October 2012 - Arctic Kingdom Polar Expeditions

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So…what’s it really like? – Day # 5

October 29th, 2012 | By | Filed in AK NEWS, Client Reports, Current Events, FEATURED, Featured Trip, IN THE NEWS, Recent Trips, TRIPS, Trips

Day Five - By Liz Fleming After our incredible day and night (hard to distinguish between the two) yesterday, crawling out of our cozy beds was harder this morning, but luckily, breakfast waited for us.  A big feast of eggs and toast and lots of chatter about all that we saw and did the day before and we were soon revved for another trip to the floe edge – on this, the longest day of the year. Our arrival was punctuated by a group of belugas cavorting just off the edge of the ice, so we hurried to get into our dry suits and kayaks to join them, wriggling into dry suits or climbing into the kayaks.  The whales lingered with us for a while, gliding smoothly around the drifting ice chunks, then slowly swam off, leaving us eager for more.  

Arctic Kayaking

 

More Arctic Kayaking

With the belugas gone, we turned our cameras on the huge flocks of birds that swooped overhead.  Though they were all beautiful, my favourites by far were the king eiders with their black and white bodies and brilliant, toucan-like beaks.  It was incredibly peaceful to simply sit in the sun and watch them soar and dive. Peaceful sitting in the sun got old pretty quickly for the four kids in the group, however, so Mike and Tom started an impromptu ice soccer game, using a cushion for a ball.  Despite my basic lack of both ability and competitive spirit, I found myself playing goal – and getting decked by a rampaging Mike!  I laughed so hard I could barely get up. Brett, our crazy Aussie pal, had brought a kite and his flip-flops (what else would you pack for an Arctic adventure?) and put them both to use that afternoon.  The reds and yellows of the kite were like bright streaks of paint against the white landscape and the blue sky. Though a duck hybrid dropped by to fascinate Jens the biologist, other wildlife proved elusive for the rest of the afternoon.  Still tired from the night before, we were content to head back for dinner at what seemed like the early hour of 8pm.  When the sun never stops shining, you lose all track of time. Back at the camp, Chef Andrew had a great dinner waiting – and Tom and Mike had more treats in store.  One of the guides had agreed to tell us the story of his family and their life in the north…speaking in Inuktituk.  Billy, another guide, sat beside him to translate what was a harrowing story of devastating hardships.  The guide’s grandparents had traveled for two years from a tiny, remote community to make their home in Pond Inlet.  The grandfather was sick throughout the trip and unable to hunt, so the grandmother carried the burden of the family alone. Often going without food, the family lost six of their seven children during the course of the journey – those who remained survived only because the desperate woman managed to kill a walrus. As we listened, we could hardly believe that anyone could live through such terrible challenges – or that the grandson whose mother was the only child to survive that epic journey could tell the story in such a matter-of-fact way.  We were coming to realize that life in the high Arctic is unlike anything experienced anywhere else.

Landscape of ice

   

Lakehead & Arctic Kingdom published in Northern Review on the potential for polar bear tourism with the James Bay Cree.

October 23rd, 2012 | By | Filed in AK NEWS

A collaborative project involving Graham Dickson from Arctic Kingdom and Harvey Lemelin, a researcher at Lakehead University is featured in the spring 2012 special issue of the Northern Review. The Northern Review is an academic journal administered through Yukon College. The article entitled Examining the Potentials of Wildlife Tourism in Eeyou Istchee, Northern Quebec, Canada and co-authored by Harvey Lemelin and Graham Dickson examines the potential of developing small-scale wildlife tourism opportunities featuring polar bear viewing in Eeyou Istchee (Cree for The People's Land), the traditional territory of the James Bay Cree in Northern Quebec. Gathering data from a site assessment conducted in the later winter of 2011, the article suggests that access to polar bears through the Twin Islands Sanctuary may provide an opportunity for the Cree community of Wemindji to distinguish itself from similar offerings by combining wildlife tourism and Aboriginal tourism, and by developing a product that showcases their knowledge and management approach to wildlife. The journal and article is available online at: http://journals.sfu.ca/nr/index.php/nr/issue/view/16/showToc For additional information please contact Graham Dickson or Harvey Lemelin (807-343-8745, [email protected]).

So…what’s it really like? – Day # 4

October 9th, 2012 | By | Filed in AK NEWS, Client Reports, Current Events, FEATURED, Featured Trip, IN THE NEWS, Recent Trips, TRIPS, Trips

Day Four – By Liz Fleming We woke to an unexpectedly damp camp.  The sun had come out and was shining brilliantly (yay!) but the sunbeams, in combination with a warm wind, were turning the surface of the ice to melt-water and causing our camp manager Simon grief.  Not to worry.  This was a man who’s spent a good chunk of his life navigating Antarctica, largely without support – a little water was no match for him. In no time, Simon had produced an enormous auger and was drilling holes down to the sea below the ice, creating a superb drainage system.  He also, quite unexpectedly, created a whole new form of adventure for the guys in the group who all wanted to take a turn with the auger and seemed fascinated by watching the water get sucked down the hole. With the water situation well in hand, we again loaded the komatiks and headed for the floe edge.  We’d only just gotten underway when our convoy came to a halt and the guides all jumped from their snowmobiles.  They’d seen polar bear tracks in the snow.

Furiously snapping away with our cameras, we marveled at the huge footprints.  The guides scanned the horizon with the binoculars and finally spotted the maker of the prints far in the distance – he was hard to see as he blended so well with the landscape.  After a few moments, he seemed satisfied and ambled off. We hopped back in the komatiks and continued our journey to the floe edge. Today was our day! The sun was blazing overhead and the water seemed filled with life. Tom, Mike and the guides hauled out the toys for the day – kayaks, paddles, survival suits, drysuits, snorkels, masks – everything we needed to get up close and personal with the whales, narwhals and seals we could see just beyond the edge of the ice. If you’ve never wriggled into a dry suit, let me tell you, it’s a trick that’s best achieved by removing all your hair and perhaps your ears as well.  Because the seal has to be complete to keep the frigid water from rushing in, necks and cuffs are incredibly tight.  We took turns torturing one another, stuffing heads and hands and feet through the rubber openings as we fought our way into the suits – and we laughed ourselves sick while we were at it. My best moment of what proved to be an absolutely incredible day, filled with every kind of Arctic wildlife I’d ever dreamed of seeing came when two enormous, browny-grey narwhals surfaced on either side of my kayak.  I raised my paddle and laid it across the gunwales so I wouldn’t disturb them, while my heart tried to beat its way out of my chest. It was a moment I’ll never forget…but only a taste of what was yet to come. After hours of snorkeling and kayaking in the endless sunshine, we were reluctantly packing up the komatiks to head back to the camp for dinner when suddenly the water erupted.  Beluga whales – dozens of them – were breaching.  We abandoned the komatiks and raced to the edge of the water where we could see our new playmates arriving – gigantic bowhead whales had joined the belugas.  The excitement in the group was off the chart. Later that night, following a toast to Simon, who’d created an entire small city’s working drainage system in our absence and secured all of our tents, we were still so pumped that going to bed just wasn’t an option.  Heading out with Mike and Tom, we hiked our neighbourhood icebergs, leapt like ballet dancers off icy outcrops and took turns photographing one another’s reflections on the lenses of our sunglasses.  It was long past 2am when we finally fell asleep in our beds listening to the winds whipping the sides of our tents, still reeling from the glory of our incredibly Arctic day.
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