March 2011 - Arctic Kingdom Polar Expeditions

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BLOG: Archive for March, 2011

NASA Surveys Arctic Ice

March 29th, 2011 | By | Filed in Current Events, IN THE NEWS

Project 'IceBridge' 2011 has officially begun. This internationally collaborative effort will consist of a number of flyover missions intended to gather extensive data on the current condition of Arctic ice. Science Daily reports -
Since 2009, Operation IceBridge has flown annual campaigns over the Arctic starting in March and over Antarctica starting in October. The mission extends the multi-year record of ice elevation measurements made by NASA's Ice Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat), which stopped collecting data in 2009, and the upcoming ICESat-2, scheduled for launch in 2016. "Each successive IceBridge campaign has broadened in scope," said IceBridge project scientist Michael Studinger of Goddard Earth Sciences and Technology Center at the University of Maryland. "This year, we have more flight hours and flight plans than ever before. We are looking forward to a busy, fruitful campaign." The first science flight is scheduled for this week, pending favorable weather. For almost 10 weeks, researchers will operate an array of airborne instruments collecting data over Arctic land and sea ice. Among the highest priority flights is an overnight transit to Fairbanks, Alaska, to collect sea ice thickness data across a slice of the Arctic Ocean. Sea ice is thought to be thinning in recent years in addition to shrinking in the area covered. Another high-priority flight plan is to fly over the Barnes and Devon ice caps of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

On March 14, the P-3B carried Operation IceBridge scientists and instruments from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., to Thule Air Base in Greenland, where the Arctic 2011 campaign will be based. Credit: (Credit: NASA/Jim Yungel)

Reuters Photographer Discusses Arctic Journey

March 28th, 2011 | By | Filed in IN THE NEWS

Photographer Lucas Jackson has posted a terrific write-up of his recent trip to the Arctic on the Reuters photographers blog. Mr. Jackson was on assignment to cover a story on the U.S. Navy's Arctic base-camp. He discusses life in camp, the specific gear he chose for this project, as well as some of the practical difficulties of cold-weather photography such as short battery life issues with lenses fogging due to dramatic temperature variation. You can view a slideshow of some of the stunning images he captured here, on the Reuters website. From his post -
The camp is a support base for the U.S. Navy and exists to understand how best submarines, sonar systems, and underwater communications can work in such a harsh environment. When I was asked if this was something I would be interested in, I of course said yes. Who wouldn’t like to go to the Arctic, sleep in a plywood hutch, and go underneath the ice in a nuclear submarine? Thus began the mad rush to prepare for a trip into some of the most extreme conditions I have ever worked in. It was a rush to organize all of the base layers, fleece layers, wool socks, jackets, insulated pants, and other assorted necessaries before sitting down to pack the equipment I would need. Camera-wise I wanted to be prepared for anything; from wide angle images of the ice-pack to photographing a polar bear from a comfortable distance (in the off-chance that I actually saw one, they are rare to see this time of year.) I sat down and assembled the kit into my backpack, including three cameras, five lenses and assorted batteries, memory cards and chargers.

Cruising Arctic Waters

March 24th, 2011 | By | Filed in AK PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Once the sole domain of ice breakers and commercial shipping, the Northwest Passage has become a more popular travel destination in recent years. Increased awareness in the region has inspired tourists, cruise ship companies, and private boat owners to head up to the Arctic to enjoy unparalleled scenery and wildlife. Recently, locals of the Pond Inlet, Nunavut region were a little surprised when a private luxury yacht - the Octopus, anchored for a few days near Baffin Island.

Octopus arrives Juneau, Alaska from Iceland via Northwest Passage. Photo by gillfoto on flickr, licensed under Creative Commons

While luxury mega-yachts such as the Octopus aren't seen every day, privately owned vessels are becoming more common in the Arctic area. Boating these seas can be tricky, even with the aid of modern technology. Cruise ships have been known to run aground and require assistance from the Canadian coastguard. Travel in this area requires local experience (and a boat with a strengthened hull.) The Arctic Kingdom team welcomes all inquiries from boat owners seeking to travel via private yacht. Our services range from pre-trip planning, advising you on ideal stops and dive opportunities, to facilitating opportunities and transportation to get off boat and on the ice to view animals. We offer a diverse range of pre-planned private trips, as well as the option for custom adventures - if you can dream it, chances are we can accommodate or even exceed your expectations. Specialized travel requires unique equipment, we supply the clothing you'll need, outfit a campsite for off-boat adventures, and bring our tender boats to use in area lacking piers - or to save your own boats the wear and tear of negotiating pack ice. Our air boats are ideal for exploring close to shore and can potentially be transported right on board a private vessel. Arctic Kingdom has worked with groups and organizations of all scopes and sizes, from filming with National Geographic crews to custom family trips. We've provided support for treks to the North Pole, shot music videos on remote islands, and gone hot air ballooning in Lancaster Sound. If you've got an adventure in mind, contact us. We can help make it happen.

Amazing Aurora Borealis Video

March 24th, 2011 | By | Filed in IN THE NEWS

Via boingboing, landscape photographer Terje Sorgjerd spent a week in the wilderness around the Norway-Russia border to shoot this exceptional time-lapse video of the Aurora. Terje says -
Shot in and around Kirkenes and Pas National Park bordering Russia, at 70 degree north and 30 degrees east. Temperatures around -25 Celsius. Good fun.

1961 Antarctic Explorer Operates On Himself

March 23rd, 2011 | By | Filed in Arctic History, IN THE NEWS

The setting - 1961. Antarctica. Novolazarevskay, the recently constructed Russian base housing the sixth Soviet expedition to the south pole. The goal of the 12 men expedition was to build the inland base and winter there, completely cut off from the outside world. But then their physician began to fall ill. The Atlantic shares this harrowing account of Russian surgeon Leonid Rogozov and his auto-appendectomy -
He noticed symptoms of weakness, malaise, nausea, and, later, pain in the upper part of his abdomen, which shifted to the right lower quadrant. His body temperature rose to 37.5°C.1 2 Rogozov wrote in his diary:

“It seems that I have appendicitis. I am keeping quiet about it, even smiling. Why frighten my friends? Who could be of help? A polar explorer’s only encounter with medicine is likely to have been in a dentist’s chair.”

As a surgeon Rogozov had no difficulty diagnosing acute appendicitis. In this situation, however, it was a cruel trick of fate. He knew that if he was to survive he had to undergo an operation. But he was in the frontier conditions of a newly founded Antarctic colony on the brink of the polar night. Transportation was impossible. Flying was out of the question, because of the snowstorms. And there was one further problem: he was the only physician on the base.
All possible treatments were attempted, taking medicine and cooling his body. It soon became clear that an operation was his only chance for survival, and only Rogozov was qualified to undertake the task.
Operating mostly by feeling around, Rogozov worked for an hour and 45 minutes, cutting himself open and removing the appendix. The men he'd chosen as assistants watched as the "calm and focused" doctor completed the operation, resting every five minutes for a few seconds as he battled vertigo and weakness.
What an amazing story of human determination! You can read more (gory) details of this account on the Atlantic article, there's also some slightly graphic black and white photos from a case study account on the British Medical Journal's website.

NOAA Releases Arctic Plan

March 17th, 2011 | By | Filed in Conservation, Current Events, IN THE NEWS, SCIENCE

More encouraging news for conservation and scientific interest in the arctic areas, Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D, administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as well as under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere announced the NOAA's strategy to focus on scientific and stewardship efforts beginning now through 2017. This declaration came as part of a keystone address given to the Aspen Institute in Washington.
“The Arctic is at once a majestic, harsh, and fragile environment. It’s the region where we are seeing the most rapid and dramatic changes in the climate. And these regional changes have global implications,” said Lubchenco. “NOAA’s Arctic plan builds on our research history in that region to prepare us for a changing Arctic that will affect our economic, environmental, and strategic interests. The time to refocus our efforts is now and strong local, regional and international partnerships are required if we are to succeed.”
The NOAA Arctic Vision and Strategy lists six goals:
  • Forecast sea ice
  • Strengthen foundational science to understand and detect Arctic climate and ecosystem changes
  • Improve weather and water forecasts and warnings
  • Enhance international and national partnerships
  • Improve stewardship and management of ocean and coastal resources in the Arctic
  • Advance resilient and healthy Arctic communities and economies

Robotic Snowmobiles To Aid Researchers

March 16th, 2011 | By | Filed in Arctic History, Global Warming, IN THE NEWS, SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY

The SnoMote Rob Felt/Georgia Institute of Technology

These little robots are useful - and cute! Called 'SnoMotes', these tiny, remote-controlled snowmobiles were developed to help scientists gather climate change data in areas too dangerous or fragile for human exploration. Designed to work as a team, the robots can monitor specific target areas, and are fitted with sensors as well as cameras to help navigate terrain - while sending back important data to scientists at a home base. Popsci.com reports -
The current version of the SnoMote, built by Georgia Tech engineer Ayanna Howard (who previously worked on NASA’s autonomous Mars rovers), was field tested last month on Alaska’s Mendenhall Glacier. If you’re thinking the SnoMote looks suspiciously like a toy—well, it is. The three prototypes, each just two feet long, were engineered from off-the-shelf remote control snowmobile kits and souped up with advanced electronics and monitoring equipment. Despite their humble origins, they withstood the harsh Alaskan conditions just fine. The final version of the SnoMote is expected to be twice as large and include a heater to keep the circuits from icing up. The idea is to deploy a fleet of 30 or 40 SnoMotes in the Arctic or Antarctica to give researchers comprehensive real-time data concerning climate change. They’re designed to be cheap enough that an accident or two won’t bust the budget.
SnoMotes are currently being tested in the field, with one researcher starting a blog to report in on some of their results - Snowmote.blogspot.com. Eurekalert shares more information on the development of the SnoMote -

Ayanna Howard, an associate professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech, with a SnoMote. Photo by Rob Felt/Georgia Institute of Technology

“In order to say with certainty how climate change affects the world’s ice, scientists need accurate data points to validate their climate models,” said Ayanna Howard, lead on the project and an associate professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech. “Our goal was to create rovers that could gather more accurate data to help scientists create better climate models. It’s definitely science-driven robotics.” Howard, who previously worked with rovers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is working with Magnus Egerstedt, an associate professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Derrick Lampkin, an assistant professor in the Department of Geography at Penn State who studies ice sheets and how changes in climate contribute to changes in these large ice masses. Lampkin currently takes ice sheet measurements with satellite data and ground-based weather stations, but would prefer to use the more accurate data possible with the simultaneous ground measurements that efficient rovers can provide.

Arctic Kaleidoscope Exhibit In Ottawa

March 14th, 2011 | By | Filed in IN THE NEWS

© Michelle Valberg, Photo from the Museum of Nature website

If you find yourself in Ottawa, or are a native, consider taking a trip to the Canadian Museum of Nature to see this exhibit of arctic landscape photography by artist Michelle Valberg. The show is up now through May 29th and is free with museum admission. From the Museum of Nature description -
With her keen eye and intuitive style, Valberg transports us through her lens to reveal the true paradox of life in the North—a place of severe climate and isolation, but also one of unimaginable beauty and hope. This exhibition is an expression of her passionate belief that we all have a role to play in protecting the environment. By offering this visual journey to the land of ice and snow, its wildlife and Inuit people, she hopes others will be inspired to preserve this unique part of Canada.

© Michelle Valberg, Photo from the Museum of Nature website

More examples of this stunning photography can be viewed in a promotional video for the show -

Grass Drags – Snowmobile Racing Without Snow

March 10th, 2011 | By | Filed in Mechanized Vehicles

Have you heard of a Grass Drag? I hadn't either until Graham emailed me about this snowmobile sport. These people have solved the age-old question of what to do with your vehicle during those pesky seasons lacking in snow. Store it in the garage? What a waste. Pretty rocking soundtrack on this video! The New Hampshire Snowmobile Association website posts their rules for competitors, in case you aspire to be a grass drag racer.

Early Color Photography of Shackleton’s Antarctica

March 10th, 2011 | By | Filed in Arctic History, IN THE NEWS

Kodak has a really amazing interactive website up, telling the story of early Antarctic photography and exploration, specifically focusing on photographer Frank Hurley's work on Shackleton's infamous 1914-1916 trip. The site contains a wealth of information on the day to day realities of polar exploration back then, so very different than what we experience today utilizing the latest modern technology, vehicles, and warm weather gear.
From England the Endurance sails southward via Madeira, Montevideo, and Buenos Aires. There she loads supplies and picks up both Ernest Shackleton, leader of the expedition, and Frank Hurley, an Australian photographer who will film the expedition for Shackleton’s fund-raising Imperial Trans Antarctic Film Syndicate. Hurley had been photographer and filmmaker for Australian explorer Douglas Mawson’s 1911 expedition. Shackleton had picked Hurley after seeing his film of the Mawson expedition, “Home of the Blizzard.” Kodak contributed equipment to the expedition and exhibited Hurley’s photos in Kodak stores.
This site showcases some exceptional examples of early color photography -

The Endurance under full sail held up in the Weddell-Sea, 1915

Frank Hurley considered his color photos “amongst the most valuable records of the expedition.” He was an early user of a method of color photography called the Paget process, which was introduced commercially little more than a year before the Endurance sailed. To make a color photo using the Paget process, Hurley exposed a negative plate through a color screen plate scored with a pattern of dots and lines. He then made a transparency positive by contact-printing the negative. The transparency was then bound to a color screen whose pattern matched that of the screen used in the original exposure. The process was eclipsed by autochrome and later by Kodachrome.

Frank Hurley photographing under the bows of the Endurance

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