Assessment of Current Ice Conditions Relevant to Distribution and Access of Walrus

St. Lawrence Island

A major melt-out has taken place over the last week. There are now a few major strings of sea ice that are located west and southwest of Gambell. A string of ice floes extends south from the southeast corner of St. Lawrence Island about 15 miles and then extends west back to the mouth of the Gulf of Anadyr. Although there are a lot of clouds in the satellite imagery they are transparent enough to see ice floes below. There is another stringer of ice floes extending northeast just west of Gambell, about 15-20 miles offshore. There is still a lot of ice against the east shore of St. Lawrence Island. Shorefast ice is still present along the north shore.

Wales to Shishmaref

Shorefast ice along the coast of Wales has finally broken up. The grounded ice off Cape Prince of Wales is no longer holding in the shorefast ice near the Cape. Satellite imagery shows the shorefast ice off Shishmaref. There are a number of strings of ice floes extending northward through the Bering Strait with most of these strings more than 40 miles off Wales.

5 to 10 Day Outlook

At present there is a weak high pressure over the Bering Sea with a very strong low south of the central Aleutians that is moving very slowly east. As high pressure weakens the pressure gradient will tighten and SW winds (20 knots, 25 mph) will dominate the northern Bering Sea and Bering Strait over the weekend. The high pressure ridge will build back in again Monday over the Bering Sea and a low will form over NE Siberia. SW winds will continue through Thursday reaching 25 knots (30 mph) on Wednesday, 20 June. A high pressure ridge will build over the Bering Sea beginning Friday and continue through Monday, 25 June.

Arrows show wind direction and wind speed in knots

Bering Strait wind direction and speed
Map of 10-day outlook of wind conditions
Bering Strait wind direction and speed

Remote Sensing Images

Bering Strait Bering Strait Closeup

Observations and Comments

Observations of Sea Ice Development

Comments from Gambell

16 June 2012 - Paul Apangalook

There is still scattered ice out to the horizon in all directions, with more ice along the north coast up to the shore. It is only the second time in recent memory that we have had ice this late into June. I believe we had this in the late 1960s.

Very little hunting is taking place although there are maklaks (bearded seal) around. Recently, Savoonga crews went boating to the northwest. They reported killer whales 40 miles out and lots of maklak on the ice, some concentrated as walrus -- usually maklaks haul out no more than three or four at one place. No walrus reported seen or taken over the past week.

Comments from Wales

15 June 2012 - Winton Weyapuk

We have seen very little pack ice on our side of the strait. The pack ice that has been moving north through here has been near the Diomede Islands and the Chukotkan coast. Some walrus were finally harvested yesterday by a crew from Teller hunting from Wales nine miles north of Little Diomede Island. No Wales crews have harvested any walrus so far. Shorefast ice remains from 7 to 8 miles north of Wales and crews have been hunting bearded seals and ringed seals from that area. Hunters have been climbing Cape Mountain to look for pack ice but very little has been seen in the past two weeks or so.