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I’d like to take a moment to thank all of our readers for tuning in, for your comments on Facebook, and for your interest in all things Arctic. We’re looking forward to sharing more news and adventures with you in the coming year, hopefully some of you will take the plunge and book a trip to visit with us in person! Looking ahead, we’ve got future webinars, more incredible trips, and continuous opportunities to explore the culture and terrain we love.
Recently Graham Dickson sent this along to me as an example of the *ahem* versatility of a snowmobile. Arctic Kingdom uses these vehicles as a primary means of transportation over ground, pulling expedition members behind in the comfort of a komitek – a wooden sled with a cabin complete with foam mattress padding and protection from the wind. Other people? Well… they push it a little further.
For the record, we don’t recommend heading out into the snow and trying this yourself. Take care and have a very happy (and safe!) New Year!
In this hilarious video from the BBC, Polar Bears display their natural curiosity and fearlessness towards some very well camouflaged robotic cameras. The instruments were deployed to film bears in the Arctic area of Svalbard for the documentary Polar Bear: Spy on the Ice, which you can find airing on the BBC and also available from iPlayer.
Several clips from this documentary have been posted online, sharing more details on the technology used in filming the bears and some lovely footage of a mother and cub.
It’s never too late for a little more holiday cheer. Quaqtaq-raised singer, Beatrice Deer has released a nine-song album An Arctic Christmas presenting songs in both English and Inukitiut.
You can find Ms. Deer online at myspace. She also has a number of videos online on youtube, including this lovely one below.
According to this article, Inuit art is ‘fairly hot right now’, which I sincerely hope is an intentional pun on the part of the writer. Another way of putting it is that Inuit art is currently in demand from collectors and the public. This terrific year-long exhibit, at the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum on the Bowdoin College campus is called “Imagination Takes Shape”, and consists of around 100 prints and carvings collected by Robert and Judith Toll. Well-known contemporary artists featured in the exhibition include Padlo Pudlat, Jessie Oonark and Simon Tookoome.
The Tolls, who live in California and otherwise have no ties to Bowdoin, last year pledged their collection of Inuit art, which they have been building during a decades-long love affair with the art and culture of the Canadian Arctic, to the Bowdoin museum. This show represents the first public display of part of the Tolls’ gift. “They were looking for a home for their collection, and looking for a location where their gift could make a difference,” said museum director Susan Kaplan, who has known the Tolls for 10 years and lobbied hard for the couple to leave their collection with Bowdoin.
The couple wanted a museum that would share the collection in public displays, and also where it could be used in scholarship. Bowdoin offered both, along with the allure and history of the museum itself. Peary-MacMillan is named for Arctic explorers and Bowdoin grads Robert Peary and Donald MacMillan, and is the only museum in the United States dedicated to Arctic studies.
The show is open through December, 2011 and admission is free. More from this well-crafted article by writer Bob Keyes on the background of some of the pieces -
The Tolls began collecting in the 1960s, and focused their efforts on specific communities on the western edge of Hudson Bay. “They’ve gone for depth, not for breadth,” Kaplan said, explaining that the Tolls decided it was more important to capture the range of the Inuit experience. Many of the prints in this collection come from two primary printmaking cooperatives — one in Cape Dorset; the other at Baker Lake.
Curator Genevieve LeMoine points to several examples. One of the first prints in the exhibition is a 1987 piece by Pudlat, “New Horizons.” The title implies, and the art suggests, a new day for the Inuit as they move away from their traditional lifestyle represented by ox and into a contemporary setting represented by telephone wires.
A print by Oonark speaks to the importance of community. She makes a human face in the middle of her image, then surrounds it with smaller faces that form a circle. The implication is that the individual is surrounded by ancestors, family members, friends and the larger community, and that one’s journey through life is never taken alone.
Part of Oonark’s brilliance is the double meaning of some of her work. In this instance, the print “The People” has larger implications. The faces, as they spiral outward from the center, also form the image of an igloo when viewed from above. Again, the print represents the sense of home, LeMoine said.
We’re thrilled to congratulate photographer Todd Mintz, whose photograph ‘Iceberg Texture’ was recently awarded in the 2010 Los Angeles International Underwater Photography Competition. This is just Todd’s most most recent recognition, his photographs have been awarded in many international competitions - including being selected Best of Show in the Nature’s Best/Smithsonian Ocean Views Competition and Best of Show honors in the Scuba Diving Magazine, and twice in the SEA-NCUPS International Competition. His work has been shown in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, and graced the covers of magazines including Nature’s Best, Sport Diver, and Scuba Diving. Todd shot this image on a trip with Arctic Kingdom, and was kind enough to give us a few words about his experience and background in photography.
Todd, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Can you tell us a bit about your background in photography and diving?
I was first certified in 1994 and received my Padi Divemaster Professional Certification in 1997 and began assisting at my local shop in the silt bottom lakes of Saskatchewan. During the winters we would cut through the 2 to 3 feet of ice to dive at our favorite local training lake.
My earliest recollection of using a camera was as a young child at my grandfather’s home. Playing with an old camera and peering through the glass underneath the flip top cover on the top of the camera. It was not until many years later in 1996 on an diving trip to Bonaire in the Netherlands Antilles that I realized that I had a passion for photography. I had borrowed a Sea and Sea Motormarine II camera from my local dive shop for this trip.
I have always been drawn to the ocean and the unique wildlife that reside within it. As a child I remember watching the great Jacques Cousteau travel the oceans of the world and I was always fascinated in his adventures.
My favorite dive destination depends on the subject matter I am interested in photographing. British Columbia, Canada is probably my overall favorite location because to the diversity of subjects it offers with an abundance of colour. I have traveled to the Bahamas about a dozen times to photograph many species of sharks which are one of my most favorite subjects. Bonaire, Netherland Antillies because of the diving freedom offered by the shore diving. Raja Ampat is also a special location for me as one of my most accomplished images was taken in the mangroves of Raja Ampat.
Specific to the image which was just awarded – what was the process of that dive and shoot like? Any insider tips you have for other people interested in underwater photography to improve their work?
The iceberg dive with Arctic Kingdom was one of my most memorable and favorite dives. Slipping through a crack in the ice that our lead Guide Thomas Lennartz has scouted. It was under two icebergs that had been locked in the floe edge ice. I had come to the Arctic to focus on capturing images of Narwhal but after receiving reports from members of our expedition group how fantastic the dive was I knew I had to break away from my search for the Narwhal to dive this site.
Keys to capturing this image were trying to balance the High dynamic range of the setting. The bright highlights of the crack and surface combined with the inky black of the ocean below us stretched the range of the cameras abilities. I worked the ISO until I was able to find a balance I felt happy with. Even as I reached the end of my dive I tried to ignore my regulators freezing up to capture a few last images as I was truly captivated by the textures of the iceberg below the surface.
How many times have you traveled with AK, and can you let us know a few of your favorite elements of working with us? Is there anything in particular we offer that is a draw for you to travel with us?
This was my first expedition with Arctic Kingdom. I had researched some of the companies that offered travel to the Arctic but I knew I needed to dive. I had received a photography assignment from a scuba diving magazine to work on a feature story for them. (the story comes out in the March/April 2011 issue). Having my ice diving certification I also knew I was well prepared for the freezing Arctic waters. Arctic Kingdom was the only Expedition company that I saw offered me the opportunity to dive and, dive with the Narwhal. Arctic Kingdom provided great accommodations that made the experience very comfortable. Remember you are camped on the floe edge ice. I think this comfort helps you rejuvenate your energy to tackle the cold water each day. And the great food did not hurt either.
Thanks Todd! We look forward to seeing more examples of your skillful work in the future.
Steven Amstrup of the US Geological Survey in Anchorage, Alaska, and his colleagues looked at models of future sea ice circulation and found no evidence of a ‘tipping point’ of warming beyond which the ice will disappear irreversibly. So bringing greenhouse-gas emissions under control, they write, should help to preserve polar-bear habitat and Arctic ecosystems at large.
Certain aspects of this research ties directly to the goal of protecting areas from oil exploration and drilling, a point of view both the Canadian and American governments have taken direct action to support in recent months.
Some spots in the Arctic are predicted to stay ice-covered for longer than their surroundings. Melanie Smith, a landscape ecologist with conservation group Audubon Alaska in Anchorage who has compiled an atlas of Arctic waters but was not at this week’s meeting, says that there are two areas of shallow water in the Chukchi Sea between Siberia and Alaska that are protected from melting until late summer each year: Hanna Shoal in US waters and Herald Shoal in Russian waters. Warm currents from the south are diverted around these 10,000-square-kilometre shoals, making them 1–2 ºC cooler than their surrounding waters.
Smith notes that the oil company Shell, based in The Hague, The Netherlands, applied for a permit to drill in the Hanna Shoal area in 2010, although the project has stopped moving forwards since the US government clamped down on offshore oil drilling after the Gulf of Mexico spill in April. Smith doesn’t know whether a rig itself would have an impact on wildlife seeking refuge on ice in a shoal, but says that it would be disastrous for an oil spill to occur in the only remaining suitable patch of habitat for local animals such as walruses.
Via zooborns (a blog tirelessly dedicated to the documentation of adorable baby animals) we learn that Shedd Aquarium recently celebrating the one year birthday of their baby Beluga calf, Nunavik. This ‘little’ guy weighs in at 450 lbs and is healthy, despite some initial issues upon his birth.
They’ve also shared this video of Nunavik’s birth – it’s a touch graphic but fascinating to watch!
The bowhead highway…one highway you won’t mind being stuck on.
Imagine seeing the largest whales of the Arctic Ocean, breaching, spyhopping, and finning (waving their fins while on their side) – from within meters away. Add in herds of walrus, surrounded by lands steeped in Inuit history and culture – all within arms reach…literally.
Join Arctic Kingdom expedition director Thomas Lennartz for a virtual tour of one of the best locations to view bowhead whales as they wait for the floe edge near Igloolik/Hall Beach to break up. In addition there will be at times hundreds of walrus floating on pans of ice.
On this webinar:
For related trip details visit:
Bowhead Whales, Walrus and Polar Bears of the Foxe Basin
The editors at National Geographic voted this purple little octopus one of the ‘Ten Weirdest New Animals’ of 2010. It’s one of 11 potential new species discovered off Canada’s Atlantic coast by researchers doing deep-sea exploration. You can check out the researcher’s blog here, and view more great photos of recent deep sea discoveries from the same area on National Geographic’s website.
I personally find this cute octopus way less weird than some of their other choices, which include a very odd looking bat and a shudder-worthy three-inch long leech.
Don’t forget to register to participate in our free upcoming webinar on December 15, Thomas will be discussing our Bowhead Whales, Walrus and Polar Bears of the Foxe Basin adventure.
This trip is incredible! You’ll see the largest whales of the Arctic Ocean in their natural habitat, breaching, finning – from within a distance of mere meters. Also, herds of walrus, the chance to experience Inuit history and culture, all under the guidance of our knowledgeable and experienced team. Ask your questions during the webinar, or email them ahead of time to thomasarctickingdomcom. We look forward to talking to you!