What would NSIDC and our media make of a photo like this if released by the NAVY today? Would we see headlines like “NORTH POLE NOW OPEN WATER”? Or maybe “Global warming melts North Pole”? Perhaps we would. sensationalism is all the rage these days. If it melts it makes headlines.
Some additional captures from the newsreel below show that the ice was pretty thin then, thin enough to assign deckhands to chip it off after surfacing.The newsreel is interesting, here is the transcript.
ED HERLIHY, reporting:
USS Skate heads north on another epic cruise into the strange underseas realm first opened up by our nuclear submarines. Last year, the Skate and her sister-sub Nautilus both cruised under the Arctic ice to the Pole. Then, conditions were most favorable. The Skate’s job is to see if it can be done when the Arctic winter is at its worst, with high winds pushing the floes into motion and the ice as thick as twenty-five feet.
Ten times she is able to surface. Once, at the North Pole, where crewmen performed a mission of sentiment, scattering the ashes of polar explorer Sir Hubert Wilkins. In 1931, he was the first to attempt a submarine cruise to the Pole. Now, the Skate’s twelve-day three thousand mile voyage under the ice, shown in Defense Department films, demonstrates that missile-carrying nuclear subs could lurk under the Polar Ice Cap, safe from attack, to emerge at will, and fire off H-bomb missiles to any target on Earth.
A powerful, retaliatory weapon for America’s defense.
For example, one crew member aboard the USS Skate which surfaced at the North Pole in 1959 and numerous other locations during Arctic cruises in 1958 and 1959 said:
“the Skate found open water both in the summer and following winter. We surfaced near the North Pole in the winter through thin ice less than 2 feet thick. The ice moves from Alaska to Iceland and the wind and tides causes open water as the ice breaks up. The Ice at the polar ice cap is an average of 6-8 feet thick, but with the wind and tides the ice will crack and open into large polynyas (areas of open water), these areas will refreeze over with thin ice. We had sonar equipment that would find these open or thin areas to come up through, thus limiting any damage to the submarine. The ice would also close in and cover these areas crushing together making large ice ridges both above and below the water. We came up through a very large opening in 1958 that was 1/2 mile long and 200 yards wide. The wind came up and closed the opening within 2 hours. On both trips we were able to find open water. We were not able to surface through ice thicker than 3 feet.”
- Hester, James E., Personal email communication, December 2000
Here are some screencaps from the newsreel:
It was that way again in 1962:
And of course then there’s this famous photo:
But contrast that to 1999, just 12 years later, lots of ice:
But in 1993, it’s back to thin ice again:
The point illustrated here: the North Pole is not static, ice varies significantly. The Arctic is not static either. Variance is the norm.
There’s quite an interesting read at John Daly’s website, including a description of “the Gore Box”. Everybody should have one of those.
h/t to WUWT commenters Stephen Skinner, Crosspatch, and Glenn.
See the Skate image archive at NAVSOURCE