Samurai Dave: The Roving Ronin Report

Rambling Narrative of Travels, Thoughts, and Embellishments

Ryuhyo – Japanese Drift Ice in Hokkaido

Japanese Drift Ice – Ryuhyo

Ryuhyo is drift ice that appears along the northern coast of Hokkaido (in northern Japan) in the Sea of Okhotsk from about late January to early April. Visitors can take hour-long cruises on ice-breaking ships from northern coastal towns like Abashiri. Drift ice is important to the region’s ecosystem because it helps plankton grow which are the base of the food chain for the region. Unfortunately in recent years Global Warming has reduced the amount of drift ice.

This footage is from about 2 years ago that I just now got around to editing. I was in Hokkaido for the Yuki Matsuri/Snow Festival and decided to go to Abashiri to see the drift ice. This was actually my second time having gone before a few years earlier. I was lucky on both occasions to see the drift ice because some days you can’t see it as it depends on the weather and wind conditions.

Advertisements

March 2, 2011 Posted by | abashiri, drift ice, global warming, japan, nature, Ryuhyo, Sea of Okhotsk, snow, video, winter | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hokkaido Drift Ice: Nature’s Masterpiece

Hokkaido’s Drift Ice: Nature’s Masterpiece
In northern Japan, one can commune with nature and hungry sea gulls

user posted image
An ice-breaking ship of the Aurora Fleet

Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido offers winter-loving visitors not only incredible man-made structures of ice and snow — the most notably being at Sapporo’s internationally renowned Yuki Matsuri— but along the northern coast one can see nature’s own winter masterpiece in the form of drift ice. From mid-January to mid-April, the Sea of Okhotsk is choked with ice fragments drifting their way south to oblivion in warmer climates. The Hokkaido coast is the southernmost area in the Northern Hemisphere to experience drift ice.

user posted image

In ages past, drift ice would be a thing to be avoided at all cost by sea-farers. Though not as dangerous as icebergs, drift ice could catch unlucky vessels in its clutches and hold them for long stretches of time, sometimes till death took the crew. Nowadays, with the aid of modern ice-breaking ships, drift ice has become a tourist attraction.

user posted image

In the northern coast city of Abashiri, tourists can take an hour cruise for JPY 3000 (US $25) on the ice-breaker Aurora ships. Abashiri is famous in Japan for a spartan prison that was set up there at the end of the 19th century. Getting sent to Abashiri was equivalent to getting sent to Siberia in Russia. The weather can be harsh and unrelenting in winter and Japanese prisons have never been known for their comfort.

user posted image
Seagulls on Ice

Drift-ice cruises offer visitors the chance to catch a rare glimpse of seals and seal pups in the wild. Most of the time, however, the drift ice wildlife around Abashiri is confined to opportunistic sea gulls. Sea gulls follow the ships closely looking for free hand-outs from the tourists. One popular way of feeding the sea gulls is to hold out a piece of bread or a potato chip and let the sea gulls snatch it while in flight.

user posted image

The tranquilty of this frozen world of the northern sea is broken only by the sound of the crunching ice under the steel hull of Aurora’s ships and the old Enka music blaring from the ship’s speakers.

user posted image

Drift ice has a significant impact on global climate conditions. It redistributes fresh water and latent heat energy, which has an effect on regional climates. The freezing process of drift ice removes the salt from seawater creating freshwater. If too much freshwater is released it can have damaging effects on the climate. It is believed that such a release caused a disruption with the Gulf Stream, resulting in a small ice age 11,000 to 12,000 years ago.

user posted image

Hokkaido’s drift ice has unfortunately become a casualty of global warming. In the last twenty years the amount and thickness of the drift ice has lessened. The season for viewing drift ice has shortened, as well.

user posted image

user posted image
An extended potato chip grabs a sea gull’s attention

user posted image

user posted image

January 30, 2007 Posted by | abashiri, Blogroll, drift ice, global warming, hokkaido, ice, japan, life, snow, travel, winter | 2 Comments