I came across this brilliant Deep Sea News blog post about oil on troubled waters. It talks at length about how a surface film of oil damps out higher frequency surface waves and only the low frequency waves can propagate. The net effect is the sea feels calmer as the breaking waves are damped out.
The same thing happens in rough seas when ice forms. I took the picture below in Bellingshausen Sea.
What you are looking at is very thin slick made up of sea ice crystals in the open ocean (called grease ice). The layer of crystals only allows the low frequency waves to propagate - so you see these odd looking slowly propagating ripples.
This is what I talked about: What the poles are telling us about our world
It was brilliant to be asked to speak, and really enjoyed the fantastically well organized day. Many thanks to the hardworking large team who put it together, and in particularly James Dyke,Alison Simmance and Jonathan Akass.
It's a little odd to me when people refer to the polar regions as being something to do with the "sounds of silence". I have never thought of peace and quiet when I am on sea ice. You see the sea ice is always moving, (except when it is frozen to the coast and then we term it "fast ice"), and when it moves - the individual floes are constantly colliding and banging into each other. The collisions and banging can be very noisy.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge knew that when he wrote the The Rime of the AncientMarinerin 1798.