Under Thin Ice

In the Arctic, life thrives on the ice and under it. But for how long? Extreme diver Jill Heinerth investigates
Available on CBC Gem

Under Thin Ice

Nature of Things

Under Thin Ice follows Canadian extreme divers and cinematographers Jill Heinerth and Mario Cyr on a journey to investigate how Arctic wildlife is adjusting to global warming.

Watch the promo.

The Arctic is a majestic world, home to wildlife rarely seen further south: bowhead whales, polar bears, narwhals and walruses. Life thrives on and under a legendary blanket of snow and ice, covering millions of square kilometres of land and ocean.

At the end of spring, when the sun shines 24 hours a day, life flourishes at the floe edge. Here, where ice meets open waters, living species gather for a feeding frenzy. In the Arctic, the entire polar web of life depends on the ebb and flow of ice.

But climate change is threatening this ecosystem. Temperatures are rising and ice is melting at an alarming rate. Since 1980, the film notes, the amount of summer ice cover has dropped by about 80 per cent. Diving with whales, walruses and polar bears, Heinerth and Cyr bring viewers into a majestic underwater world threatened by disappearing ice and rapid climate change.

Here's some of what they saw.

Their journey starts in June 2018 at the majestic floe edge of Nunavut’s Tallurutiup Imanga, or Lancaster Sound, which lies the eastern entrance of the fabled Northwest Passage. They travel on the breaking ice floe, dive with belugas and narwhals in the open Arctic Ocean, and explore the underside of the sea ice coated in algae, the source of around half of the oxygen on the planet.

Their next stop is Disko Bay in Greenland, where they visit Jakobshavn, a mammoth glacier that has shed thousands of gigantic icebergs into the sea. They also flirt with danger as they dive down to look at the underside of icebergs, discovering a world of tiny, bioluminescent forms of life, and observe the changing migration patterns of marine mammals.

Sea ice is an endangered 'species,' declining rapidly in Canada's North
The Arctic is warming faster than anywhere else on the planet

Heinerth and Cyr end their journey in Nunavut’s Naujaat region, located on the Arctic Circle and home to some of the planet’s largest polar bears. With most of the ice gone for the summer, it’s the perfect place to swim with the supreme predator of the Arctic. Heinerth and Cyr consider how these animals will cope with an ice-free environment.

Throughout their expedition, Heinerth explains how global warming in the Arctic and large swaths of melting ice are affecting polar wildlife as well as the rest of the planet.

DOWNLOAD THE APP: Learn more about the expedition on the Under Thin Ice app.  iOS  Android


Stream Now on CBC Gem

Under Thin Ice

Nature of Things