August 2009 - Arctic Kingdom Polar Expeditions

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BLOG: Archive for August, 2009

Packing for the Arctic – Rent or Buy?

August 28th, 2009 | By | Filed in Gear

I field a lot of inquiries about what types of clothing to take with you on your arctic adventure. Clothing suitable for the changing arctic temperatures can be challenging to find during the summer months (when most people make their trips) and can come with a hefty price tag. For those of you who plan to make multiple trips or spend extended amount of time in the Arctic or Antarctic Circles, purchasing quality clothing that will last you for years is the way to go for sure. Throughout my years of traveling to the arctic, I have assembled a rather large collection of clothing and boots that I pick through every time I go. What you take depends on so many factors including time of year, activities, transportation, etc. For the one time arctic traveler, for example someone who is planning a two-week trip, investing in a large amount of expensive gear that you may never use again may not be practical. Arctic Kingdom has a large selection of clothing available for rent, at a fraction of the purchase cost. You can rent a single item or a full package and receive a bundled discount. Group discounts are also available of you are planning a trip for multiple people. All gear that we rent is also available for purchase new or there are some lightly used items available of you prefer. If you need help choosing what you need, I can definitely hook you up with some good advice and maybe a parka! Email me at [email protected] for more information.

Arctic Kingdom is Now on Flickr!

August 27th, 2009 | By | Filed in AK NEWS, Photographers, Projects

With its breathtaking scenery and amazing wildlife, the Arctic is a photographer's dream. Over the last decade, we've accumulated literally tens of thousands of images on our expeditions, captured by team members, expedition leaders, and trip participants.

Qaanaaq, Greenland April 2006. Photo by Louise Murray.

Right now, we're in the midst of uploading and tagging images from our collection onto Flickr. Though many of these images can also be found in our gallery and throughout the website, the Flickr page gives us the opportunity to upload more photos from recent trips and the archives, tag photos with geographical information, and connect with other Arctic enthusiasts from around the world. Visit our photostream to check out our latest uploads.

Tracking Blue Whales in Iceland

August 27th, 2009 | By | Filed in Arctic Animals, SCIENCE

Over at Arctic Portal, I ran across a news item about Iceland's Marine Research Institute's research on whale migration patterns through Icelandic waters. They've tagged Minke Whales, Humpback Whales, and finally, this past June, a Blue Whale. Arctic Portal writes,
This is a first time that the migration pattern of a Blue whale has been tracked and thus very important and interesting information for both the public and the research community. The Blue Whale was marked in Skjálfandi bay in northern Iceland in June 23 and has since travelled almost 8000km from north-coast of Iceland to the southeast coast, visiting west-coast Greenland on its way. blue_whale1The travelling pattern of the Blue Whale is characterized by rapid sprints, while it can dwell in restricted areas for several days, most likely for food gathering. The migration of Blue Whales to the south is soon getting started and the research institution hopes that the senders will continue to send signals through that period giving them thus valuable information on the migration pattern itself and a hint of their hibernation.
This is exciting news for researchers, but even armchair Blue Whale enthusiasts can follow the whale's progress via Google maps. Check it out!

Narwhals in the News

August 26th, 2009 | By | Filed in Arctic Animals, Conservation, SCIENCE

Watching Narwhals in Arctic Bay, 2002

Watching Narwhals in Arctic Bay, 2002

I just stumbled across an interesting entry over on the Polar Field Services' "Field Notes" blog summarizing current research being done on Narwhals, including the work AK blog faves Kristin Laidre and Martin T. Nweeia. It's an interesting post, with some great pictures and links. I was particularly interested in the news that Dr. Nweeia has recently been awarded a new grant by the National Science Foundation to continue his research into the nature and purpose of the narwhal's tusk. Dr Nweeia will be interviewing hunters and elders in communities in Northeastern Baffin Island and Northwestern Greenland and integrating their knowledge with his scientific research to create a more complete picture of narwhal anatomy and behaviour. via Narwhals « Polar Field Services Field Notes.

Ice Circles, Goo, and the Grand Arctic Monster Tradition

August 25th, 2009 | By | Filed in IN THE NEWS

There's an Ice Warrior Behind You!

Arctic Kingdom Expeditions are 100% Ice Warrior Free, Guaranteed!

Between the goo and the ice circles, it's no secret that I've got a soft spot for some of nature's more bizarre phenomena, compounded by an affection for fantastic stories. So I was positively gleeful when I stumbled upon's great post outlining the many sci-fi creatures that have sprung from icy origins. What I love about this kind of thing is how well the real world stands up to science fiction. Instead of H.P. Lovecraft's fictional lost cities beneath Antarctic, there's a real lost landscape hidden beneath the ice for scientists to learn from and explore. And while Victor Frankenstein never really hunted his monstrous creation across the arctic ice, very real men cheated death in their race to the North Pole. It's this stranger-than-fiction quality that makes the world's polar regions so compelling. Mysterious creatures make their homes here, and nature presents challenges unknown to all but a hardy few. For moviegoers, readers, and explorers alike, these frontiers represent an uncharted country, a place where truly mysterious and unexplored places still exist. Check out the full list: It Came From Beneath the Ice To Destroy the World!. And be sure to visit our trips page for more information on how you can confront the world's last frontiers (Rhedosaurus not included).

The Perfect Fall Jacket

August 21st, 2009 | By | Filed in AK PRODUCTS & SERVICES, Gear

I know it feels like summer just started and it's premature to start thinking about fall, but unfortunately here we are moving into September and dealing with uncertain summer weather. One day its too hot to do anything and the next day its windy and rainy. We have consistently used many Outdoor Research products on our Arctic Expeditions, such as waterproof shell pants, balaclavas, and winter mitts, etc... However, I came across a fabulous product last year and absolutely love it. It has been so great this summer. The Mithril Jacket. It provides the ultimate protection in cold and wet conditions. Its not just a shell, but it has a soft fleece interior that keeps you cozy and warm in the inside, while the on the outside water just beads off. It is also completely seam taped, for 100 percent waterproofness.  I get tons of compliments on mine and have sold a few to my friends. If you're not in the market for a new jacket, these make great gifts! We stock this jacket in black, so send me an email at [email protected] if you want one!mithril

Nice Weather for Polar Bears

August 21st, 2009 | By | Filed in Arctic Animals, Global Warming, SCIENCE

Polar bear, Galatee, 2007

Polar bear, Galatee, 2007. Photo by Louise Murray.

I'm writing this post from the center of San Francisco, CA, where my outfit on this August morning includes two shirts, a scarf, and a pair of woolen socks. Sure, Mark Twain may have quipped that the coldest winter he ever spent was summer in San Francisco, but this year the foggy berg seems extra chilled. And it's not just me! Many parts of Canada and the US have been reporting colder-than-normal temperatures. Which is very good news for Canada's polar bears. As reported in The Globe and Mail,
Experts say the summer sea ice has lasted longer than it has in years, which has given more than 1,000 bears in the [Hudson Bay] region extra time to hunt, feed and raise healthy cubs. One scout captured a picture of a mother with three strapping youngsters - a rare sight that has heartened those who are fighting what they say is the probable extinction of the iconic mammal. Andrew Derocher, a biology professor at the University of Alberta, said it's good news in an area where the polar-bear population has declined by 25 per cent. He's been tracking bears using satellite collars and said the extra time the animals have had on the ice can make all the difference. "They've had longer to hunt, which is a real benefit to them," said Prof. Derocher, former chair of a polar-bear specialist group run by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. "It really makes a difference. Even just one or two weeks out on the sea ice can make a difference in how many seals they kill and how much fat they're able to store on their bodies."
Polar bears could use the boost. Their populations are currently in decline across the globe, due to hazards such as thinning sea ice, industrial activity, and exposure toxins such as PCBs and flame retardants through their diets. While this summer's anomalous weather can't last, researchers such as Professor Derocher see reason for believe the summer's weather bodes well for this winter's ice. With cooler water, sea ice should form earlier come fall, giving bears the opportunity to procreate and gain weight in advance of next summer's fast. But, as Derocher points out,
"A respite from the long-term conditions is certainly good news, but ... this is still a major concern. We're talking about global change here. This is just one summer."
Read more: Colder summer means healthier polar bears - The Globe and Mail.

Inuit Hunters Help Scientists Track Narwhals : NPR

August 20th, 2009 | By | Filed in Arctic Animals, INUIT, Inuit Culture/Art, SCIENCE

Yesterday's Morning Edition on NPR featured another story on Dr. Kristin Laidre's research on Narwhals. This story focused on the techniques she's using to tag the whales, and the Inuit hunters who are using traditional hunting methods to make Dr. Laidre's research possible. Listen in or read a transcript over on the Morning Edition website.

Chasing After The Elusive Narwhal : NPR Checks in with Kristin Laidre

August 19th, 2009 | By | Filed in Arctic Animals, Current Events, IN THE NEWS, SCIENCE

A narwhal eludes an Arctic Kingdom photographer, 2007

Loyal readers of this blog may remember Kristin Laidre, the ballet-dancer-turned-oceanographer whose research on narwhals kicked off our Narwhal Week this past June.

So it was a bit like running into an old friend when I turned on NPR's morning edition yesterday to hear a field report on Dr. Laidre's research.

The piece really brings home the difficulties inherent in studying narwhals, from the harsh conditions at the top of the world to the slippery nature of the creatures themselves. Visit NPR's website to listen to the feature or read a written version of the piece. And blog readers in the States should be sure to listen to today's Morning Edition for a follow up piece on the Inuit hunters assisting Dr. Laidre with her research. That piece should also be available online any time after 9:00 AM EST today.

Narwhals in Arctic Bay, 2002

Does all this talk of narwhals have you itching for an Arctic expedition of your own? Check out our trips page for more information on expeditions across the hemisphere!

Birds, Bears and Climate Change on Cooper Island

August 18th, 2009 | By | Filed in Arctic Animals, Global Warming, SCIENCE, Scientists

YouTube Preview Image Over on the Discovery Channel's Earth Live Blog, Dr. George Divoky, a participant in International Polar Year's Polar-Palooza outreach program and a scientist who has been studying Cooper Island's Black Guillemot population for more than 30 years, describes some of the changes he's seeing in the Arctic:
When presenting to school groups one of my tasks is to ask ”what is wrong with this picture?” as a PhotoShopped image of a polar bear walking behind some penguins appears on the screen. This summer, though not as incredible as the penguin/polar bear pairing, I find myself looking at the images obtained over the past month on Cooper Island and thinking “what is wrong with these pictures?” But I know that the images of polar bears walking around the colony, sleeping on the beach and approaching the campsite, things I could never have imagined before 2002,are the product of habitat degradation rather than any image manipulation.
When Dr. Divoky talks about polar bears "approaching the campsite, he isn't kidding! The video below was taken by his camps' motion-sensitive cameras at 3:30 AM. YouTube Preview Image Dr Divoky set up alarms to alert him to bears' presence after bedtime, but that hasn't prevented bears from doing damage to Black Guillemot nests and snacking on fledgelings. Sadly, these sorts of changes in animal behaviour are one of many everyday impacts of global warming already in evidence in today's Arctic. via Is It a Bird or a Bear? - Earth Live: Cooper Island.
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