May 2011 - Arctic Kingdom Polar Expeditions

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BLOG: Archive for May, 2011

The Arctic Light, Captured By Terje Sorgjerd

May 31st, 2011 | By | Filed in Art, IN THE NEWS

Artist Terje Sorgjerd shares another video, capturing the stunning beauty of the high north. This film was shot between April 29 and May 10th, 2011 on the Lofoten archipelago in Norway. He comments on the logistics of this work -
My favorite natural phenomenon is one I do not even know the name of, even after talking to meteorologists and astrophysicists I am none the wiser.What I am talking about I have decided to call The Arctic Light and it is a natural phenomenon occurring 2-4 weeks before you can see the Midnight Sun. The Sunset and Sunrise are connected in one magnificent show of color and light lasting from 8 to 12 hours. The sun is barely going below the horizon before coming up again. This is the most colorful light that I know, and the main reason I have been going up there for the last 4 years, at the exact same time of year, to photograph. Based on previous experience, I knew this was going to be a very difficult trip. Having lost a couple of cameras and some other equipment up there before, it was crucial to bring an extra set of everything. I also made sure I had plenty of time in case something went wrong. If you can imagine roping down mountain cliffs, or jumping around on slippery rocks covered in seaweed with 2 tripods, a rail, a controller, camera, lenses, filters and rigging for 4-5 hour long sequences at a time, and then having to calculate the rise and fall of the tides in order to capture the essence - it all proved bit of a challenge.
Don't miss our previous posted film by Terje, of the Aurora Borealis.

Expedition Watch – ‘Polar Ring’

May 25th, 2011 | By | Filed in Mechanized Vehicles, TECHNOLOGY

Beginning in 2002, the Polar Ring expedition project has worked towards their goal of exploration and research while testing cross-country vehicles to be used in the arctic area. Their site details the three completed legs of this journey, the most recent concluded in some frustration due to poor weather conditions - but the project is hardly a failure.
The organizers of the "Polar Ring" project intend to retrace the steps of the first explorers to link all the northern continents by the thread of one route, that will cross the most difficult Arctic regions of Europe, Asia and America. It will become a sort of relay between millenniums, symbol of a "Dialog Between Civilizations", a program supported by the United Nations.
Their blog is well worth a read, they discuss daily life in the field, logistical planning, and problems they face and overcome. If you've ever wondered what participating in a polar expedition would be like, this is one way to get a glimpse. The following video (with a very catchy soundtrack) was shot during stage three of the expedition, and shows some of the unique vehicles they're using.

Signs Of Climate Change

May 22nd, 2011 | By | Filed in Current Events, Global Warming, IN THE NEWS, SCIENCE

We've talked here before about scientists working closely with indigenous people to gain a fuller understanding of how weather patterns are changing. Who better to notice even the smallest shift in weather events than people who've inhabited a place for many generations; carefully preserving such knowledge? Unfortunately, climate change is occurring, and it's those same people who are at the forefront to be affected. This story from The Globe and Mail highlights how the combination of local knowledge and scientific research can help solidify a theory. In September of 1999, Inuvialuit people living in the Mackenzie Delta of the Northwest Territories were astounded by an extremely violent Arctic Ocean storm which headed inland 20 kilometers, destroying crops and mingling salt water with fresh. The elders claimed that no such event had ever occurred before in their people's history.
Events of these kinds can be considered possible 'harbingers' of what's to come in the future, as sea levels rise, weather patterns change, and the ice melts.

Norway Seeking To Raise The Wrecked ‘Maud’

May 20th, 2011 | By | Filed in Arctic History, Current Events, IN THE NEWS

Here’s how the Maud looked in the early 1900s when Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen wanted to the drift with the Maud through the Northeast Passage. (COURTESY/ FRAM MUSEUM via Nunatsiaq Online))

Cambridge Bay's mayor, Syd Glawson, is opposed to a plan backed by wealthy Norwegian investors to raise the 80 year-old wreck of the 'Maud'. This local tourist attraction is the ship of explorer Roald Amundsen, the first European explorer to make it through the Northwest Passage in 1906 and to the South Pole in 1911. Nunatsiaq online reports -
Officials from Parks Canada, the Government of Nunavut, and the International Polar Heritage Committee, whose president, Susan Barr, works in Oslo, are also wary of the plan to take the Maud away from Nunavut. But the Norwegians are serious, Barr told Nunatsiaq News during a recent interview in Oslo. Bringing the Maud back to Norway is all about the enduring hoopla that surrounds their home-grown polar hero Roald Amundsen, the first European explorer to make it through the Northwest Passage in 1906 and to the South Pole in 1911. “A future Maud Museum… will present the remains of the ship, which will become a national treasure, well taken care of,” says a website called maudreturnshome.no. The plan is to raise the Maud from underwater with balloons, drag the hulk over to a barge and bring it back to Norway — a 7,000-kilometre journey. To that end, a Norwegian investment company, Tandberg Eiendom AS, has already purchased a barge and is willing to spend $5 to $6 million — or more — to bring the Maud back to Norway. Espen Tandberg of the company Tandberg Eiendom AS recently told the Norwegian broadcasting organization NRK that patriotism and cultural history are the driving forces behind its plan to bring the Maud back to Norway. The wrecked Maud actually belongs to the Norwegian community of Asker, a wealthy seaside suburb of Oslo, which bought the Maud, as is, for $1 back in 1990.

Arctic Plankton Blooming Early

May 13th, 2011 | By | Filed in Global Warming, IN THE NEWS, SCIENCE

Significant trends toward earlier phytoplankton blooms (blue) were detected in about 11 percent of the area of the Arctic Ocean closest to the North Pole, delayed blooms (red) were evident to the south. Graphic via. Scripps Website
Researchers at Scripps Oceanography are publishing their discovery that arctic plankton 'blooms' are occurring much earlier in the spring, theoretically due to climate change. This shift could cause shifts in the food-chain as well as in carbon cycles of the region. These plankton blooms create micro-organisms, which in turn photosynthesize, converting carbon dioxide to organic matter as part of a global cycle. The blooms also create microscopic zooplankton, a supply of food for fish.
The earlier Arctic blooms have roughly occurred in areas where ice concentrations have dwindled and created gaps that make early blooms possible, say the researchers, who publish their findings in the March 9 edition of the journal Global Change Biology. During the one- to two-week spring bloom, which occurs in warm as well as cold regions, a major influx of new organic carbon enters the marine ecosystem through a massive peak in phytoplankton photosynthesis, which converts carbon dioxide into organic matter as part of the global carbon cycle. Phytoplankton blooms stimulate production of zooplankton, microscopic marine animals, which become a food source for fish. Mati Kahru, lead author of the study and a research oceanographer in the Integrative Oceanography Division at Scripps, said it's not clear if the consumers of phytoplankton are able to match the earlier blooms and avoid disruptions of their critical life-cycle stages such as egg hatching and larvae development. "The trend towards earlier phytoplankton blooms can expand into other areas of the Arctic Ocean and impact the whole food chain," say the authors, who used satellite data from 1997-2010 to create their bloom maps.

An Octopus Ballet

May 11th, 2011 | By | Filed in SCIENCE

According to boingboing.net, this is a new  'genre' - at least on youtube, of setting footage of the uncanny movements of octopus to a classical music soundtrack.
In this video, produced by the University of Washington, we dive into waters 200 miles off the Oregon coast and find a ghostly white octopus frolicking near a hydrothermal vent.
It works, don't you think? The animal in this particular film is a Grimpoteuthis bathynectes, or 'Dumbo octopus'. According to the information posted with the video, its ears are being used as fins to help it move through the water.

More IceBridge Images!

May 10th, 2011 | By | Filed in Current Events, IN THE NEWS, SCIENCE

Operation IceBridge has concluded, but the information gathered by the teams is just now beginning to be analyzed. Here's a few stunning photographs shared by NASA Goddard on their flickr stream.

On April 18, IceBridge flew its 22nd flight of the Arctic 2011 campaign. Crew navigated the rugged topography of southeast Greenland to survey the region’s fjords. Credit: NASA/Michael Studinger

Between science waypoints during Operation IceBridge’s flight on April 29, 2011, the P-3 flew over the wreck of a B-29 named Kee Bird that crash-landed in Greenland in 1947. Operation IceBridge, now in its third year, makes annual campaigns in the Arctic and Antarctic where science flights monitor glaciers, ice sheets and sea ice. Credit: NASA/Michael Studinger

During the B200’s deployment for the Arctic 2011 campaign of Operation IceBridge, scientists onboard the aircraft photographed the P-3 – the mission’s other flying laboratory – taxiing toward the runway in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. The P-3 is rounding the left corner of the ramp. Credit: NASA/LVIS team

Introducing The Pizzly Bear

May 6th, 2011 | By | Filed in Arctic Animals, IN THE NEWS, SCIENCE

polar/Brown Bear adult hybrid. Rothschild Museum, Tring, England. Photography by Sarah Hartwell, distributed under GNU Free Documentation License.

Also known as a "grolar bear", the Pizzly is a rare hybrid of polar and grizzly bears, occasionally found in the wild as well as in captivity. Slate.com reports that recently scientists were able to confirm a strange bear shot by an Inuvialuit hunter was indeed, a pizzly. This raises a  question as to why these two different species are able to create fertile offspring. Unlike, for example, a horse and a donkey.
Because they have more recent common ancestry. When geographical barriers—such as rising sea levels or retracting ice flo es—separate populations, they may develop genetic, physiological, or behavioral differences; changes in chromosome structure or number; differently shaped genitalia; or incompatible mating times and rituals—any of which can prevent successful reproduction. Take horses and donkeys, which probably diverged about 2.4 million years ago. Horses have 64 chromosomes, while donkeys have 62, and when they mate, their chromosomes don't pair up properly, inhibiting meiosis in their offspring. As a result, mules are sterile. Brown bears and polar bears, by contrast, evolved from the same ancestor only about 150,000 years ago—a relatively brief period—and have not developed significant genetic differences. The prevailing theory holds that polar bears diverged from brown bears at the end of the last ice age (the Pleistocene), when a population followed retreating ice northward. As they adapted to their new arctic home, the separated population lost the brown bear's hump and developed the polar bear's characteristic hair (which is actually clear), narrower shoulders, longer neck, smaller head, and partially webbed toes. Despite appearances, polar bears and grizzlies are still genetically quite similar. In fact, there are multiple instances of the two species successfully interbreeding in zoos.
The answer to why we don't see this kind of interbreeding more frequently lies primarily in geographical separation, along with differences in timing when it comes to mating season. Scientists suspect we may see more cross-breeding, including among marine mammals, as climate change forces groups of animals to re-locate into territories already inhabited by similar species.
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