Navigating through ice: educational resources

Ships navigating through ice

In Canada's ice-covered waters, ship captains have to pay careful attention to where, how much and what type of ice is in front of them. Going the wrong way can waste fuel, slow the ship down and be dangerous if the ship gets damaged or gets stuck in the ice.

Satellite images can give a large view of the area in front of a ship and will allow an experienced interpreter to estimate the age, type and concentration of the ice.

With radar sensors, images can be acquired through clouds and even at night! The images are sent to the ship by communications satellites, so the captain can see the most recent ice conditions in front of the ship.

We wish to thank the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, Natural Resources Canada, for their kind permission to use this information, which was adapted from Watching Over Our Planet From Space, an Earth Observation education kit for elementary schools developed by the CCRS.

Navigating Through Ice

Try Your Hand At It!

The picture below shows a radar image of sea ice, from Canada's RADARSAT satellite. An example of a first year ice floe is shown at A. Broken ice fragments, called "brash ice", such as at B fill much of the space between the floes. A crack in the ice, exposing the open water surface is called a "lead" and one example is shown at C.

A ship captain would want to navigate through leads as much as possible, since there is no ice resistance to his ship's travel. He would also want to avoid ice floes, since the brash ice is easier for the ship to push through.

RADARSAT image of ice floes, brash ice and leads.


Starting at point (3.0 , 0.0) and ending up at point (0.5 , 9.5), find the best passage for a ship. Use leads, wherever possible, and avoid ice floes. Measure the distance over the route that you've chosen.

That distance is: _______km.

Hint: It should be less than 10 km.



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