The seasonal cycle of fast ice thickness in Prydz Bay, East Antarctica, was observed between March and December 2012. In March, we observed a 0.16 m thickness gain of 0.22 m-thick first-year ice (FYI), while 1.16 m-thick second-year ice (SYI) nearby simultaneously ablated by 0.59 m. A 1-D thermodynamic sea-ice model was applied to identify the factors that led to the simultaneous growth of FYI and melt of SYI. The different evolutions were explained by the difference in the conductive heat flux between the FYI and SYI. As the FYI was thin, there was a large temperature gradient between the ice base and the colder ice surface. This generated an upward conductive heat flux, which was larger than the heat flux from the ocean to the ice base, yielding basal growth of ice. In the case of the thicker SYI the temperature gradient and, hence, the conductive heat flux were smaller, and not sufficient to balance the oceanic heat flux at the ice base, yielding basal ablation. Penetration of solar radiation affected the conductive heat flux in both cases, and the model results were sensitive to the initial ice temperature profile and the uncertainty of the oceanic heat flux.