Could Northabout Circumnavigate Greenland in 2018?

Our regular reader(s) may recall our extended coverage on the plucky little yacht Northabout‘s ultimately successful attempt to circumnavigate the Arctic Ocean in the summer of 2016?

Many were the skeptics who said she stood no chance of finding a way through some “thick sea ice” apparently blocking her path across the Laptev Sea, but they were proved wrong:

As a thought experiment in the summer of 2018 we’re now thinking the unthinkable. If she put her mind to it could Northabout circumnavigate Greenland in 2018? Let’s take a look at the evidence shall we? The allegedly “oldest, thickest Arctic sea ice” north of Greenland isn’t there any more this summer:



The research icebreaker Polarstern has already inspected the open waters off Kap Morris Jesup, the most northerly tip of Greenland:


What’s more the waters of the Lincoln Sea currently look no more tricky to traverse than the Laptev Sea in August 2016:


In conclusion, for the moment at least, what’s the theoretical solution to our 2018 thought experiment?

Here’s another thought to ponder as well. I don’t suppose it’s in the Alfred Wegener Institute’s PS115 mission plan, but do you suppose Polarstern could circumnavigate Greenland at the moment?


[Edit – August 23rd]

The University of Bremen used not to publish their Arctic sea ice “thinness” maps in summer. However now they do, so here’s a close up of Northern Greenland for August 22nd:



[Edit – August 26th]

First of all here’s one of our occasional sea ice motion videos:

This one reveals the open water north of Greenland in February as well as the much longer event in August. Next here’s a Sentinel 1B synthetic aperture radar image of the Kap Morris Jesup area from yesterday:


Meanwhile thanks to a heads up from Treform2 on the Arctic Sea Ice Forum comes evidence that on the other side of the Lincoln Sea the last remnants of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf are “disintegrating”:


8 thoughts on “Could Northabout Circumnavigate Greenland in 2018?

    1. Jonathan Watts writes in the Guardian about the phenomenon:

      The oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic has started to break up, opening waters north of Greenland that are normally frozen, even in summer.

      This phenomenon – which has never been recorded before – has occurred twice this year due to warm winds and a climate-change driven heatwave in the northern hemisphere.

      One meteorologist described the loss of ice as “scary”. Others said it could force scientists to revise their theories about which part of the Arctic will withstand warming the longest.

      “Almost all of the ice to the north of Greenland is quite shattered and broken up and therefore more mobile,” said Ruth Mottram of the Danish Meteorological Institute. “Open water off the north coast of Greenland is unusual. This area has often been called ‘the last ice area’ as it has been suggested that the last perennial sea ice in the Arctic will occur here. The events of the last week suggest that, actually, the last ice area may be further west.”

    2. The Polarstern will turn around in a couple of days, not going to enter Nares. 😉 Although they’re enjoying the unexpected opportunities the open water is giving them.

  1. Despite the pessimistic predictions of certain “skeptics” in the Twittosphere:

    the good ship Polarstern has somehow managed to escape the vice like grip of all that thick, old sea ice north of Greenland:


      1. Actually it’s currently a lot less than 2m thick Sheila. Here’s the latest SMOS map:


        The area north of Kap Morris Jesup has started to refreeze, but it will be quite a while before it’s over 2 meters thick once again.

        See also the latest news above.

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