Dangers Arctic Ocean: Avoiding open leads

Open leads do not have to be crossed in water. Most often you will find bridges across them. At most areas the leads will be narrow enough to jump, or to bridge with a sled. Place the sleds in the water alongside the edges and ski over on top of them.

Some leads are moving with industrial style screeches as the ice slowly works its way around. Those leads can be wide and tricky to cross. You will jump from ice pan to ice pan, hauling the sled behind. Trouble is that a lead can open wide pretty fast, 150 ft in thirty minutes. If you are slow, you will find yourself in a situation where the shore is slowly drifting away with you stranded on a wobbly pan surrounded by open water. Crossing such areas require fast and determined action. Sometimes you can use a strong, floating pan to your advantage. Get on it sled and all, push away from the shore with your ski pole, drift over to the other side and get off. No tickets required.

Most leads freeze over during the night, at least in the early season of March and April. It is a good bet to travel early in the mornings.

But leads are not always bad news. Some leads offer wonderful highways. They are either areas of newly frozen large leads, forming huge, flat pans, or northbound semi-open leads with smooth, flat ice on the edges. Always look out for those areas and head for them fast!