Mombetsu – Garinko-gou (ガリンコ号)

We were hoping to see the sea drift ice (流氷 – ryuhyo) that drifts from Siberia to the Sea of Okhotsk coast of Hokkaido. Hokkaido is the southernmost area in the Northern Hemisphere to experience drift ice. Unfortunately Hokkaido’s drift ice is a casualty of global warming, and seeing it involves luck. Drift ice stimulates the growth of plankton, important for the crab, shrimp, and other wildlife in that area.  “Sea angels” also live in the drift ice.

Unfortunately when we arrived in Mombetsu there was no drift ice. It had drifted back out to sea a couple of days ago – at night the drift ice is quite noisy pushing against the coastline. This is what it looked like a few days before we arrived – from Mombetsu Photo Blog.

Still, we decided to go on a 1-hour cruise aboard the Garinko-gou II (ガリンコ号) ice breaker.

His face must be really cold

The sea was starting to freeze and looked like snake skin.  In other places it was really glassy.

The captain invited us into the pilot deck…probably because we looked so cold.

Staying warm

We went on the Garinko-gou again the next morning hoping to catch the sunrise.  Unfortunately it was overcast, but it was still fun. Ice had formed overnight but the drift ice remained out of reach.  The rest of the day we’ll be traveling to Shiretoko National Park – maybe we’ll see some drift ice there.

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