Scientists aboard the Canadian research icebreaker CCGS Amundsen were forced to cancel the first leg of the 2017 expedition due to hazardous southward motion of Arctic sea ice, caused by climate change.
The adverse conditions postponed the Hudson Bay System Study (BaySys) which involves 40 scientists from five universities across Canada.
The current ice conditions would have prevented the ship from arriving on site on time to meet research objectives. Timing was key for this $17 million, four-year, University of Manitoba-led project timing to succeed.
“Considering the severe ice conditions and the increasing demand for Search And Rescue operations (SAR) and ice escort, we decided to cancel the BaySys mission. A second week of delay meant our research objectives just could not be safely achieved – the challenge for us all was that the marine ice hazards were exceedingly difficult for the maritime industry, the CCG, and science,” said Dr. David Barber, Expedition Chief Scientist and BaySys Scientific Lead.
Dr. Barber and his team of experts were able to use equipment onboard the Amundsen to confirm that a significant proportion of the sea ice present originated from the high Arctic.
Every summer CCGS Amundsen is charted by scientists and makes her way to the Canadian Arctic to conduct a wide variety of scientific missions. While in the Arctic, the vessels also serve as a primary search and rescue unit and provides support to scientific missions when possible.
This year the expedition logistics and science teams accelerated the mobilization of the 2017 Arctic Expedition to permit departure of the Amundsen six days ahead of schedule.
This would allow CCG to carry out critical marine safety and security operations in the unusually severe ice conditions in the Strait of Belle Isle and along the northeast coast of Newfoundland before beginning the Science Mission.
Unfortunately, the conditions required much more extended support than anticipated. Fleet management issues and inadequate alternative ships forced the cancellation of the science program due to significant safety concerns.
“This extremely unfortunate event is not expected to affect the remainder of the 2017 Amundsen Expedition resuming on July 6. We believe that the oceanographic studies will proceed as planned and do not anticipate an impact on the Nunavik Inuit Health Survey, says Dr. Louis Fortier, Scientific Director of the Amundsen and ArcticNet Science programs. “The Amundsen Science Team is committed to working with Canadian Coast Guard and our industrial partners to plan a 2018 BaySys program.”