The Beauty of Ice
Each spring, the Arctic Ocean undergoes an extraordinary transformation. An area of sea ice, the size of Europe, melts exposing the rich waters beneath.
Short-tailed shearwaters have travelled 10,000 miles from Australia to be here, 18 million visitors darken the skies, the largest gathering of seabirds
on the planet.
Short-Tailed Shearwater Darken the Skies
Humpback whales have come all the way from the equator to feed in these rich polar waters. Their giant tails are 5m across, simply raising them above
the surface gives the whales enough downward momentum to reach the great swarms of krill and herring below. The shearwaters follow the giants lead and
dive for fish. For those who can get here in summer these waters provide a feast of epic proportions but, the good times will be very short, a
problem that faces all life in the polar regions.
Journeying south across the Arctic Ocean, the first land you will reach will be Greenland the largest island in the world. Despite it's name,
Greenland is mostly white covered by a giant ice sheet six times the size of the United Kingdom. In the middle of the island, the ice is nearly 2 miles
thick it's a bleak, quiet world.
Sapphire blue melt lakes are the first sign that a dynamic process is underway. Each lake forms in a matter of days expanding until it is miles
across and starts to overflow, the spill water then carves its way through ice to the sea. The water courses through an icy delta, the blood along
the arteries of the cold-blooded monster. The monster that is stirring. And without warning the waters suddenly plunges down an open shaft falling a
vertical mile into the heart of the ice sheet.
This melt water has a surprising effect, it lubricates the junction between the ice and the rock floor beneath. So, the entire ice sheet is now on the
move, sliding downhill into the ocean. As a glacier advances it destroys everything in its path, even cutting its way through Greenland's great mountain
ranges on his way towards the sea. This is the Titanic force that cuts down mountains and levels continents. The ice is now entering its last stage of
descent, as it gains speed, huge crevasses open that extend down to its very core.
Every year, tens of thousands of icebergs are spawned by Greenland's glaciers and their number is steadily increasing as the climate continues to warm.
The breakup of the bergs fills the bays of the Arctic with exquisite ice sculptures. It also releases great volumes of cold freshwater into the sea.
Greenland's melt waters influences the course of the ocean currents which in turn has an effect on the weather around the world.
The Arctic is closer to home than many of us realise, it includes the northernmost parts of three continents on which most of us live; Europe, Asia
and North America.
The first bare land we encounter on the journey south is a bleak treeless wilderness known as tundra. Each spring, animals travel up from the south
to be ready for the rich grazing that will be unveiled by the spring melt.