See a timeline of events in Arctic sea ice exploration.
Sea ice has covered a portion of the Arctic Ocean for more than 10 million years. But only in the last hundred or so years have advancements in technology—from the beginnings of flight to the dawn of the space age—enabled humans to gain a complete view of the sea ice and an understanding of how it’s changing. Scientific accounts of Arctic sea ice can be traced back to the time of the Roman Empire. Early explorers traveled across land and by sea to witness firsthand the floating sheets of ice that blanket Earth's northern pole. By the mid- to late 20th century, observation of the Arctic’s frozen waters entered a new era. Remote-sensing instruments carried aboard research aircraft and satellites provided enhanced and eventually near-continuous monitoring of sea ice from space. Watch the videos for a closer look at select events in Arctic sea ice exploration.