September 24th, 2011 | By Jason Hillier | Filed in Uncategorized
A recent article on New Scientist
highlights how global changes in temperature are affecting life beneath the ocean.
The article notes how the opening of the Northwest Passage, long rendered nearly impassible by dense blocks of ice, has made it possible for animals -- such as bowhead whales -- to move across the the continent. This may be one of the rare bits of good news to come about in the wake of global climate change, as Mads Peter Heide-Jørgensen of the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources
in Nuuk noticed when two bowheads tagged on opposite sides of the Arctic met inViscount Melville Sound, near Baffin Bay in Nunavut. As the article relates,
Heide-Jørgensen thinks whales have been sneaking through, undetected, since the ice began to retreat. The Greenland population, once decimated by whalers, has grown suspiciously fast since 2000, and Heide-Jørgensen suspects the hand of immigration from Alaska. That's perfectly possible, saysAviad Scheinin of the University of Haifa in Israel. In May 2010, he spotted a Pacific grey whale in the Mediterranean Sea, which probably got there via the Arctic. Further evidence of links between Atlantic and Pacific ecosystems comes from Cambridge bay in Nunavut, Canada, where pods of narwhals appeared on 15 August. They do not normally venture so far west, but shrinking ice seems to be changing that.
But what's good news for whales is bad news for polar bears
and walruses, and for the Inuit who rely on the floe-edge ecosystem for their own survival and that of their cultural traditions. As sea ice decreases, the walrus are running out of places to breed
and polar bears are finding it harder and harder to hunt for food
. Rapid changes could spell the end for the arctic as we know it.
September 19th, 2011 | By Jason Hillier | Filed in Arctic History, SCIENCE
The ancient arctic was nothing like the frozen north we know today. Warm, with subtropical conditions, its prehistoric waters might have appeared a little more inviting than the icy deeps we know today (though personally, we're partial to the icy deep).
That is, until you get a load of what lurked beneath. The recent discovery of 375-million-year-old fish fossil on Ellesmere Island up in Nunavut reveals that the subtropical paradise was home to a large predatory fish. According to Live Science,
The lobe-finned fish, now called Laccognathus embryi, probably grew to about 5 or 6 feet long (1.5 to 1.8 meters) and had a wide head with small eyes and robust jaws lined with large piercing teeth. The beast was likely a bottom-dweller, waiting on the seafloor to lunge at prey passing by.
The Laccoganthus embryi
, in addition to its intimidating jaws, was a lobe-finned
fish, sporting what scientists believe might have been an early evolutionary stage in the development of limbs. Another transitional fish (believed to be the "missing link" between fish and land animals) was previously discovered in the same location, leading scientists to believe that they interacted, and even competed for food.
But for me, the takeaway is this: There are some amazing things lurking beneath Arctic waters. But luckily? The fossil record is as close as we'll get to this.
Image credit: Jason Poole/ANSP
Read more over at Live Science
September 13th, 2011 | By Jason Hillier | Filed in Current Events, IN THE NEWS, SCIENCE
Last week's solar flares made for some fantastic aurora displays in the Northern Hemisphere. And according to Space.com
, skywatchers in northern climates can expect more of the same, as intermittent geomagnetic storms stir things up once again.
The auroras are a fixture of Arctic nights, and can often make a spectacular backdrop to a night at camp, as seen in the photo above, from an AK expedition to Torngat.
But Arctic isn't even the most extreme spot to view the auroras. Space.com reports that they're visible from the International space station, as well.
This photo was taken last week by NASA astronaut Ron Garan:
I guess we'll just have to content ourselves with having access to some of the best views on Earth.
September 7th, 2011 | By Jason Hillier | Filed in Current Events, IN THE NEWS, Mechanized Vehicles, TECHNOLOGY
In the popular imagination, the phrase 'Arctic transport' most likely conjures up images from another century: sleds pulled by teams of dogs, or ships locked in ice. But shipping companies are looking to another retro-seeming vehicle to revolutionize the future of Arctic air transport: The zeppelin.
For miners and others doing remote operations, the airships can save time and money by transporting up to 50 tonnes of cargo across Canada's north -- eliminating the need for heavy trucks and roads. Plus, these ships are tough. The Vancouver Sun notes,
Airships today use a combination of lighter-than-air helium instead of hydrogen, a highly flammable gas, and they're built with tough "space-age" fibres, like spectra, up to 10 times stronger than steel of equivalent weight.
Discovery Air Innovations hopes to roll out the airships, which will deliver freight at one-quarter the cost of other methods, by the year 2014. Even better, the airships will utilize "clean" energy to minimize the impact on the environment.
Airships on their way to Canada's North (Vancouver Sun)
Airships could prove a lifeline in the Arctic (Wired)