A team of scientists venture into the High Arctic onboard an iconic icebreaker and uncover the impacts of a changing climate at the top of the world.


The Arctic is changing faster than anywhere else on Earth. It’s literally melting away under our feet – glaciers are retreating, sea ice is unpredictable, mercury levels are rising, development is knocking on the doorstep, and lives are changing.

The Breaking Ice Film looks at this world through the eyes of frontline polar scientists in the field… in the cold, in the wind… in the elements. It delves into their perspectives and challenges as they journey on an iconic icebreaker into remote, hard-to-reach areas in the High Arctic to uncover what a changing climate looks like at the top of the world.

But, it’s not just about the science. It’s really about the people behind the science – their life onboard the ship as they work 24/7 under tight timelines, amid homesickness, adversity, and facing hazards inherent to the Arctic, all while wrestling with their own thoughts on what they’re finding and how it relates to their lives back home and the lives of those who live in the North.

In short, it’s about the emotion behind the science… the qualitative elements as much as the quantitative.


The Breaking Ice Film was awarded the prestigious Talent to Watch Program funding for first-time feature filmmakers, and was made in partnership with OnScreen Manitoba, ArcticNet, Schools on Board, and the Canadian Coast Guard.

It’s set aboard the iconic Amundsen Icebreaker, which is no ordinary ship. The Amundsen has been observing and experiencing first-hand Arctic environmental upheavals for more than a decade. It sails above the 70th parallel routinely, smashes through ice 4.5 meters think, and it’s a major catalyst in revitalizing Canadian Arctic science. It’s been a central pillar, an important anchorage, gathering point, and unique learning environment for the 1300 professionals and students who have been on board.


Eight scientists, one ship, one goal. The Breaking Ice Film is about facing the unending personal and professional challenges of conducting science in the Arctic.

Louis Fortier

A decorated biologist and oceanographer, Louis has to make decisions that affect the entire scientific mission, and must continually strike a balance between the aims of scientists and the reality of the world they work in.

David Barber

A renowned sea ice expert, David Barber encounters one challenge after the next as he tries to get to his test site, including a search and rescue, and ultimately ends up facing a $17 million dollar decision.

Anna Pienkowski

Anna spends much of her journey hoping the stars align so she can get to her prime sample site in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. She has one shot to do it, and it’s the reason why she’s on the ship, but ever-shifting sea ice proves to be a serious challenge.

Trevor Lucas

Trevor is a marine mammal observer onboard to document any and all wildlife. He’s the only local on the ship – from Sachs Harbour in the Northwest Territories. He’s seen environmental changes firsthand, and is wary about what development might mean for the animals and his community.

Anna Crawford

Anna holds out hope—though the ship is far behind schedule—that she’ll be able to helicopter onto an extremely remote ice island that’s been grounded on the ocean floor to study its melt rate.

Kathleen Munson

Kathleen looks at rising mercury levels in Arctic waters and wonders how her life as a Southerner impacts those in the North, particularly Inuit, who have the highest concentrations of mercury in their blood, and seem to be carrying the mercury burden put on them by the rest of the world.

Ned King

Ned is onboard to figure out if what kind of hazards to development lie the Beaufort Sea. The Beaufort is currently ice free in the summertime, which means conditions are ripe for him to send his instruments to the sea bed, but he’s had problems with them before…

David Capelle

David dutifully measures greenhouse gases, but does so with a heavy heart as he awaits word on the health of his father who’s having heart surgery back home.

Étienne Brouard

The man responsible for the echo-sounder, better-known as the device that beeps every 5 seconds and infiltrates peoples’ dreams. His main job is to determine the depth of the seabed, but he’s always willing to lend a hand, especially when things get dicey.

Lauren Candlish

Lauren is all about the intersection between ice and atmosphere. Her mission is to establish meteorological stations on ice floes, but multi-year ice is proving difficult to find, and she has to keep going farther north to find ice suitable to land on.