We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham e-Theses
You are in:

Cryomobilities: Vessel mobilities amidst the ice-prone waters of the Bering Strait

FERLONI, GRETA (2024) Cryomobilities: Vessel mobilities amidst the ice-prone waters of the Bering Strait. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

PDF - Accepted Version


In recent years, the overall decrease in sea ice and the increase in vessel traffic in the Arctic has raised questions over how to conceptualise vessel mobilities in icy ocean spaces. Drawing on the mobilities literature, this research turns to oceans and seas that sustain annual cycles of sea ice as an arena for exploring interactions between vessel mobilities and the mobilities of the (partially) frozen ocean amidst which they move. This thesis engages with the cryomobilities of the Bering Strait region through an interdisciplinary approach across human and physical geography, whereby “cryomobilities” refers not just to the mobile interactions between vessels and sea ice, but also points to the ways in which the vibrant and distinct materialities of our planet’s frozen oceans (as well as other cryoscapes) warrant dedicated and specific conceptualisations. Specifically, turning to icy ocean spaces raises questions for conceptualising entities in motion within an environmental that is itself also in motion. The Bering Strait region, located between Alaska and Siberia, comprises the ice-prone waters of the Bering and Chukchi Seas. By analysing interactions between vessels and sea ice in the Bering Strait region, this thesis explores how vessel mobilities are entangled with sea ice mobilities, and how these are experienced by people who engage with these mobilities in various ways.
In order to analyse these multiple aspects of cryomobilities in the Bering Strait region, this thesis employs a mixed methods approach, combining spatial data analysis and interviews. Spatial data analysis uses sea-ice concentration and vessel traffic data from remote sensing to map and compare the interactions between the mobilities of sea ice and the mobilities of vessels between 2013 and 2022. Interviews with sea-ice scientists, sea-ice forecasters and people with on-ice and sailing experience explore the knowledge-making practices surrounding cryomobilities through embodied experience.
The findings reveal how cryomobilities in the Bering Strait region are characterised by an avoidance of sea ice, with 95% of vessel traffic operating in open water. However, not all ships and not all sea-ice conditions are the same, as there are many diverse users of these varied and ever mobile icy-watery spaces, who all relate to sea-ice conditions in different ways. For example, tourist cruise ships, fishing vessels, drifting scientific stations and icebreaker vessel mobilities all rely in various ways on the presence – rather than the absence – of sea ice and its mobilities. Technological advances in shipbuilding are also enhancing the ice capabilities of ships and icebreakers such that, over the past decade (2013-2022), vessel traffic in ice-covered areas has been increasing at a faster rate than vessel traffic in open water. Cryomobilities are also influenced by the ways in which knowledge emerges through a combination of highly specific personal expertise, embodied experiences, and rigorous collection and analysis of scientific data about sea ice and vessel activities. By presenting a multifaceted and interdisciplinary perspective on cryomobilities in the Bering Strait region, this research pushes the boundaries of the existing mobilities literature, often dominated by terracentric and liquid-ocean accounts of mobilities. It also contributes to understanding vessel behaviour in ice-prone waters for informing present and future management of icy ocean spaces, especially in view of a warming climate.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:cryomobilities, sea ice, vessel traffic, Arctic, Bering Strait
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Geography, Department of
Thesis Date:2024
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:14 May 2024 08:26

Social bookmarking: del.icio.usConnoteaBibSonomyCiteULikeFacebookTwitter