Arctic Ice July 2011

For much of the written history of the Arctic, exceptional extents of open water were reported in terms of what the explorer, fisherman, whaler or sealer had previously experienced.  That would make such events likely every 20 to 30 years.  However, for each report of open ice in a specific area there is likely to be found in the archives a report from 180 degrees opposite across the pole of a greater than usual ice extent.
A new study shows that the rate of sea-level rise along the U.S. Atlantic coast is greater now than at any time in the past 2,000 years - and a consistent link between changes in global mean surface temperature and sea level.
Nares Ice Bridge Breakup

The ice bridge in Nares Strait at the Kane Basin outlet to Baffin Bay has begun to break up.

There was a plug of consolidated ice solidly wedged across the channel.  Consolidated ice is very strong in compression, but weak in tension, as I have noted in other articles, such as Bridges That Build Themselves.  From that article:
An Arctic Decade 2001 - 2011

For thousands of years the Arctic has been covered in perennial ice with seasonal changes at the margins and some natural variation, seen as losses and recoveries of extent.

For hundreds of years observers have noted that seasonal and local variations at the margins can leave some relatively small regions ice free one year, and solidly iced up in other years.
The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are losing mass at an accelerating pace, according to a new study in Geophysical Research Letters. The authors suggest these ice sheets are overtaking ice loss from Earth's mountain glaciers and ice caps to become the dominant contributor to global sea level rise.
Ross Ice Shelf - Some Observations

The Ross Ice Shelf is the largest ice shelf in the world with an area of roughly 182,000 square miles - 472,000 square kilometers.  The shelf  was named after Captain James Clark Ross who discovered it  January 28th, 1841.  The coast to which the ice shelf is attached reaches nearer to the south geographic pole than any other part of Antarctica's coast.

Image source: NASA/MODIS Antarctic mosaic.
Arctic Ice November 2010

Return to previous Arctic conditions is unlikely

Record temperatures across Canadian Arctic and Greenland, a reduced summer sea ice cover, record snow cover decreases and links to some Northern Hemisphere weather support this conclusion

Arctic Report Card 2010
A Census of Marine Life expedition discovered a new character for the Mr. Men and Little Miss series - "Mr. Blobby," the fathead sculpin fish, lives in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans at depths of between about 330 feet (100 meters) and 9,200 feet (2,800 meters), according to National Geographic.

Arctic Ice October 2010

... the land being very high and full of mightie mountaines all covered with snowe, no viewe of wood, grasse or earth to be seene, and the shore two leages of into the sea so full of yce as that no shipping cold by any meanes come neere the same. The lothsome viewe of the shore, and irksome noyse of the yce was such as that it bred strange conceipts among us, so that we supposed the place to be wast and voyd of any sencible or vegitable creatures, whereupon I called the same Desolation.

John_Davis, 1587