Historic Variation in Arctic Ice

Historic Variation in Arctic Ice

Guest post from the Air Vent by Tony B

The following is a guest post by Tony B on the history of Arctic ice. I nominated him Arctic ice historian on WUWT when I noticed he had done a considerable amount of research. Happily he took me up on it and has put a lot of work into this. I don’t know his full background, but I think you’ll see he has an excellent grasp of the historic nature of sea ice in the Arctic. His post here is well referenced and tells an interesting story not found in the nuances of mathematical data mashing.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

I placed most of the images in myself from Tony’s references.

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Preface Part 1; Arctic Ice through the Ages- The Age of Scientific exploration

NOAA Photo Library Image - libr0454
Image ID: libr0454, Treasures of the NOAA Library Collection
Image of Parry's ships in the ice with sailors playing cricket
Northwest Passage Attempt 1821

There are many great books about heroic polar explorers, and numerous technical papers by arctic researchers-often rather dry. Few papers with a narrative on the scientific exploration of the arctic during the 19th Century seem to exist as a half way house, accesible to laymen and experts alike, so it is hoped this article may fill a gap.

It was always intended to exist electronically, so links to the relevant information source have been made, rather than citing a printed reference. Whilst generally the narrative can be followed without needing to click on the link, many are interesting in their own right and are often well worth a diversion, (but don’t forget to come back.)

Few external ‘official ‘instrumental records exist for this period-or are sporadic in area or time scale- so observations made at the time and place are important to our understanding as to what happened to arctic ice and temperatures in this era. This article has two converging themes; the search for the North West passage and the scientific explorations of the region by a former whaler.

This is somewhat longer than most blog articles, in fact-in truth- it is a a bit of an epic. So close the curtains, turn off the mobile, feed the dog, grab a drink, and order in the pizza for about an hour. Then sit back as the story begins in 1817 when the Royal Society used the enormous resources at their disposal to investigate the claim that ;

THE ARCTIC IS MELTING

“It will without doubt have come to your Lordship’s knowledge that a considerable change of climate, inexplicable at present to us, must have taken place in the Circumpolar Regions, by which the severity of the cold that has for centuries past enclosed the seas in the high northern latitudes in an impenetrable barrier of ice has been during the last two years, greatly abated….

(see additional*)

….. this affords ample proof that new sources of warmth have been opened and give us leave to hope that the Arctic Seas may at this time be more accessible than they have been for centuries past, and that discoveries may now be made in them not only interesting to the advancement of science but also to the future intercourse of mankind and the commerce of distant nations.” A request was made for the Royal Society to assemble an expedition to go and investigate.

President of the Royal Society, London, to the Admiralty, 20th November, 1817, Minutes of Council, Volume 8. pp.149-153, Royal Society, London. 20th November, 1817.(from) http://www.john-daly.com/polar/arctic.htm

The quote from the Royal Society is fairly well known, however it is only part of the extract. The missing part –detailed under- heralded the start of modern arctic science.

*Additional…

Mr. Scoresby, a very intelligent young man who commands a whaling vessel from Whitby observed last year that 2000 square leagues (a league is 3 miles) of ice with which the Greenland Seas between the latitudes of 74° and 80°N have been hitherto covered, has in the last two years entirely disappeared. The same person who has never been before able to penetrate to the westward of the Meridian of Greenwich in these latitudes was this year able to proceed to 10°, 30′W where he saw the coast of East Greenland and entertained no doubt of being able to reach the land had not his duty to his employers made it necessary for him to abandon the undertaking.

This, with information of a similar nature derived from other sources; the unusual abundance of ice islands that have during the last two summers been brought by currents from Davies Streights (sic) into the Atlantic.

The ice which has this year surrounded the northern coast of Ireland ( see footnotes1) in unusual quantity and remained there unthawed till the middle of August, with the floods which have during the whole summer inundated all those parts of Germany where rivers have their sources in snowy mountains.”

Arctic RegionArctic Region

The Royal Society President at the time was Sir Joseph Banks, a botanist of great renown, standing and influence, who helped to precipitate the era of Arctic science that followed.

Sir Joseph Banks

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Banks

To put this period into context, and to understand the resources and motivation that could be commanded for exploration, it should be recognised that Britain had a vast number of ‘surplus’ ships.This from Wikipedia;

“…at the end of the Napoleonic Wars the Admiralty found itself in possession of large numbers of enterprising officers and thousands of unrequired ships.”

ThIs variability of the ice during the early 1800’s, combined with a desire to expand the British empire, gain prestige, and provide alternative routes to her colonies in the east, had prompted the British govt to renew their hope that the fabled Northwest passage could be navigated at last. Finding this route was a long standing ambition, as in 1776 the British Government had offered a reward of up to £20,000 to anyone who could penetrate north of 89 degrees, (this was East or West of the Bering Straits, re-confirmed by Parliament statute in 1818)

The first serious expedition to attempt this passage was by Captain James Cook in 1778 (the year Sir Joseph Banks was elected as President of the Royal Society) so let us backtrack briefly from the 1817 letter, as this date has such a bearing on spurring future scientific arctic exploration.

http://colonial-america.suite101.com/article.cfm/captain_james_cook_and_the_pacific_northwest

The expedition by Captain James Cook eventually ended in tragic failure after he failed to find the passage and decided to overwinter in the South,  he was killed in Hawaii. (Sir Joseph Banks had sailed with him in 1768 in the expectation of collecting many new botanical specimens-numerous plants are named after Banks.)

On this 1778 expedition Cook had on board as sailing master on the ‘Resolution,’ 22 year old William Bligh. On board the sister ship ‘Discovery’ was George Vancouver after whom the island was named.

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=ExUvmRai6rUC&pg=PA62&lpg=PA62&dq=north+west+passage+challenge+1776&source=bl&ots=0m_I_9nTGD&sig=gtlhexglNqbLN3t94ACf_SOw_jo&hl=en&ei=yNUwSpHzGJjMjAfuzYTPBw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6#PPA65,M1

(See third expedition from p61)

Intriguingly “Mr. Scoresby, a very intelligent young man” had a renowned father. Whilst Scoresby (senior) like his fellow Whitby neighbour James Cook did not gain this £20,000 reward either, he did reach beyond 81 degrees in 1806, breaking through the ice at Spitzbergen only 510 miles from the North Pole. This achievement was not bettered for 21 years, and then only by travelling for some of the way over the ice, not on board a ship.

Sir Joseph Banks would have been aware of the (periodic) warming before 1817. Whalers commented on it from 1790 and reports from the Hudson Bay co mentioned variable amounts of ice throughout the period from 1786 to 1810. Banks had been particularly interested in reports about ‘unprecedented break up of sea ice at Greenland’ in 1815. This from Wikipedia;

“Whalers in the North Atlantic in 1815 and 1816 described an unprecedented breaking up of the ice in the Davis Strait, that had apparently sent icebergs as far south as 40°N. The prevailing theory held that seawater could not turn to ice (supported by observations that melted icebergs released fresh water), and therefore that all Arctic ice formed around coastlines. It further held that the waters around the North Pole might therefore be ice-free, forming an Open Polar Sea

If the barriers of ice surrounding this open sea were breaking up, then there might be an opportunity to sail across the top of the North American continent, either by by the proposed Northwest Passage, or perhaps by sailing north past Spitzbergen, across the Polar Sea, and down through the Bering Strait.”

When Sir Joseph Banks received additional information from the trusted source of young Mr Scoresby during 1817, that must have convinced him that something extraordinary was happening, and he facilitated the resources of the British Admiralty to investigate.

From Wikipedia;
“John Barrow, the Second Secretary to the Admiralty encouraged interest in the possible existence of a Northwest Passage.With the support of Sir Joseph Banks, he prepared two simultaneous expeditions, one to be led by John Ross, heading West through the Davis Strait, and the other to be led by David Buchan, taking the polar route. An arrangement of prizes for acheivement both West and North were adopted by an Act of Parliament in 1818. Thus began a series of expeditions that lasted for sixty years.”

The various wars against Napoleon and the US will have prevented Banks from previously mustering ships from the Admiralty for serious exploration concerning the earlier reports of melting ice. To this might be added that perhaps no one had approached him on the subject before, who he trusted enough to take at their word and authorise the necessary expedition (and expenditure.)

This changed in 1817, for as it happened Sir Joseph Banks had previously been introduced to Mr Scoresby in London who, after leaving Edinburgh University, had spent a short time in the Royal Navy. At the time of the letter both Scoresby junior and his father were whalers of renown and knew much about arctic conditions.

William Scoresby junior is central to the early part of the story of modern scientific arctic exploration and the following article describes his activities as a whaler who eventually came to know more of the science of the arctic than any man previously.

http://pubs.aina.ucalgary.ca/arctic/Arctic35-4-550.pdf

“At the age of 10 Scoresby made his first Arctic whaling voyage aboard his father’s ship, the “Resolution,” which he later commanded in 1811. In 1813 he established that the temperature of polar waters is warmer at great depths than at the surface.”

It was the following book that brought him to the attention of Sir Joseph Banks, when the young Scoresby observed the periodic reduction in ice and other natural arctic events.

The Arctic Whaling Journals of William Scoresby the Younger. Vol. I. The Voyages of 1811, 1812 and 1813. Edited by C. IAN JACKSON 2003. pp. lxi + 242. 9 monochrome illustrations, 5 maps. ISBN 0 904180 82 4.

(There is a second volume covering subsequent years).

His subsequent Account of the Arctic Regions with a History and Description of the Northern whale Fishery (1820) contained his own findings as well as those of earlier navigators. There is an intriguing entry from the book, as subsequently recorded by his chroniclers;

“The uncharted coastline of east Greenland became clear of ice around 1820, and in 1822 Scoresby, in the midst of an arduous whaling voyage, sailed along some 400 miles of this inhospitable landscape, charting it, and naming point as he went in honour of scientific and other friends, chief of which was Scoresby Sound, named for his father. Almost all his place names survive today.”

That Scoresby junior was a man to be believed when he claimed that the arctic was melting can be further seen here in this extract;

“Carrying on with great success the most demanding and arduous of all maritime activities -the hunting and capture of whales – he yet collected over a period of some 15 years data on sea currents and temperatures, ice formation and movement, wind directions and velocities, magnetic variations, marine organisms, biology of whales, structure of snow crystals and much besides, gathering all this original work in the historic-volume classic Account of the Arctic Regions. The publication of this work in 1820 marks the beginning of the scientific study of the polar regions.”

So we have clear evidence of substantial melt in the years prior to 1817, during 1817 around 1820 and that ice returned in subsequent years but then retreated again, as recorded here;

http://www.archive.org/stream/arcticgeographye00roya/arcticgeographye00roya_djvu.txt

“On the voyage to Greenland in 1828, Captain Graah fell in with the first ice in 58° 52′ lat. n., and 41° 25′ w. Greenwich, which is only 57′ s., and about 77 nautical miles to the eastward of Cape Farewell ; and he says, ” Since 1817, I do not know that the ice has been seen so far to the eastward of the Cape.” — ‘ Narrative of an Expedition to the East Coast of Greenland, by Cnpt. W. A. Graah, Royal Danish Navy,’ p. 21, (Note; Cape Farewell is at the extreme southern tip of Greenland) map here.

Source Wikipedia

The summer of 1816 was exceptionally cold (the year without a summer- probably due to the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia on 10 April 1815) A technical explanation of the year without a summer is linked here;

http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/~wsoon/myownPapers-d/Summer_of_1816.pdf

The Hudson Bay ships bringing fur to London were actually frozen in during this period, whilst 1817 was an “Enso- el nino year” with the late winter of 1816 and summer of 1817 being warm, matching reports from earlier years that the ice was periodically melting, with a great deal of open water, and as reported by the Hudson bay co, and by others, as having an ‘unprecedented break up’ in 1815 and 1816. In 1817 Scoresby contacted Banks about the melting, In 1820 Scoresby found the ice around Greenland was melting and in 1822 mapped much of what had previously been an inhospitable coast.

Now it is useful to peer review the information gathered to date- with other contemporary accounts-in order to separately confirm the evolving picture of fluctuating ice extent as well as arctic winters and summers of greatly varying intensity all of which led to a general melting as the climate changed, which precipitated an official British expedition in 1818.

Contemporary reports from the time include the following 1817 book;

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=EpwSAAAAYAAJ&dq=illustrations+of+greenland+1817&printsec=frontcover&source=bl&ots=3cjiizphFa&sig=nFNcBtJE-Bv3DDAf9U4lK2Y-JYg&hl=en&ei=1eEySpGRB4iZjAeItuyBCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1

“We learn that a vessel is to be fitted out by Government for the purpose of attempting again the north-west passage, the season being considered as peculiarly favourable to such an expedition. Our readers need not be informed that larger masses of ice than ever were before known have this year been seen floating in the Atlantic, and that from their magnitude and solidity, they reached even the fortieth latitude before they were melted into a fluid state. From an examination of the Greenland captains, it has been found that owing to some convulsions of nature , the sea was more open and moiré free from compact ice than in any former voyage they ever made: that several ships actually reached the eighty-fourth degree of latitude, in which no ice whatever was found; that for the first time for 400 years, vessels penetrated to the west coast of Greenland, and that they apprehended no obstacle to their even reaching the pole, if it had consisted with their duty to their employers to make the attempt. This curious and important information has, we learn, induced the Royal Society to apply to ministers to renew the attempt of exploring a north-west passage as well as to give encouragement to fishing vessels to try how far northward they can reach , by dividing the bounty to be given, on the actual discovery, into portions, as a reward for every degree beyond eighty-four that they shall penetrate For the same reason we think it would be advisable for the merchants engaged in the Greenland whale fishery not to postpone the sailing of their ships to the usual season but expedite them at once so as to take advantage of the temporary fresh.”

As aditional background to the period, linked below are the annual Board of Trade journals dating back to 1676, covering Newfoundland.

http://www2.swgc.mun.ca/nfld_history/CO194/index.htm

This extract here;

“…preventing the construction of non-fishery related buildings near the water, no officers are employed in the fishery, explanation given to the catching and curing of fish, mentions “ice islands” which impeded the ships on the seal fishery,” (T Duckworth CO194/49 Reel B-682 5 June 1810

Note; This illustration of arctic Sea Islands comes from 1818.

“Passage Through the Ice, June 16, 1818 Lat. 70.44 N” by Sir John Ross, 1819 Princeton Edu.

The extensive Board of Trade journals are a great fount of social history of Newfoundland, the arctic whalers and sealers, and of the fish traders of the West of England who largely controlled the trade. Scoresby and his father are mentioned various times.

On Sept 16 1809 mention is made of ‘the harsh winter,’ July 1818 ‘of the long and vicious winter,’ Oct 1821 ‘winters of wretchedness and distress’.

The great variations in ice amounts and warmth and cold, is also recorded in the following, condensed from the records of the Hudson Bay company, which appear to demonstrate that climate change is not a new phenomena.

“Over the fifteen years between 1720 and 1735, the first snowfall of the year moved from the first week of September to the last. Also, the late 1700s were turbulent years. They were extremely cold but annual snow cover would vary from ‘extreme depth’ to ‘no cover’. For instance, November 10th 1767 only one snowfall that quickly thawed had been recorded. June 6, 1791 many feet of snow in the post’s gardens. The entry for July 14, 1798 reads ‘…53 degrees colder today than it was yesterday.”

The following is a modern day reconstruction of sea ice around Newfoundland from 1810 to 2000 demonstrating the huge variability (which compares with modern times) and perhaps illustrates the 60/70 year arctic oscillation amongst other cycles. (Scroll down to the heading “195 years of sea ice ice off Newfoundland”)

http://www.socc.ca/cms/en/socc/seaIce/pastSeaIce.aspx

Following this is a fascinating account recovered from a Hudson bay ships log of the winter of 1816, judged the most severe in the entire record

“The autumn of 1815 was an anxious period for Joseph Berens, Jr., the governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company in London. This was the season in which the Company’s ships usually returned from the Bay with their harvest of furs, but the voyage of 1815 was truncated by Hudson Strait pack ice, which prevented the return of the ships Eddystone and Hadlow through Hudson Strait into the Atlantic Ocean. Faced with the prospect of overwintering in the Bay, both vessels sailed to the comparatively safe anchorage of Strutton Sound in James Bay (Fig. 3) and were to remain there, ice-bound, until 12 August of the following year. The governor of the Company, being unaware of the fate of the Eddystone and Hadlow, dispatched the 1816 flotilla of ships on 12 May – almost three weeks earlier than the usual departure date. Under normal circumstances, an early entrance into Hudson Strait presaged an arduous, prolonged passage through severe pack ice, but in 1816 the brig Emerald and ship Prince of Wales encountered exceptional ice congestion in the strait. The two vessels finally entered Hudson Bay on 6 September, 51 days after.”

http://pubs.aina.ucalgary.ca/arctic/Arctic38-2-121.pdf

Even more remarkable in this relatively recent document (drawing on historic sources) are the annual indices of summer sea ice from 1750 to 1870 (on page 122) and further references to the records of the Hudson bay co, which again illustrate the fluctuating ice levels noted elsewhere. (This account should be read in conunction with the link immediately above it.)

Clearly the eruption of Tambora (or other factors) had a profound effect on the climate of the Arctic over a very short period, as previous mentions of especially harsh winters in Newfoundland in previous decades are hard to find. Whether soot particlates from the eruption could have fallen on the arctic to cause the melting is doubtful, as no discolouration of the ice/snow can be found in any record, so the net effect of the eruption is probably to have caused the severe ice mentioned in the ‘year without a summer’, which then quickly disappeared in the Enso year. This chart;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Greenland_sulfate.png
demonstrates the 1816-17 spike in sulphate particles, produced by Tambora, in the Greenland ice. This from;

http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/1991/91JD01634.shtml
from Dai et al, 1991 also shows a spike of similar amplitude in 1810, from an unknown eruption, thought to be one of the Andean volcanos.

There are many more accounts similar to those above recording great variations in arctic ice and weather over these decades. We are able to pin point another reference to 1810 conditions, as according to the book ‘Ice Hunters’ by Shannon Ryan, in that year the comment ‘the ice conditions prevented the ships reaching the seal herds’ is described in detail (an event briefly mentioned in the Board of Trade Journals).

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6dWY-gZTGLgC&pg=RA1-PA284&lpg=RA1-PA284&dq=ice+islands+1810+newfoundland+seal+fisheries&source=bl&ots=0CxEu02Mpq&sig=67q3SluOy-OIv4-3cO5vpgTmHag&hl=en&ei=R-UuSvrqLszLjAff4cmVCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6#PRA1-PA291,M1

There are various interesting observations made by whalers in this book concerning the Arctic conditions;

“ice could whirl about as if in a whirlpool”: ‘soft ice’ in February

‘the large fields of ice which drift southwards in March and April from the polar sea’: ‘Great stretches of open water.’

So there were considerable variations in ice levels which, as the perception until then had been of a perpetual wild icy wilderness, were thought at the time to be a substantial deviation from the norm (but appears from the viewpoint of 2009 to be the norm)

We shall pick up the story of the North West passage again, which is so closely bound to the exploration of the arctic, immediately following the interchange between Scoresby junior and Sir Jospeh Banks in 1817. This extract from the Royal Society;

http://royalsociety.org/page.asp?id=6801

‘By the early 19th century it had become a cartographic challenge to record the wide blank spaces in the Arctic region, primarily to discover a North-West Passage to the Pacific Ocean.

At the British Admiralty, John Barrow FRS championed the dispatch of several naval expeditions. The Royal Society advised on equipment and instruments, staffing and, crucially, the areas of research which were to be investigated. The North-West Passage was attempted in 1818 by John Ross in the Isabella with William Parry in the Alexander. Among the party was Edward Sabine FRS, recommended by the Royal Society as the expedition’s astronomer.

Sabine also over wintered with Parry in the Arctic during 1819-20, the first British team to do so. Sabine’s magnetic observations, which earned him the Royal Society’s Copley Medal, were preliminary steps in the study of magnetic variation, instigating a major international project under British leadership. This required vast quantities of data and investment in facilities and personnel, as well as political support from the Admiralty and the Royal Society.

The Arctic expeditions had left an ‘unexplored quadrilateral’ of 70,000 square miles. Barrow and Sabine again suggested a North-West Passage expedition, arguing that it would help to complete a magnetic survey of the world. The Royal Society gave its consent and the Erebus and Terror were once again used in an expedition captained by Sir John Franklin.

This time, the ships were fitted with steam engines and extra iron hull plating to battle the polar ice. Supply novelties such as tinned food were added to the technologically well-equipped party which sailed on 19 May 1845, and were last seen by two whaling vessels at the end of July, before vanishing into the ice. A rescue was demanded by Lady Jane Franklin, ‘

Before reverting to the Royal Society source, we may pick up the activities surrounding Franklin’s disappearance in 1845 from this 1857 book which details the search for the lost expedition carried out four years earlier

http://www.arcticwebsite.com/FranklinOrders.html

(To put it in context, Franklin’s efforts to find the iconic North West passage had captured the public imagination, and with the demands from his wife for the British govt to effect a rescue, this extraordinary plan was suggested);

“The proposition made by Mr. Gale through the London newspapers to endeavour to discover the whereabouts of Sir John Franklin by a balloon ascent has called forth, in Paris, a letter from a M. Dupuis Delcourt – alleging that the first idea of such an ascent in the Polar regions was made by him in a publication nearly twenty-five years ago and was repeated in another publication in 1845. But this is not all. M. Delcourt is not content with robbing the English Lieutenant of his laurels, gravely assures the world that he is about to promulgate a project for undertaking the circumnavigation of the globe, by means of balloons; and says that he shall appeal to the government, to foreign and national academies, and to other learned bodies for the means of executing his project. As we have not yet got beyond that state of aerostatic science, in which the crossing of the Alps in a balloon is deemed a marvellous exploit – it may be doubted whether the Frenchman’s scheme will meet with much encouragement.”

Unsurprisingly this suggestion never got off the ground…Hah! Who said history was dull?

But what of Franklins’ expedition? This from the Royal Society web site again;

 ‘….but hope ended with the 1857-59 expedition of Francis McClintock. Human remains were found together with written records of Franklin's death in 1847. Meanwhile the many expeditions which had joined the search contributed enormously to the mapping of the Canadian archipelago, and to meteorology, magnetism and natural history.’

It is interesting to examine old documents as they hold many clues to the state of the arctic ice at various times in our history and don’t have the ‘agenda’ that many do today. That arctic ice was highly variable in depth and extent is obvious from the numerous accounts passed down to us, and that the climate changed is also evident.

This from a collection of papers from the Royal Geographic society dated 1875.

http://pathstoknowledge.wordpress.com/2009/03/14/contact-between-the-norse-and-the-aboriginal-occupants-of-the-eastern-arctic/

It covers explorers expeditions to Greenland, Siberia and many other places as far back as 1821, and those reports in turn talk of first hand observation by people 40 years before that, so we have excellent evidence of actual observations back to around 1780. A few extracts to give the reader a flavour are given below;

Extract one

“1 ‘ Reise til Ostkysten af Gronland,’ 1832, and translated by Macdougall, 1837.
There is another bay which I could not investigate to its bottom on account of the immense masses of ice that were setting out, and which is called by the natives Ikak and Ikarsek {Sound). It runs between Karsarsuk and Kingatok, and its length is from Karsarsuk to its end about 15 German miles ; it is situated in 72 D 48′, and the sea, at its entrance, is covered by numerous islands. All the natives living in this neighbourhood assured me unanimously that there had been a passage formerly to the other side of the land.”

Second extract

” An observation which it is interesting to mention here, and which gives a proof of the very little difference between the temperature of the surface and that at some depth, is mentioned in the Voyage of Captain Graah, p. 21. He says,” The 5th of May, 1828, in lat. 57° 35′ N., and 36° 36′ w., Gr., tbe temperature of the surface was found 6°-3 (46°-2 Fahr.), and at a depth of 660 feet 5°5 + K. (44°-5Fahr.).” This proves that there is no cold submarine current in the place alluded to to the s.e. of Cape Farewell. A still more conclusive experiment is recorded by Sir Edward Parry in the account of his first voyage, June 13, 1819 : in lat. 57° 51′ n., long. 41° 5′, with a very slight southerly current, the surface tempera-ture was 40J° Fahr. ; and at 235 fathoms 39°, a difference of only 1J°.”

third extract

“156 DR. EAE, 1853-54— ANDERSON, 1855.

Cape Parry was passed at midnight, and we came across some heavy ice, being the first met with since leaving the straits. On the 30th it was so close as to compel us to haul in shore, affording a great contrast with the state of the ice at the same period two years ago, when the pack was 30 miles from the land.”

This is an extract from 1868 concerning a British expedition to Greenland, a land which was then an almost unknown quantity but whose coast it will be remembered Scoresby junior had found to be clear of ice in 1820, had subsequently iced up again, then found by Captain Graah in 1828 to be clear again. Apparently conditions had changed once more;

“We lived for the greater portion of a whole summer at Jakohshavn,
a little Danish post, 69° 13′ n., close to which is the great Jakohshavn
ice-fjord, which annually pours an immense quantity of icebergs into
Disco Bay. In early times this inlet was quite open for boats ; and
Nunatak (a word meaning a ” land surrounded by ice “) was once an
Eskimo settlement. There is (or was in 1867 ) an old man (Manyus)
living at Jakohshavn whose grandfather was born there. The Tessi-
usak, an inlet of Jakohshavn ice-fjord, could then be entered by
boats. Now-a-days Jakohshavn ice-fjord is so choked up by bergs
that it is impossible to go up in boats, and such a thing is never
thought of. The Tessiusak must be reached by a laborious journey
over land ; and Nunatak is now only an island surrounded by the in-
land ice, at a distance — a place where no man lives, or has, in the
memory of any one now living, reached.

Both along its shore and that of the main fjord are numerous remains of dwellings long unin-habitable, owing to it being now impossible to gain access to them by sea. The inland ice is now encroaching on the land. At one time it seems to have covered many portions of the country now bare. In a few places glaciers have disappeared. I believe that this has been mainly owing to the inlet having got shoaled by the deposit of glacier-clay through the rivers already described. I have little doubt that — Graah’s dictum to the contrary, notwithstanding — a
great inlet once stretched across Greenland not far from this place, as represented on the old maps, but that it has also now got choked up with consolidated bergs.

In former times the natives used to describe pieces of timber drifting out of this inlet, and even tell of people coming across ; and stories yet linger among them of the former occurrence of such proofs of the openness of the inlet.”

Fifth extract

“On some of the islets — notably on Hellwald’s and Brown’s — were found West Indian fruits washed up by the Gulf Stream ; hence they were named ” The Gulf Stream Islands.” Yet only about two centuries ago the Dutch took soundings on the very spot where these islands have since been gradually raised above the sea. It is also said that the whale (Balcena mysticetus) has left the Spitzbergen Sea, owing to the waters having got too shallow for it…”

Sixth extract

“For three centuries and a half the Norman colonies of Greenland
continued to flourish ; upwards of 300 small farms and villages
were built along the shores of the fiords from the island of Disco to
Cape Farewell….and Greenland became the see of a Bishop. The ancient Icelandic and Danish accounts of the transactions are corroborated by the interesting remains which may be seen in the Scandinavian museum at Copenhagen.

During the whole of this period no indigenous race was
seen in that land, and no one appealed to dispute the possession of
Greenland with the Norman colony. A curious account of a
voyage is extant, during which the Normans reached a latitude
north of Cape York ; yet there is no mention of any signs of a
strange race. The Normans continued to be the sole tenants of
Greenland, at least until the middle of the fourteenth century.”

The last extract gives a flavour of the era we will explore in a future article, but illustrates that even 150 years ago the Viking colonisation of such an apparently inhospitable place as Greenland was recognised as out of the ordinary.

With these reports we are now getting closer to the end of the 19th century and Nansens explorations take centre stage.

http://www.arcticwebsite.com/NansenJourney.html

This journey by Nansen in 1893 was from an extract written in 1897 and taken from the above; (Background note –The Fram was designed specifically to drift in the ice whilst gathering information in the hope of reaching the North pole which was thought to be surrounded by open water)

“The Fram alone was provided with all that modern ship-building contributes for safety and comfort. The ship was of four hundred tons burden, — stronger than any similar mass of timber and steel that was ever put together. A triple expansion engine made her a fair steamer with the least expenditure of fuel. There were electric lights, for which energy was supplied by the steam-engine, by a windmill, or, in case of need, by a contrivance to be turned by hand, incidentally giving exercise to the men. The energy was stocked in storage batteries, so that the crew might have the cheering and health-giving effects of the light which is nearest to that of the sun, during the arctic night…

…Another important point which was well determined is that the water at a little depth below the ice is not arctic water; it has a temperature slightly above freezing; it is pretty surely the end of the Gulf Stream movement, and as such it was recognized by Nansen. If this under-water is flowing to the east-ward, it seems likely that the westward drift is a surface return of the same stream, to a certain extent mingled with the discharge of the numerous great rivers which enter the Arctic Ocean from the American and Eurasian continents. Whether the great depth of the sea can be considered an indication that the region immediately about the pole is also covered by water is not clear…”

This is one of several references to warm water under the surface that has been recorded here from various sources and identified as being from the gulf stream, which was observed to be a major factor in ice melt in the arctic regions. A debate still rages today as to what melts ice; the suns’ warmth, the warmth of the sea melting ice from underneath, the tides, currents, winds-or more likely a combination of everything- in a still poorly understood combination of weather, climate and natural cycles.

Water temperatures were of considerable interest to Nansen, who wished to demonstrate conclusively the hypotheses that the arctic warm water were the last vestiges of the gulf stream. This is the scientific and statistical (including water temperature) record of Nansens 1893 journey

http://nsidc.org/data/docs/noaa/g02120_fram_hydro/

In the meantime the search for the North West passage continued, and the many attempts are recorded here;

http://www.nmm.ac.uk/explore/sea-and-ships/in-depth/north-west-passage/exploration-adventure-and-tragedy/#expeditions

The feat was first achieved in 1905 by Amundsen. This is a very good interactive map of the Amundsen and Franklin expeditions;

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/arctic/media/expedition.swf

In 1900, Amundsen bought a ship called the Gjoa. On June 16, 1903, with a crew of 6, Amundsen sailed from Oslo, Norway, around the south of Greenland, through Baffin Bay, and on to King William Island (in northern Canada), where they spent two years building two ships, an astronomical observatory, and a couple of huts. They had planned to remain in Gjoahavn during the whole of 1904 carrying out experiments which included re-locating the magnetic pole, which they realised had drifted, and to take records for 12 months on magnetism. They arrived at the Mckenzie River in the late summer of 1905 and eventually became iced in but were able to file a report that was carried in this contemporary account in the New York Times of December 1905.

http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?_r=1&res=9A03E1DD113AE733A25754C0A9649D946497D6CF

However, he didn’t actually make it through completely in his ship until the following year in order to make it ‘official’, as this account from his own records show;

http://libweb5.princeton.edu/visual_materials/maps/websites/northwest-passage/amundsen.htm

“At Point Barrow, Amundsen received a letter of invitation from the people of the town of Nome. Using the opportunity to obtain a new gaff, they arrived at Nome on 31 August 1906: the celebration there marked the official end of the first successful Northwest Passage voyage.”

This is a map of their journey;

amundsen.map2[1]Northwest passage crossing. Princeton Edu Files

This is a picture of their tiny ship

Amundsen  Ship Used in Northwest Passage CrossingAmundsen Ship Used in Northwest Passage Crossing

Amundsen was the first to travel through the North West AND the North East passages. He was the first person to fly over the North Pole in a dirigible on May 11-13, 1926, (putting into perspective the suggestion made to do this to rescue Franklin in 1845) and was the first person to reach the South Pole. He was also the first person to reach both the North and South Poles. All in all he had an extremely interesting life well documented here;

http://faculty.washington.edu/karpoff/Research/Amundsen.pdf

That is really the end of the story of the first phase of the scientific exploration of the Arctic ice. It reveals considerable variations in ice amounts. Great extents of open water. Warm water at depth and the branching of the gulf stream, Warm and cold winters and summers. Evidence of warmer times as past civilsations withered, and in living memory of ice free areas on land and sea that became covered by the ice again as it returned.

The reconstruction of the ice area around Newfoundfland, temperature records from Nansen and by others earlier in this article, written records from Newfoundland, the Board of Trade, The Royal Society and The Hudson Bay Co all illustrate these events occurred and were properly recorded. This period of ‘Scoresby’s warming’can be dated reasonably from around 1815 to around the time when the ice started to return, as observed by expeditions to Greenland over 40 years later. That is not to say there wre not periods of cold amongst the warmth, or that there were not periods of warmth amongst the cold, during the rst of this century. This observation is borne out by this excellent collection of ships logs, which date Scoresby’s great warming more precisely from 1815 to 1860.

http://acsys.npolar.no/meetings/final/abstracts/posters/Session_1/poster_s1_027.pdf

That there can be considerable varuation from one season to another (and day to day) is shown by noting that in 1903 Amundesen attained Gjoahaven (Canada) relatively easily in 1803 and may have found it dificult to leave in 1804- should he have wanted to- as the ice season was much longer, although curiously three days in November of that year remain the warmest November days of the entire record.

It is as well to try to relate the observations compiled over nearly 200 years -clearly showing great vaariability in ice extent and temperatures on a monthly, yearly, and decadil basis- to the IPCC’s scientific understanding of Arctic melt prior to, and since, the start of satellite records in 1979;

A new book contains the following extract;

http://www.arctic-heats-up.com/chapter_7.html

Comment by author; Although Polyakov et al. meanwhile published their recent findings (as follows):

“We document through the analysis of 2002-2005 observational data the recent Atlantic Water (AW) warming along the Siberian continental margin due to several AW warm impulses that penetrated into the Arctic Ocean through Fram Strait in 1999-2000. The AW temperature record from our long-term monitoring site in the northern Laptev Sea shows several events of rapid AW temperature increase totalling 0.8oC in February-August 2004. We hypothesize the along-margin spreading of this warmer anomaly has disrupted the downstream thermal equilibrium of the late 1990s to earlier 2000s. (Polyakov, 2008);”

Comment by author:

‘It is astonishing a bit that the early Arctic warming has never seriously been evaluated in conjunction with the warm Atlantic Water branch before or at the time it enters the Polar Sea.’

IPCC do not mention the variability and movement of the Gulf stream as being a major factor, and the studies referenced above were too late to get into the latest assessment (even though the information has been around for nearly 200 years).

The full IPCC section on arctic ice in Assessment 4 is under.

http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg1/ar4-wg1-chapter4.pdf

Page 352 graphic picture 4.10 shows a steady decline of ice from a high point in 1860, the exact time when contemporary observations were being made that the ice was increasing again following a long period of low levels. So if you were to incorporate that sharp dip in levels from 1815 to 1860 into the graph it would put the 60 year oscillations into a better context and the entire series would not be seen as a steady decline at all, but a series of peaks and troughs. The reconstructions given earlier in this article -and repeated under- provides a better understanding of clear evidence of an arctic oscillation. This from the earlier extract;

“The following is a modern day reconstruction of sea ice around Newfoundland from 1810 to 2000 demonstrating the huge variability (which compares with modern times) and perhaps illustrates the 60/70 year arctic oscillation amongst other cycles. (under the heading “195 years of sea ice ice off Newfoundland”)”

http://www.socc.ca/cms/en/socc/seaIce/pastSeaIce.aspx

“Even more remarkable in this relatively recent document (drawing on historic sources) are the annual indices of summer sea ice from 1750 to 1870 on page 122 fig2”

http://pubs.aina.ucalgary.ca/arctic/Arctic38-2-121.pdf

This is an additional study;

http://acsys.npolar.no/meetings/final/abstracts/posters/Session_1/poster_s1_027.pdf

where researchers have looked at 44 ships log from around 1818 to 1910 and concludes;

‘the distribution and thickness of annual sea ice, monthly air surface temperatures, and the onset of melt and freeze were within the present range of variabilty. “ and that;

“paleoclimate reconstructions based on ice core stratigraphy suggest that exceptionally cool conditions prevailed in the 19th century. Analys of first hand observations such as monthly mean temperatures, the onset of the melt season and the onset of freezing are not consistent with the hypotheses. “

This matches my earlier comment (before I came across this report) that loking at the Board of Trade journals for Newfoundland from 1676., it was difficult to see much mention of exceptionally cold conditions.

This is the present ice range from 1979-which suffers from the satellites seeming inabilty to determine the difference between solidly frozen ice and that with melt water lying on it.

http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/current.area.jpg

So within the IPCC assessment even the observed figures back to 1860 or earlier, are not given much weight, with more attention paid to modelled linear trends rather than cycles and great reliance placed on the evidence provided in the very short time scale afforded by satellites.

Considering in scientific detail whether frequent mild arctic conditions are as common as frequent cold conditions (with some like the Little ice age being more severe than other cold interludes) is outside the scope of this article.

William Scoresby I learn is buried in a church in Torquay, Devon, not ten miles from my house in South West England. There is a large plaque on the wall commemorating his Arctic voyages.

http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/terryleaman/Tiscali/churches%202/Upton.htm

There is also a memorial here to Henry Forbes Julian, son in law of Wm. Pengelly, who was one of the victims of the Titanic disaster in 1912, caused by icebergs from the melting glacier at Jakobshavn Greenland. Which is precisely the point we take up the story in article three, when we examine arctic ice variability up to the current day, which includes the sinking of the Titanic and the startling melting of the ice in the decades that followed.

—————————————————————

Footnotes:

(1) (From Letter at start of article). This from Tim Ball “However global temperatures were lower and had been declining since at least 1809 in connection with the Dalton Minimum. There are well documented reports of Inuit (Eskimos) in Kayaks showing up off the coast of Scotland in the period from 1700 to 1740 apparently because they could travel along the extensive and southerly location of the ice pack.”

2 This lists all known arctic expeditions

http://www.arcticwebsite.com/expeditions.html

3 This is a map of known routes the expeditions took

http://www.spanamwar.com/storearctic.html

4 There is a rich vein of excellent arctic writing and this modest piece is not supposed to replace any of that. It is an attempt to record ice variability and changing climate and recognises there is much additional scientific information from the various expeditions but space was too short to refer to all but a fraction of them. Warming in the period included much of the arctic region including Greenland, Alaska, parts of Canada and parts of Russia.

5 William Scoresby junior made a last experiment in 1856 on the effect of ship’s magnetism on their compasses which took him on a voyage to Australia (Melbourne), where a suburb is named after him (Scoresby)

6 The word Arctic has a particular meaning in strict geographic terms; it has been used here to express the layman’s perception of the far north.

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40 Responses to Historic Variation in Arctic Ice

  1. Ron de Haan says:

    Thanks for the article, a refreshing summary of historic variability of the Arctic.
    Reduced ice coverage has happened before and it will happen again in the future.
    No reason for alarmism.
    Humanity does not influence our climate at a level where ice extend is influenced.

  2. H.R. says:

    TonyB:

    Well done. Informative and entertaining. Two thumbs up.

  3. JJB says:

    Thank you for this excellent piece of historical research. I enjoyed reading it

  4. Steve Keohane says:

    Tony, thanks for your insightful input. You always have some historical data to interject at WUWT. I appreciate the effort it took to put this together.

  5. tommoriarty says:

    Anthony and Tony B,

    This is great stuff! Ths history must be understood to put present and future times into perspective.

    Understanding early and middle Holocene pre-historic times is very enlightening also. A lot of paleontological work has been done by a lot of dedicated and talented people to figure out what happened in the arctic. It was understood decades ago that the mid-Holocene was warmer in the Arctic than it is today. But the research that shows this has been drowned out by rabid global warming crowd and the totally credulous popular media.

    Here is an abundance of evidence that the Arctic was warmer in the mid-Holocene than it is today.

    Best Regards,
    ClimateSanity

  6. Cargo Cult Science!

    That’s what current climatology is. Richard Feynman defined clearly what real science is, and that some “science”s are just going through the motions.

    It’s a kind of scientific integrity,
    a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of
    utter honesty–a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if
    you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you
    think might make it invalid–not only what you think is right about
    it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and
    things you thought of that you’ve eliminated by some other
    experiment, and how they worked–to make sure the other fellow can
    tell they have been eliminated.

    I’ve posted this before, but I think it’s really important that people are aware what real science is, compared to the AGW voodoo.

  7. Lee Kington says:

    TonyB’s piece is, to me, one of the best I have seen in a long time. I added a note to an entry on my blog stating….

    NOTE:
    “the Air Vent” has a guest entry by TonyB titled:
    Historic Variation in Arctic Ice –

    I strongly suggest clicking on that title and reading an excellent presentation. As Jeff said…

    ….you’ll see he has an excellent grasp of the historic nature of sea ice in the Arctic. His post here is well referenced and tells an interesting story not found in the nuances of mathematical data mashing.

    It is a FANTASTIC read.

    As I noted over at “the Air Vent”:
    Tony aptly and appropriately mentioned Nansen. I, just last night, had posted a two part documentary covering his Arctic Expedition.

    http://penoflight.com/climatebuzz/?p=566

    It is about an hour long but broken into two parts for easy split session viewing. His achievements with the expedition were numerous despite the failure to reach the pole.

  8. “The ice which has this year surrounded the northern coast of Ireland (see footnotes1) in unusual quantity and remained there unthawed till the middle of August, with the floods which have during the whole summer inundated all those parts of Germany where rivers have their sources in snowy mountains.”

    Something missing? There seems to be no predicate.

  9. Robert Wood says:

    I’ll read this later. Interesting to nbot that the Arctic was thought to be melting in 1817 – and it’s still there.

  10. AnonyMoose says:

    Thanks for the article, it is both informative and entertaining. And for those who haven’t read such old reports of exploration, you should try one. There are recent reprints of some books. They’re an interesting mix of exploration and travel dramas. I suspect such tales are the reason we still know of Livingston & Stanley, because they were a widely reported variant of the form.

  11. DonK31 says:

    jorgekafkazar: 9:21

    Subject – ice
    Predicate – remained

  12. Ernie says:

    Very good article. Thank-you.
    I am somewhat of an ameture student of history and have come across several journals and diaries by simply searching the web for unrelated items. As an example while researching a war of 1812 fort, Willow Creek Depot, near Barrie Ontario I found that the Franklin Expedition went through there on one of his expeditons while the fort was still in service and it was still on a military route before it fell into disuse. Then when searching further found lots of first person accounts from settlers. How does this relate you ask? Settlers in the Barrie area, and probably elsewhere, seemed to keep very detailed daily diaries which recount the weather every day over several decades. So this I am trying to suggest is another avenue for reseach on past trends. Sorry I don’t have any links but several geneology sites have family members posting these diaries.

    Thanx again for this article and this website in general.

  13. Cathy says:

    Very interesting. Such rich history. I’m always amazed at mankind’s intrepid pushing back at ignorance and the quest for knowledge undertaken in the face of great hardship and peril.

    Yes. Two thumbs up!

  14. GlennB says:

    Great article! Not to change the subject but I wondered if anyone else has seen the very curious North Pole webcam picture that just appeared:

    http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/gallery_np.html

    It’s a thumbnail and I can’t quite make it out. Looks like it’s in seawater off some coastline.

  15. Stephen Brown says:

    Magnificent!
    What an odessey of research. I was fascinated, I read the article through from beginning to end and then went back and followed the ‘diversions’ which were as entrancing as the article. And thus my Saturday afternoon was completely taken.
    I do not regret one second of the time I spent learning about the early Arctic explorers, their lives, adventures, failures and successes. Their exploits and tenacity make the Catlin Arctic Survey pale into insignificance.
    Congratulations on a great article and a very fine blog.

  16. JT says:

    The second ship to navigate the North West Passage was the RCMP schooner the ST ROCH in 1940-42 and it was the first to go west to east. It then returned east to west in 1944 in a single season . That say’s something about the extent of arctic ice in the mid 40’s.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Roch

  17. sod says:

    are you guys still following the graph?

    REPLY: It is on the thumbnails in the sidebar, thousands follow it every day. BTW how’s that Seed of Doubt Iraq website working out for ya? – Anthony

  18. Mae says:

    The following comment posted on American Thinker’s summary of the Catlin Expedition
    challenges the baseline for all current Arctic Ice calcualations –
    according to a PBS documentary referenced by this reader, when satellite records started in the 1970s Arctic Ice was at a 125 year high!

    Posted by: Patrick49 May 16, 03:56 AM

    The use by global warming alarmists of the 1970s as the baseline for Arctic ‘normal’ sea ice conditions is in fact either, deliberate or a through ignorance a unique maximum event, a once in 125 year occurrence as documented in the PBS documentary “NOVA Arctic Passage: Prisoners of the Ice”

    The following is a partial transcript on ice core studies that confirmed the sea ice conditions which cased the loss of Captain Franklin and his crew in 1845-1847 were not duplicated for 125+ years, the 1970s.

    “NOVA Arctic Passage: Prisoners of the Ice
    Sir John Franklin, and 133 officers and crew set off to conquer the most perilous waterway in the world. Their mission: to be the first to sail from the Atlantic to the Pacific through Canada’s icy Northwest Passage May 1845.

    Transcript of the NOVA program.

    Dated 1848—more than a year after the original note was written, Francis Crozier, the captain of the Terror added in the margin that the ships were still trapped in the ice in the same location.

    They hadn’t moved in nearly two years. What had gone wrong? Usually the polar ice melts during the summer. Could it be that this time, the ice simply didn’t melt?

    JOHN FALKINGHAM: The nightmare scenario is that I’m never going to get out of this ice. I’m facing another long winter. It’s going to get dark. It’s going to get very cold. And here I am out on this ice that’s still moving around. I don’t know where this ice is carrying me.

    NARRATOR: No previous polar expedition had ever reported a summer so cold that the ice didn’t break up.

    That anomaly puzzled polar scientist Roy Koerner. Recently, he set out to learn just what kind of weather Franklin had to contend with during that fateful year. Koerner and his team regularly drill down into the Arctic ice cap, retrieving samples that they can use to understand temperature patterns from other eras.

    At most latitudes, ice is impermanent. But north of the Arctic circle, it tends to hang around. Even for thousands of years.

    Koerner retrieved a sample from more than 100 meters below the surface. By counting ice layers and by analyzing the chemical content of the core, he zeroed in on a section that he could date back to the late 1840s. He hoped it might be able to tell him more about the conditions that Franklin’s men faced.

    ROY KOERNER: The reason ice cores give the history of the climate in the past is that everything that happens on the surface is preserved as the ice gets buried. If the surface of the snow melts, the water percolates down and it forms these ice layers. The more it melts the more ice layers and the thicker the ice layers.

    NARRATOR: Koerner found that within the 1840s ice core there was simply no sign of the transparent ice layers that form when snow melts.
    Koerner had once before seen another ice core like this, dated from the early 1970s. In that case he had actual weather reports to compare it to and he learned that the ice from the ’70s had formed during a very cold period of almost permanent winter.

    ROY KOERNER: The point to make on this core is the absolute near absence of any signs of melting whatsoever, none of those clear layers at all. Just bubbly ice that is formed from compression of snow that doesn’t melt in the summer.

    NARRATOR: The finding convinced him that Franklin faced similar conditions when much of the sea ice had not melted at all.
    For an expedition hoping to sail the passage with 19th century technology, the conditions would have been deadly.

    ROY KOERNER: If it’s a cold summer that ice isn’t going to go out and open up. The channels are ice-infested still. The ships that they used in those days; they don’t have the power to get through even modest ice.

    NARRATOR: Koerner’s evidence confirmed that Franklin and his men had encountered freak weather conditions—more severe than previous explorers had ever reported. Worse than that, Koerner’s ice core showed that this period of extreme cold likely lasted for five long years.”

    I have formatted the comment slightly to make it easier to read but left the rest unchanged.

    Has anybody seen this documentary? Or heard of this researcher? If this is true, does it not demand a very different interpretation of the measurements?

  19. Steve (Paris) says:

    Humbled by such work/knowledge/effort/clarity. But will it make the slightest bit of difference?

  20. MrEdd says:

    Even if the poles thawed two centuries ago, It was still Bush’s fault (despite not being born) and the US was even then destroying the planet.

    Also anyone who disagrees with a whole raft of new taxes and bureaucracies is a holocaust denier yada yada yada…

    The facts don’t matter to L. Ron Gore and the Fry-N-Tology global warming religion crowd.

  21. Robert Wood says:

    This is engorossing. I still am only half way through.

    But those Frobisher boys: the Frobisher expedition is a very Canadian unexplained mystery. There is currently yet another expedition being sent out to find out what happened. It seems to me that, when their leader died, they panicked, split into factions or otherwise became disorganized and proceeded to behave irrationaly.

  22. bill says:

    All good stuff but what of the little ice age – didn’t it reach to the arctic?

    wiki -The River Thames and the canals and rivers of the Netherlands often froze over during the winter, and people skated and even held frost fairs on the ice. The first Thames frost fair was in 1607; the last in 1814,

    he did reach beyond 81 degrees in 1806, breaking through the ice at Spitzbergen only 510 miles from the North Pole.

    “Over the fifteen years between 1720 and 1735, the first snowfall of the year moved from the first week of September to the last.
    etc

  23. Gilbert says:

    First Class work. Definitely a saver.

    To bad I only have two thumbs to stick up!

  24. starzmom says:

    Great article!

    Regarding the Franklin expedition, I recall reading a book about them..They apparently died of lead poisoning, due to the lead solder in the tinned food they carried. Someone found the graves in northern Canada, exhumed the bodies, and analysed them for various problems–lead levels were very high. Apparently lead poisoning in adults leads to mental problems and difficulties in making good judgments—if they did not die of the lead poisoning directly, they died because they made a series of bad decisions and ended up dying of the cold and starvation.

    Thanks for a good read.

  25. Austin says:

    There is a lot of ethnographic evidence that the Arctic was nearly ice free 3-4K years ago. The legends of the Eskimos about Indian raids and the herding they used to do.

    Closer to today are the oral legends of the Vikings and the Irish.

  26. Philip_B says:

    The ice which has this year surrounded the northern coast of Ireland ( see footnotes1) in unusual quantity and remained there unthawed till the middle of August

    That’s a typo. It should be Iceland.

  27. J. Peden says:

    Thanks, Tony B, there’s nothing like hearing from some well-written first hand, unbiased observers.

    starzmom (18:31:41) :

    Great article!

    Regarding the Franklin expedition, I recall reading a book about them..They apparently died of lead poisoning, due to the lead solder in the tinned food they carried.

    Yes, I was wondering if this expedition was the one I read about in a “throwaway” medical journal ~20 years ago and it probably is. As I recall, the expeditioneers dragged their life boats behind them for some distance after they abandoned their frozen-in ships.

    The article was essentially quite well done “color” for the journal, which also contained many very useful medical articles, free, and NOT Peer Reviewed. I received dozens of such journals, and many were very good sources of info.

  28. redneck says:

    One summer when I was in the Arctic I met a fellow who was working on trying to trace the route that some members of the Franklin Expedition took south in an attempt to return to civilization after their ships had frozen in. The route was traceable from various items like life boats, guns, sheets of lead (for making bullets) and other things that these men carried with them and dropped along the way. The fellow I met remarked that the most obvious marker of the route were human leg bones. He theorized that as these men were surviving by engaging in canabalism when a man died the others dined on their dead companion and then hacked off the legs which they carried with them to be eaten at a later date. Pretty gruesome stuff.

    Somewhat less gruesome is Stan Rogers song The Northwest Passage,

  29. ralph ellis says:

    >>>if you’re doing an experiment, you should report
    >>>everything that you think might make it invalid–not
    >>>only what you think is right about it

    Trouble is, we have become too commercial, too results-based. A failure in your experiment may be deemed to be a detriment to funding and therefore a possible failure of your career, so the temptation is to skew the results (especially if those results agree with government thinking).

    Thus the potential for scientific fraud is becoming ever more likely.

  30. I was a participant in the documentary you mention, and had a chance to talk with Roy Koerner inbetween takes as we were standing on the ice out on Resolute Bay. Koerner, who died last year, was probably the most experienced glaciologist in Canada, besides having been a member of Sir Wally Herbert’s trans-polar trek in 1968-69 and therefore among the first men ever to reach the Pole on foot. While the documentary doesn’t misquote him, it does take his work out of context; Roy told me that the kinds of cores he studied from the 1840’s were very compact ones (that is, ones in which the years are quite close together) and that his conclusions about Franklin should taken with a possible error rate of +/- 5 years. Overall, however, the glacial climate record does show a generally colder period then.

    Dr. Russell A. Potter

  31. Frank Lansner says:

    Hi Tony, fantastic and useful work! ! !
    Thankyou.

    I promised to tell how it went with the television take for Danish Television:
    I made one argument come through: CO2 comes after temp and not vice versa.
    Then Danish television tried to have i professor at DanishTechincalUniversity respond to this little problem. The professor respondet that the Vostok data is “old data”, which is nonsence. Ín other words, the professot could not answer and came up with the first the best answer.

    But i was not allowed to say much more. But it was OK!!

    K.R. Frank

  32. Steve (Paris) says:

    And as an added bonus I have just discovered the music of Stan Rogers. Just maxed out my ITunes budget for the month.

  33. Roger Carr says:

    My only concern about these reports is that most of them were from people funded by Big (Whale) Oil…

  34. Pamela Gray says:

    Ice core rings are like tree rings. Once you find out that tree rings have a pattern of slow years of growth and then fast years of growth, you can begin to look at other similar patterned oscillations, like salmon, algae blooms, and the PDO. The PDO was inadvertently discovered when salmon catch was correlated to ship’s logs about sea temperature. Algae blooms and tree rings match PDO oscillations. What else might show a match? Because measured PDO temps match measured tree rings, a proxy for PDO became available that when far back in modern time. Tree rings now allow a proxy PDO back to the 17th century. What would ice rings say if they were to be compared against this proxy PDO?

  35. Pamela Gray says:

    Of course, sea ice is a time-limited item. But not ice sheet core rings nearby. I wonder if there would be a match.

  36. TonyB says:

    Thanks for the many kind comments about my article. I am working on the next article which is a look back in time from 1750 through the Vikings and Ipatuk to the ‘virtually ice free’ arctic of 5000 years or so ago.

    In that connection there were some very interesting links including from Tommoriarty that will help

    Bill; The period from around 1715 to 1735 had many similarities to today in as much there was a considerable period of warmth. It may be possible to pick it up from historic records as an arctic oscillation to match the 1817-1860 warming and the 1920-1940 warming.

    Dr Potter: I mentioned there were some great books on the Arctic and if anyone would care to click on his name they will find much fantastic material

    Frank; Glad it went well with your interview

    Pamela; Fascinating idea. Have you got access to a couple of million in funds so we can do a joint study? :)

    Roger Carr. Apparently each bow head whale contained the equivalent of 100 barrels of oil. I saw a defunct whale fishery in Iceland once and it is extraordinary as to the effort we placed on harvesting these magnificent creatures.

    Tonyb

  37. P. Jones says:

    Outstanding historical data Tony, my deepest thanks for your efforts in affirming seasonal shifts in ice concentrations. I had the opportunity to work at the U.S. Navy Polar Oceanography Center for 6 years. Maybe you remember “DIFAS”? In that time, each Friday the Scientists provided a brief that seasonal ice expansion and contraction was within historical “Mean”. I often wondered why and how cyclical events never seem to make into the minds of the alarmist who would use “Global Warming” or “Climate Change” as a weapon of fear. By the way, I know first hand that those Scientist considered Al Gore to be a “Moron” of epic proportion.

  38. David Ball says:

    TonyB , I have just come across this thread. I do not know how I missed it. I may have been traveling. An amazing read . Superlative. I thoroughly enjoy your writing, and the subject matter speaks to me. Just so you know, I have had the opportunity to read the actual documents in the Hudson’s Bay archive. Can you imagine wintering over in Fort York in the late 1600’s? People whine when their house is not 70 f ! It is too bad that more people don’t appreciate history. Great stuff!!

  39. John F. Hultquist says:

    7/28/09 Also just read this. Great material. Glad there was the link back.

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