We report sea-ice temperature and bulk salinity measurements as well as textural analysis from 33 first-year drift- and fast-ice stations sampled between November 2007 and June 2008 in the southern Beaufort Sea–Amundsen Gulf, Canadian Arctic, during the International Polar Year Circumpolar Flaw Lead (IPY-CFL) system study. We use this significant dataset to investigate the halo-thermodynamic evolution of sea ice from growth to melt. A strong desalination phase is observed over a small time window in the spring. Using calculated proxies of sea-ice permeability (brine volume fraction) and of the intensity of brine convection (Rayleigh number) we demonstrate that this phase corresponds to full-depth gravity drainage initiated by a restored connectivity of the brine network with warming in the spring. Most stations had a textural sequence typical of Arctic first-year ice, with granular ice overlying columnar ice. Unusual textural features were observed sporadically: sandwiched granular ice, platelet ice and draped platelet ice. We suggest that turbulence in leads and double diffusion in strong brine plumes following the refreeze of cracks are plausible mechanisms for the formation of these textures.