If you wish to have a first-hand experience of drift ice, you can go down to the coast.
There are not many shore reefs on the coastline of Abashiri. Instead, sandy beaches spread. When drift ice approaches, you can see it from close up on the coastlines between Futatsuiwa and Maehama, and between Masuura and Kitahama. Then you will realize that a lump of drift ice is surprisingly large. Even outside the season for drift ice, you can see actual drift ice at Okhotsk Ryu-hyo Museum in Mt. Tento at any time.
Ice floating in the sea is generally called "ryuhyo (drift ice)". But when sea water is frozen, it is called "sea ice", compared with "river ice" which is water frozen in rivers and lakes and "icebergs" which are snow turning into glaciers and flowing into the sea. To be exact, most of the drift ice in the Sea of Okhotsk is actually "sea ice".
Along the northwest coast facing the Sea of Okhotsk, when seawater is chilled to minus 1.8 degrees by an extremely cold wind, it turns into small needle-like or plate-like pieces of ice near the surface of the sea. This is the way ice crystals are generated. The amount of ice crystals increases little by little until the sea surface is covered by them. They collide and connect with one another to grow into ice in the form of a lotus leaf.
Lotus leaves of ice generated around November slowly go south in the Sea of Okhotsk, driven by a strong north-west monsoon and the East Sakhalin Current, while growing larger. They reach the Okhotsk coast of Hokkaido from late January to early February.
The concentration of salt in the drift ice is around 0.5%, less than one-sixth of that of the seawater. When ice crystals connect with one another to grow into larger crystals, salt, which is difficult to freeze, is left behind. Such a condition can be clearly seen if you observe drift ice with a microscope.
The fishery in the Sea of Okhotsk temporarily stops operation when drift ice comes. However, under the drift ice, a great amount and many types of plankton are active, including clione. In fact, a very large amount of cold-water fish surges in pursuit of such plankton. An abundance of marine resources in the Sea of Okhotsk is protected by nature itself.
One of the most popular activities for watching drift ice in winter is the icebreaker "Aurora". When the bottom of the ship hits an ice block, the entire ship vibrates. It is a spectacular experience. In addition, various animals come along with drift ice. You may be able to encounter white-tailed eagles leisurely flying, or earless seals taking a nap on the drift ice.
Operation period: January 20 to April 3
Duration: 1 hour
(Boarding process must be completed by 15 minutes prior to departure time.)
"Minato Kanko Koryu Center Aurora Terminal" is annexed to Roadside Station Ryuhyo Kaido Abashiri.
To facilitate access to the boarding place, the city sightseeing bus is operated by Abashiri Bus.
Doutou Kanko Kaihatsu Corporation
Roadside Station (Ryuhyo Kaido Abashiri) 5-1, Minami 3-jo Higashi 4-chome, Abashiri City, Hokkaido 093-0003
TEL：+81-152-43-6000 / FAX：0152-43-6200
The Ryuhyo Monogatari Train, which runs between Abashiri and Shiretoko Shari twice a day, is a very unique train running along the Okhotsk coastline slowly and leisurely.
Why don't you get on this train and enjoy watching drift ice for about one hour? If you are on the second or fourth car, you can purchase souvenirs at the Roadside Station on the way. The Shiretoko Mountains can be seen from windows of the train throughout the trip.