Drift ice

Drift ice covering the Sea of Okhotsk in pure white

In general, ice floating on the sea is called "drift ice". This ice is called "sea ice". In fact, most of the drift ice in the Sea of Okhotsk is, to be exact, this "sea ice".
The seawater, which is blown by severe cold air on the northernmost coast of the Sea of Okhotsk, cools down to -1.8 degrees Celsius and turns into small needles and plate-like ice near the sea surface. This is the birth of ice crystals. This gradually increases and eventually covers the sea surface. They collide with each other and join together to grow into lotus leaf-like ice.

The lotus ice, which is formed around November, is carried by the strong northwesterly monsoon and the East Karafuto Current, and slowly moves southward through the Sea of Okhotsk while growing further. It reaches the coast of Okhotsk in Hokkaido from late January to early February.
The salt content in this drift ice is around 0.5%, less than 1/6 of seawater. The drift ice grows as ice crystals stick together one after another, but only the hard-to-freeze salt is left behind. You can see this clearly when you look at drift ice under a microscope.
In the Sea of Okhotsk, when drift ice comes, the fishing industry temporarily stops. However, under the ice floes, a large amount and variety of plankton are active. Clione is one of them. In fact, the reflux system fish are also rushing in large numbers, chasing the plankton. It can be said that nature protects the abundant seafood resources of the Sea of Okhotsk.


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Abashiri's coast has few rocky reefs and is a continuous sandy beach. When drift ice comes ashore, you can see it up close on both the coastline from Nitsuiwa to the foreshore and the coastline from Masuura to Kitahama. You can also see that each piece of drift ice is surprisingly large. Even outside of the drift ice season, you can always see real drift ice by visiting Okhotsk Ryu-hyo Museum in Tentozan.

On Niconico Douga

≪Fixed-point live broadcast to watch the Sea of Okhotsk from the testing land of Abashiri until the drift ice approaches the shore≫

2024/1/21 12:00~START!

Basic information

  • Access

    Abashiri Sea of Okhotsk

  • Others

    Ryuhyo Monogatari-go The Ryuhyo Monogatari-go, which runs twice daily between Abashiri and Shiretoko Shari, is a very unique train that runs slowly along the Okhotsk coastline. Enjoy drift ice viewing for about an hour on this train. On Routes 2 and 4, you can also purchase souvenirs at roadside stations along the way. You can see the Shiretoko mountain range all the way from the train window.

Surrounding map


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