The problem of waves propagating on the surface of a two-dimensional ideal fluid of infinite depth bounded above by an elastic sheet is studied with asymptotic and numerical methods. We use a nonlinear elastic model that has been used to describe the dynamics of ice sheets. Particular attention is paid to forced and unforced dynamics of waves having near-minimum phase speed. For the unforced problem, we find that wavepacket solitary waves bifurcate from nonlinear periodic waves of minimum speed. When the problem is forced by a moving load, we find that, for small-amplitude forcing, steady responses are possible at all subcritical speeds, but for larger loads there is a transcritical range of forcing speeds for which there are no steady solutions. In unsteady computations, we find that if the problem is forced at a speed in this range, very large unsteady responses are obtained, and that when the forcing is released, a solitary wave is generated. These solitary waves appear stable, and can coexist within a sea of small-amplitude waves.