Project ICEBERGS 2017-07-21T14:28:04+00:00

Project ICEBERGS – Investigating the drift and deterioration of icebergs and ice islands in the Canadian Arctic

In collaboration with the Canadian Ice Service (CIS) and ArcticNet we undertook a pilot study to monitor the drift and deterioration an iceberg in 2011, Project ICEBERGS. The project aimed to record positional, mass balance and oceanographic data for a target Arctic iceberg over several months and use this data to improve the calibration of the CIS operational iceberg model. We deployed a suite of instruments on a tabular iceberg (which we named Berghaus) in Lancaster Sound in July 2011. The instruments included a tracking beacon and an automated weather station on the surface of the iceberg, and an oceanographic mooring suspended down the side of the iceberg. We also conducted extensive 3-dimensional sonar mapping of the sidewalls of the iceberg to constrain its geometry and mass, including surveying the underwater sidewalls with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). It was our intention to re-map the same iceberg later in the year to measure its rate of deterioration. Unfortunately, Berghaus deteriorated much faster than predicted (reiterating the need for more field data!) and the instruments installed on it stopped transmitting on August 27 when the iceberg rolled over so we were unable to return to Berghaus to re-survey it. We did, however, obtain several weeks of data from the tracking beacon and weather station, which was used to better calibrate atmospheric forcing parameters in the CIS operational model.


In October 2011 we returned to the Arctic and used an underwater robot known as an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) to map the underside of an iceberg to better understand ocean forcing at the base of an iceberg. We successfully deployed the AUV below a massive tabular ice island, PII-B, and measured conductivity, temperature, currents below the ice island and mapped the geometry and basal features of the its underside. This pioneering project marked one of the few deployments of an AUV below an iceberg or ice shelf, and provided valuable observations from below an iceberg.

Our team on this project included Derek Mueller and Anna Crawford from WIRL, Andrew Hamilton and Bernard Laval from UBC, Alex Forrest from UCDavis, Val Schmidt from the University of New Hampshire and Richard Yeo an AUV expert from Iceland.  Travis Hamilton, Brad Eisan and Steve Brucker from UNB helped with mapping. Jean-Eric Tremblay helped get the project underway and his research technician Jonathan Gagnon did oceanographic sampling from the CCGS Amundsen.  We are indebted to CIS, ArcticNet and the captain and crew of the Amundsen for their support.