Traditional Inuit ice treks guided from space

The ESA-backed Northern View Floe Edge Information Service provides regularly updated ice maps of inlets around Lancaster Sound, part of Baffin Bay within Canada's Nunavut Territory. Users can access maps from the Floe Edge service directly via a dedicated website, or else consult printouts posted for the public by the local Parks Canada Office.

"The maps are easy to interpret, and extremely useful," said David Qamaniq of the town of Pond Inlet in Lancaster Sound. "Ice edge conditions can change extremely rapidly, but the maps give an indication which areas are stable."

Inhabitants of this region depend directly on fish and game from the ice edge for sustenance, and journeying there has a strong cultural significance as well. The biological diversity encouraged by plankton-rich waters at the ice edge also attracts a growing number of tourists.

"On our trip last year to the Admiral Inlet, the Inuit guides were using the Floe Edge maps, so that was how I learned of the service," explained Thomas Lennartz of Toronto-based tour company Arctic Kingdom. "During the winter we use it to get an idea of what the upcoming season of trips to the ice edge will be like.

"The location of the ice floe determines what wildlife we will see at the ice edge: a floe that spans Lancaster Sound in May indicates the likely presence of hundreds of Beluga and Narwhal whales as they migrate north for summer. The distance of the ice edge from town also impacts our logistical and operational planning it may take either hours or days to reach, so we need to anticipate our fuel requirements and likely route."

The satellite maps show users where the ever-moving floe edge is currently located, and enabling users to bypass ice ridges, moving ice or stretches of open water. The radar-based satellite images can differentiate between stable 'land-fast' ice and ice that is moving or prone to fracture.

"During the winter season the ice edge m

Contact: Frdric Le Gall
European Space Agency

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