December 2009 - Arctic Kingdom Polar Expeditions

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BLOG: Archive for December, 2009

The Year in Review: The Future of the Arctic

December 31st, 2009 | By | Filed in Uncategorized

The Arctic is a wickedly complex system, and there are all these cascading effects. Change in itself isn’t always that bad. Look at the great ice ages of the past. The key here is how rapidly the change will unfold. Do I fear for the extinction of the human species? No, but you can say good-bye to a lot of species that we have today. We’re looking at a different world. That world is coming fast, and the Arctic is leading the way. -- Geographer Mark Serreze, Quoted in Discover Magazine's Top 100 Stories of 2009

Checking Up on the Polar Bears

December 22nd, 2009 | By | Filed in Uncategorized

The Anchorage Daily News ran a story recently on a group of scientists' efforts to determine how polar bears are dealing with the loss of sea ice. In order to get a full picture, the researchers are viewing bears up close, in their natural environment.

"It's definitely not for everyone," said Katrin Iken, associate professor of marine biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, who led the team of ice researchers from UAF.

The ice divers, layered in polypropylene, fleece and dry suits, went to work through holes cut in the ice to gather samples from biological communities associated with sea ice. Tethered to a team member above, they went as deep as 40 feet to explore the bottoms of ice ridges -- the underwater version of the pressure ridges up top -- for a look at what lives down there.

In the big picture, it's all about understanding what melting ice means to the larger food web in the Arctic.

For more on the study, including pictures of the bears and their environment, check out the article over at Anchorage Daily News: Scientists go to extremes for Arctic Research

Here Comes the Sun

December 21st, 2009 | By | Filed in Current Events, Uncategorized


Igloolik, October 2006. Photo by Louise Murray.

Today marks the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. In Fairbanks, Alaska, the sun will rise at 10:49 AM and set 3 hours, 41 minutes, and 20 seconds later. Further north, the sun won't rise at all. The North Pole hasn't seen any sun since October. But this, the darkest day, marks the sun's eventual return. From here, the days start getting longer, until finally in February or March even the northernmost Arctic regions will begin to see sunlight again.

Did Lead Cans Doom the Franklin Expedition?

December 16th, 2009 | By | Filed in Current Events

A 160-year-old can of soup has yielded insight into the fate of Franklin's 19th-century quest for Canada's Northwest Passage:
High lead levels in both the soup and its container were detected by McMaster experts in experiments using X-ray fluorescence, a non-destructive method of analyzing objects that's available at only two laboratories in Canada. "The numbers showed us lead levels that were pretty much off the scale," Fiona McNeill, a medical science and radiation expert, said in a statement after tests Tuesday on the can's lid. "It was an instantaneous test. We had already tested the soup found in the can and found high levels of lead, so we were certain we were going to find similar levels in the sealing solder."
Lead poisoning has been cited as a major factor in the deaths of Franklin and his crewmen, who died while stranded in the Canadian Arctic. Bone tests on skeletons recovered from grave sites in the Arctic in the 1990s revealed dangerously high levels of lead, leading scientists to suspect that contaminated food lead to impaired judgment and poor health among Franklin and his crew.

Just like Flipper, but different: Befriending a leopard seal in Antarctica

December 11th, 2009 | By | Filed in Current Events, Diving, IN THE NEWS

YouTube Preview Image In this video, National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen describes his four day encounter with a giant leopard seal in the Antarctic.

DJ Spooky's Sinfonia Antarctica

December 10th, 2009 | By | Filed in Current Events, IN THE NEWS

YouTube Preview Image In 2008, artist/composer/turntablist Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky, traveled to Antarctica in pursuit of the sounds and sights of the melting polar ice. The resulting piece, Sinfonia Antarctica, is a 70 minute audiovisual experience that creates a symphonic portrait of the icy landscapes along the southern pole. Here's an excerpt from Miller's artist statement:
Sinfonia Antarctica will be an acoustic portrait of a rapidly transforming continent made of ice and condensation. In many ways, because there is little rain, the interior of the continent is technically one of the largest deserts in the world. What Sinfonia Antarcticaproposes to do is explore the realm of fiction and ideas that underlie almost all perceptions of Antarctica – from the interior desert plains, to the Transantarctic Mountains that divide the continent, the Suite will take samples of the different conditions, and transform them into multi-media portraits with music composed from the different geographies that make up the land mass.
Read more: Arts Interview: DJ Spooky on Antarctica, economics, and sound art DJ Spooky Unplugs for Antarctica Artist Statement: Terra Nova: Sinfonia Antarctica

Tracking Arctic Wolves Through the Winter

December 2nd, 2009 | By | Filed in Uncategorized

This news story really pleases my inner eight-year-old/Julie of the Wolves fan: Up on Ellesmere Island, just 600 miles south of the pole, scientists are trying to find out how the world's northernmost wolf pack spends the winter. The wolves' winter habitat is too cold and too dark for human observers, so researchers are utilizing the latest technology to keep abreast of the wolves and their winter movements. They've attached a tracking collar to Brutus, the pack's 9-year-old leader. The collar emails the team about the pack's movements, allowing them to observe the movements of the wolves and gain some insight on how the wolves survive the long, cold winter. And best of all for all us armchair wildlife biologists, there's a blog posting regular updates of the wolves' travels across the Arctic ice. Read more here: North Pole Wolf Emails Locations to Researchers International Wolf Center Blog
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