impact on me as a person and it has made me forever more determined to work for the preservation of this great and sublime wilderness.

All my best from the High Arctic,

Toby Thorleifsson


Norwegian Translation:

Posisjon: N 78° 38′ W 095° 44
Temperatur: -27 °C / -16 °F
Distanse reist I dag: 10 km / 6.2 mi

Ekspedisjonen har Naad Restene av Ayles IsMassivet.

Sent I kveld etter fire meget harde dager I meget ugunstige isforhold naade vi den 8 meter hoye kanten og begynnelsen paa Ayles Ismassivet. Det var en meget spesiell opplevelse aa klatre opp paa Ayles fra den kaotiske havisen og se flat is saa langt oye kunne se I nordvestlig retning. Her ligger altsaa 10.000 aar gammel is aa flyter I havet med en sikker dodsdom hengende over seg. Dette er et uhyggelig og vakkert syn paa en gang. Isformasjoner I denne skalaen er vakkert samtidig er dette et direkte resultat av vaart energiforbruk hjemme. Dette store isflaket som var paa storrelse med Manhattan foer det delte seg skal ikke ligge her syd og flyte. Det horer til som en sentral del av oekosystemet paa nordkysten av Ellesmere. I morgen skal vi dra hundene opp paa Ayles og krysse massivet mot nordvest. Kanskje blir det siste gang mennesker ser og opplever Ayles som har eksistert I 10.000 aar. Etter at vi har krysset massivet skal vi bruke tid paa aa filme og dokumentere denne opplevelsen. Selv her I de mest avsidesliggende strok av det Canadiske hoyarktis har vi mennesker klart aa gjore seriose inngrep I naturen. Ayles er beviset paa dette.

Alt vel,

Masse hilsner fra Tobias.


Additional Info:

The George Nares Expedition

Of the many British to the High Arctic in the 19th century the Nares expedition is worth mentioning. The expedition achieved some success, but at enormous costs. On sledging excursions in 1876 the Nares expedition managed to gain the furthest north record and traveled around the northern coast of Ellesmere Island to Alert Point. In the process they crossed large parts of the Ellesmere Ice-shelf. However, half the expedition crew quickly developed scurvy and the party experienced several deaths. The Ayles Ice Shelf was named after Adam Ayles, one of the expedition members on the Nares Expedition. The Nares expedition illustrated that confidence in modern technology and western methods did not suffice in the High Arctic. It became clear to the explorers that followed Nares that they had to look to the Inuit and Inughuit for ways to successfully operate over prolonged periods of time in the High Arctic.

Visit the following link to read more about Nares and Adam Ayles: http://wairarapa.co.nz/times-age/weekly/2002/ayles.html

Only three years ago Ellesmere’s coastline included a much larger Ayles Ice Shelf. However, in a matter of minutes much of this ice shelf broke off and became a floating ice island. An ice island is a large piece of floating ice, which has broken away from an Arctic ice shelf.

An ice shelf is a floating ice sheet of considerable thickness showing 2 meters or more above sea level, attached to the coast.
This island has now floated down to the eastern coast of Amund Ringnes island, which is where we have stopped to observe it.

This break off happened on August 13, 2005. The ice island is approximately 66 square kilometers in size, larger than Prince Rupert and British Columbia. It measures 15 km long by 5 km wide and is over 40 meters thick. The Ayles Ice Island represents the largest break-up of an ice shelf in the Canadian Arctic in 30 years. It had been in place for at least 4500 years before it broke away.

The ice island calved off from the Ayles Ice Shelf because of unusually warmer temperatures and persistent offshore winds. The sea ice that normally presses along the north coast of Ellesmere Island, even in summer, was replaced by open water in the days leading up to August 13th 2005, which allowed the shelf to slip into the water and drift rapidly to the west.

The fracture of the Ayles Ice Shelf was first noticed by ice analyst Laurie Weir, of the Environment Canada’s Canadian Ice Service (CIS), during routine monitoring of the eastern Arctic.


This dispatch was created and posted using Dispatch 1.0 – an expedition dispatch software developed by Climate Generation and Global Warming 101 Expeditions.


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