Sailing through a world of Arctic ice


We’ve all heard a lot about the melting polar ice caps, and the sombre note they strike for this planet’s future. But don’t be misled: ice is still a fact of life in the Arctic, even in mid-summer. And it played a major part in my Adventure Canada cruise of the Arctic.

The sea ice that covers much of the Arctic seas has been shrinking as the planet warms. But great expanses of sea ice still cover much of the region in summer, and they’re constantly shifting with the currents and the winds.

Sea icescape

That makes navigating in these waters a challenging affair, as we found out not long after leaving Greenland. Our first stop in the Canadian Arctic was supposed to be Pangnirtung, a community with a great reputation among those who love the North. But a huge mass of sea ice blocked the great bay where Pangnirtung is located — so much for our carefully planned itinerary.

Instead, we headed to the Savage Islands, at the tip of Baffin Island, and the communities of Kimmirut and Cape Dorset, on Baffin Island’s south shore. Our last stop – from which we were to fly home – was Kuujjuaq, on the north shore of Quebec. But more ice stood in the way: no one was getting into Kuujjuaq any time soon. So we were bound for Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut.

It all sounds a bit fraught. But they call this line Adventure Canada, so when the ice moves, you look for new adventures. And part of the adventure is looking out the window to see what appears in front of you as you sail through new and ever-changing seascapes.

Iceberg off Greenland

We sailed past huge, beautiful icebergs with sensuous contours and that ethereal blue shining out from their depths. They had sailed for years to get there, calved from glaciers in the north of Greenland, travelling around the Davis Strait to make their way toward the Labrador coast. And they had company along the way, as flocks of seabirds made them a floating home.

Some days we sailed along the ice edge, where great masses of floating ice dogged shorelines dimly seen through the fog. And late in the voyage, we boarded Zodiacs to motor through a magical world of water and floating ice, lit by a brilliant sunshine that lit the sea and the ice in vivid shades of blue.

Here are a few photos that explore the Arctic world of ice. I hope they’ll give you some appreciation of the powerful presence, and the powerful beauty, that ice contributes to this region on top of the world. These photos were taken with the Nikon D500 SLR camera, using the 16-80mm ED VR, 24-120mm ED VR, and 200-500mm ED VR lenses.

Kittiwakes on berg

kittiwakes flying by iceberg crop

Ice shelf

Ice detail

Ice cave

Murre on ice

Iceberg detail

Iceberg with sky

I was a guest of Nikon Canada and Adventure Canada on this trip. However, the opinions expressed are my own.


About Author

Paul Marshman is a retired journalist who spent 30 years as a writer and editor on Canadian newspapers, while travelling to the ends of the earth. Now he continues to travel while passing on his travel experiences to you.


  1. dennis francz on

    very impressive Paul. that one bird looks suspiciously like a penguin. was it maybe lost by a couple of hemispheres?

  2. Sandra Tesolin on

    Stunning! Thanks for sharing. I missed seeing icebergs in Newfoundland one summer – this almost makes up for it.

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