June 30th, 2009 | By Jason Hillier | Filed in Conservation, Current Events, Global Warming, IN THE NEWS, SCIENCE
Worth Saving: An Iceberg on Lancaster Sound
This past Friday, the US House of Representatives voted 219-212 in favor of a bill that will cut back on the industrial pollutants behind global warming.
The House-passed bill requires that large U.S. companies, including utilities, oil refiners, manufacturers and others, reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases associated with global warming by 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050, from 2005 levels.
They would do so by phasing in the use of cleaner alternative energy than high-polluting oil and coal.
"The scientists are telling us there's an overwhelming consensus ... global warming is real and it's moving very rapidly," said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, the chief sponsor of the legislation.
In urging passage, Waxman also said the legislation would create jobs and help move the United States from its reliance on foreign oil.
via House passes landmark climate change bill | Politics | Reuters
June 29th, 2009 | By Jason Hillier | Filed in Arctic Animals, Current Events, IN THE NEWS
You won't see walrus dancing to pop songs on an Arctic Kingdom expedition. But I guarantee that seeing these massive, gregarious creatures in their natural habitat makes for a sight more impressive than even the finest in semi-aquatic choreography. (See Thomas' post
below for some recent highlights).
Check out our trips page
for more information on how you can create your own pinniped pas de deux.
June 28th, 2009 | By Jason Hillier | Filed in Arctic Animals, Diving, Inuit Culture/Art, Recent Trips, TRIPS, Upcoming Trip
Arctic Kingdom has been visiting the many floe edges of the north Baffin Island area since 2001. As an expedition leader since 2002, no matter how many times I go to the floe edge for the spring whale migration, there is always something new or an experience to be had that I could never have expected. This years expedition was no exception! There were some amazing moments and it was a challenge to condense them into only 10..or maybe 11. Here are my top 10 moments.. (not in any particular order)
1. Walrus appearing right in front of our base camp and hanging out for an hour.
Walrus playing in ice near the Arctic Kingdom base camp
We had just finished an ice dive and were hanging around the dive tent about 3 meters from the ice floe edge, when a female walrus surfaced and raised her head at least half a meter over the ice edge. At first we thought it was a seal and almost turned away (since we see seals so often it becomes almost too common) but the large white tusks quickly told us it was a walrus. She would gracefully peer at us from in between pieces of pack ice by raising her head way out of the water. Then slip gently back down under water reappearing only a few minutes later in pool of water only a few meters away. She was a young female, with very white tusks.
2. Hearing the exhale of the narwhals breath before you can see it
Narwhal takes a deep breath and dives below the floe edge
The silence of the Arctic gently envelops you and even the slightest of sounds, from the call of a bird, or in this case, the whooosh sound of a narwhal taking a deep breathe can be hear from far away. There is a moment of exhilaration when you hear that tell tale whoosh and scan the mirror smooth surface for the dark hump that is the back of narwhal. As one watches, the mirror is broken by a surfacing pod of narwhals – one tusk, then two, then another and 5 narwhals rest, breathing deep, whoooosh, only meters away.
3. Sitting in a boat and having a narwhal approach within 2 meters out of curiosity
Narwhal approaches Arctic Kingdom group in inflatable boat
Having an animal, approach on their own volition, out of their own curiosity and inquisitiveness is the moment we all come here for. In this case, the narwhal would slowly swim towards the grey inflatable boat outfitted with an electric motor. All expedition members could do was to hold their breaths and enjoy the moment!
4. Kayaking under the midnight sun on mirror smooth water between floating ice with Narwhal all around us
Kayaking in the early morning with the Narwhal
It was 5am and the narwhal were playing out in the open water just beyond our floe edge base camp. We launched the kayaks and quietly floated among the narwhal. With clear blue skies above us, an unrippled surface of dark blue water, and the groans of the narwhal surrounding us, it was an amazing moment.
5. Watching a polar bear stretch, lounge on the floating pack ice at 2am just outside our base camp
Polar Bear stretching on pack ice just 30m from base camp at 2am
Polar bears are quite common on the floe edge and we came across quite a few – sometimes they would wander out from the pack ice, or along the floe edge looking for seal, or other times we would come across them while snowmobiling across the ice. One special polar bear encounter was just outside our base camp. A polar bear sentry spotted a polar bear approaching our camp from the pack ice that had been pushed against the floe edge a few days earlier. Being only 40 meters away, at 2am, with the sun low in the sky casting long shadows and a soft yellow light, we watched this polar bear lounging on a flat piece of ice. Completely oblivioius to us, he would lie on his stomache, rest his large head on his forelegs, stretch his back legs behind, sit up, sniff around, lie on his back and put his paws in the air. It was almost like he put on a show just for us before a second polar bear came to interrupt his candidness. The two them sniffed each other and continued walking through the pack ice in opposite directions.
6. Eating breakfast outside in t-shirts
Having breakfast under the morning sun
The weather was extremely warm at the floe edge – with many days waking up almost baking in our double walled Arctic tents. The temperatures would be around 5 degrees, but without wind and having cloudless skies we would be extremely warm. On one such day we decided to enjoy our breakfast outside of the dining tent and under the big blue sky with the backdrop of Baffin Island behind us, Bylot Island infront, all the while watching the narwhal who had just started feeding again. Who knew this was the Arctic!
7. Ice diving amongst the pack ice – huge cathedrals of ice, glowing turquoise blue
Diving amongst the pack ice off the floe edge
Although not everyone is a diver who comes on an Arctic Kingdom Expeditions, the ice diving experience augments the ice experience. Ice diving through the pack ice was simply stunning. With almost 300' (100m) visibility, we could see straight down to the bottom of the floating ice, at times almost 90' deep. Going deep though isn't required as we would spend most of the dive at 30' while making our way between spires of glowing blue and white ice columns, ledges, caves and caverns. The myriad of shapes and rounded ice created a world unlike anything one can imagine. Here is one of my favourite pictures. I'll be blogging more at a later date specifically on ice diving in the arctic so stay tuned!
Seaweed covered Inuit harpoon found on the sea floor 30' below the crack
8. Finding a 50 year old harpoon on the ocean floor while diving in a crack near shore
Moving away from the floe edge, and heading to a crack that originates from a point of land off of Bylot Island, we dove through a crack to film the bottom life of the Arctic sea floor. Sponges, starfish, sea anemone, sea urchins, jelly fish and more. At the end of a 30 min dive, I was just about to surface when I spotted what I though was a Narwhal tusk at first lying on the bottom. I pulled it out of the seaweed and headed back to the crack 30' above my head and surfaced. Arctic Kingdom's senior Inuit guide identified it as a harpoon from the 1960's. As this is a common hunting area, it's quite possible the hunter lost the harpoon testing the ice thickness at the very crack we were diving at. That's what I love about diving and finding lost items – the past and present meld together.
9. Making a tea from glacier water at the base of 300' (100m) waterfall
Having glacier water tea.
On the way back to Pond Inlet at the end of the floe edge season, the land temperatures have risen as well and the glaciers on Bylot island are beginning to melt. The rivers begin to flow and one such river ends at a 300' (100m) stepped waterfall and empties into the inlet. We took our teapot and filled it from the pool at the base of the waterfall. The subsequent tea we had was probably one of the best I've had!
10. Icicles found in a glacier ice cave
Arctic Kingdom members in the mouth of the icicle laden ice cave
On the way to the floe edge, on the north side of Baffin Island is a glacier that calves in such a way that there is a permanent shallow ice cave at its base. The melt water freezes and has formed many icicles that make the ice cave appear to be toothed.
11. Eating delicious country food with our Inuit guides – Caribou, Seal, Goose stews and Arctic Char
Jake - Senior Arctic Kingdom guide prepares caribou stew
...and just one more... I couldn't narrow it down to ten as being on the floe edge with our Inuit guides makes the experience a cultural one as well. Traditional food prepared by Arctic Kingdom's guides are always a highlight of our culinary experience. Thanks guys!
More information on Arctic Kingdom floe expeditions can be found here:
June 18th, 2009 | By Jason Hillier | Filed in Global Warming
Now that the International Polar Year
is drawing to a close, scientists and others from the more than sixty participating nations are beginning to process and publish their findings. Though there's a lot of discouraging findings, including rising sea levels, shrinking ice caps, and increased carbon dioxide emissions from decaying organic matter exposed by melting permafrost, scientists are encouraged.
Photo by Andrew Woodward 2007
"The new evidence resulting from polar research will strengthen the scientific basis on which we build future actions," said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud at the launch of the State of Polar Research report in Geneva.
But there is a lot to be concerned about. Read the rest of this entry »