July 2015 - Arctic Kingdom Polar Expeditions

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BLOG: Archive for July, 2015

Arctic Foxes: The Clowns of the Tundra

July 31st, 2015 | By | Filed in Uncategorized, Wildlife

Arctic Fox

Photo: R J Sauer


Undoubtedly, the Arctic is not an easy place to survive with its deep-winter frigid temperatures and seemingly barren landscape. Arctic foxes are extremely well-adapted to the harsh environment. They have thick fur which enables them to maintain a consistent body temperature and provides excellent insulation. Their paws have fur on the soles, adding extra protection against the frozen ground and helping them walk on ice. Their noticeably bushy tail is useful as a warm cover. Arctic foxes also have a very compact body shape, with small ears and a short muzzle and legs which minimizes the surface area exposed to winter air.

Arctic Foxes: Excellent Hunters

Arctic foxes are extremely well- known for their hunting style. They use their outstanding hearing to pinpoint small animals moving under the snow, pouncing until they catch their prey. Another advantage for Arctic foxes is that their fur changes colours with the seasons. In the winter, their white fur helps them blend into snowy surroundings while their greyish brown fur is similar to the environment during the summer months. When hunting tactics fail, cheeky Arctic foxes have been known to follow in the footsteps of the premier predator, the polar bear, and feed on leftover scraps.

Quick Stats:

  • The Arctic fox has the warmest pelt of any animal in the Arctic, enduring temperatures as low as -50°C
  • They are carnivores and scavengers
  • Arctic foxes live in underground burrows that can have up to 100 entrances and have likely been used by numerous prior generations
  • Females tend to be smaller than males
  • Arctic foxes are monogamous animals and have one mate for life
  • They don’t hibernate and are active year- round
  • The Arctic fox’s approximate lifespan is three to six years in the wild

Check Them Out!

Interested in checking out the Arctic foxes? Arctic Kingdom offers various trips that allow you to see these stunning creatures including: Polar Bear Migration Fly-In Safari where you go on guided hikes of the tundra. Keep your eye open for the clowns of the tundra. Author: Mandy Ams

Narwhal: Inspiring myths

July 29th, 2015 | By | Filed in Wildlife

Narwhal, Paul Nicklen

At one point in your life, you undoubtedly wanted a pet unicorn. Were your dreams shattered when you realized the closest you would get was taping paper roll to your dog’s forehead? Do you still think about this mythical creature and how you can bring a little magic into your life? It just so happens that the Arctic is home to the next best thing, commonly referred to as ‘Unicorns of the Sea.’ We could only be talking about one whale species... Narwhal!

Narwhal: One or two tusks?

Narwhals are medium- sized grey, spotted whales that have a tusk that’s hard to miss! This tusk is a canine tooth that protrudes from the upper left side of the jaw, hence the likeness to unicorns. All males have tusks, but only about 15% of females do as well. Another interesting detail about the ‘Unicorns of the Sea’ is the magical fact that one in 500 males actually has two tusks. Although you may think narwhals use their tusks in an aggressive nature, this is only reported as an occasional occurrence. Narwhals primarily inhabit the Arctic waters of Canada, Greenland and Russia. They are considered an Arctic predator whose diet changes with the climate. Narwhals migrate annually from bays into the ocean as summer approaches, preferring ice-free water in the summer months. Can you really blame them? In the winter, they move offshore towards thicker ice. Witnessing the migration pattern of this species is truly something that cannot be matched and we highly recommend observing these ‘unicorns’ make their move. You might be wondering how narwhals became known as the ‘Unicorns of the Sea.’ Legend has it that medieval Europeans believed that a narwhal tusk was actually the horn from a unicorn. Because they were considered to have magical curing powers, the Vikings and other northern traders were able to sell the tusks for far more than their weight in gold. Today, narwhals are considered the animal that most closely resembles the mythical unicorn.

Quick Stats:

  • Narwhals are darker when born and become lighter with age
  • Male narwhals have made some of the deepest dives recorded for a marine mammal- up to 4900 feet lasting 25 minutes
  • Males are slightly larger than females
  • Their tusks grow throughout life reaching lengths of over 10 feet
  • Narwhals are a near threatened species because of human actions
  • Their lifespan is approximately 50 years

Check Them Out!

Interested in checking out the narwhals? Arctic Kingdom offers various trips that allow you to see these stunning creatures including: Kayaking in the Narwhal Summer Feeding Grounds where you can witness male narwhals jousting with their tusks! Author: Mandy Ams

Bowhead Whales: Giants of the Arctic

July 27th, 2015 | By | Filed in Wildlife

bowhead, underwater

Photo by Todd Mintz as a bowhead approached in 30' of water

What do you know about bowhead whales? Did you know they hold some remarkable records in the animal kingdom. Like the fact that they’re the longest living mammal on the planet. However, this was not an easy accomplishment as their population was once driven to the edge of extinction by whaling. We happily report that they have managed to survive it all and proved that they have the longevity to prosper in the chilly Arctic waters they inhabit.

This incredible species stands apart from other whales for various reasons. First off, they don’t have a vacation home. Unlike other baleen whales, bowheads are the only species that stays in the Arctic all year. Though they do go on small trips and migrate short distances, they do not travel great distances to feed or reproduce. (Baleen is a system of flexible material that hangs from the mouth of certain species of whales that they use to sieve food from water.) Bowheads are distinctive. They have a dark grey appearance, typically with a patch of white under their jaw. They have a massive boney skull that can break through two feet of Arctic ice. They don’t have a dorsal fin. They do have two blowholes which can spout water approximately 20 feet high. Bowheads also boast the thickest blubber of any animal and the longest baleen of any whale, measuring three meters.

Bowhead Whale Quick Stats:

  • Bowheads are the longest living mammal on the planet (some reaching 150-200 years old)
  • Its massive head is one- third of its body length
  • Bowheads have the largest open mouth of any animal measuring 12 feet high, 16 feet long and 8 feet wide
  • Some bowheads measure 60 feet long and weigh over 70 tonnes
  • Bowheads are generally slow swimmers that can remain submerged in shallow water for up to 40 minutes in a single dive
  • Female bowheads are larger than males
  • Social and non-aggressive mammals that retreat when faced with conflict

Check them out in the wild

Interested in checking out bowheads in the wild? Arctic Kingdom offers various trips that allow you to see these stunning creatures including: Polar Bears and Glaciers of Baffin Island which allows you to visit a newly- discovered molting area! Yes, there are a few spaces left in 2015. Author: Mandy Ams

Cory Trepanier, Canadian Artist, in Iqaluit

July 24th, 2015 | By | Filed in AK NEWS

Cory TrepanierOne of the perks of working in the Canadian Arctic is meeting interesting people, especially artists. There is a long tradition of southern artists travelling the north, camping in remote areas to spend time painting and sketching. Members of Canada's Group of Seven did it eighty years ago. This summer Canadian artist Cory Trepanier is exploring the North, adding to his Into the Arctic Collection. You can read his field journal here.

Cory Trepanier in Iqaluit

Cory En Plein AirCory has kindly sent us a selection of photos depicting him at work en plein air. He is experiencing excellent weather for painting outside, these last weeks of July. We will be posting the photos he shared with us on our Facebook page and Twitter feed. One advantage to artists and photographers of travelling at this time of year to Iqaluit is the long twilight that comes each day the midnight sun shines. A beautiful hue is cast across the landscape that adds magic to a painting or photo. To learn more about visiting Iqaluit for a weekend or a week, visit our Arctic Weekend Getaway section of the website.

Taiga, tundra and Arctic explained

July 21st, 2015 | By | Filed in Landscape

CanadaEcozonesEveryone of us has a mental image of what the Arctic looks like, even if we have never been. Natural Resources Canada divides the Arctic in two: The Northern and Southern Arctic. Their delineation is based on rocks and plants. Baffin Island is in the Northern Arctic ecozone, where as our Polar Bear Cabins are situated in the Southern Arctic ecozone.

Taiga Shield

Caribou in autumnThe Arctic has been described as treeless, yet especially-adapted willows grow, if only a few centimeters high. Taiga, on the other hand, is a region where spindly spruce and fir grow - stark silhouettes against the sky. Taiga is also home to immense wetlands. Our Autumn Caribou and Northern Lights Safari occurs in the Taiga Shield Region.

Ecozone vs. Biome

Tundra is not an ecozone, but it is a type of biome. Biomes being a large type of community defined by a significant vegetation type. Ecozones can be comprised of a number of distinct biomes. You can hike tundra in the Northern Arctic on Baffin Island and in the Southern Arctic around our polar bear cabins. You can visit the Taiga Shield and hike tundra at the same time.

The Canadian Arctic

The Department of Natural Resources definition of the Arctic is not the only definition. Some people define the Arctic as anything north of 60. Others define the Arctic as anything north of the treeline. We, at Arctic Kingdom, think the region may be defined by weather and wildlife.

Polar Bear Migration Fly-in Photo Safari: A Trip for Photographers

July 15th, 2015 | By | Filed in Featured Trip

Mother and cub at twilightI refuse to apologize for some shameless self-promotion, because our Polar Bear Migration Fly-in Photo Safari is an outstanding adventure for wildlife photographers. And...it is exclusive to Arctic Kingdom. That's right. We operate it.

So what makes this Arctic safari special for photographers?

Only 8 people at a time can participate. So you won't be jostling people elbows trying to get that perfect angle for your shot. The electric fence that surrounds the camp is nearly invisible, so you can shoot right through it - at eye level with the polar bears. You are in place to shoot during the dawn and twilight of late autumn. The perfect light for the dedicated photographer.

Are polar bears the only wildlife?

No way! In addition to polar bear mother and cubs, Arctic fox, caribou, wolverine, gyrfalcon, ermine (stoat) and marten inhabit the area around our camp. Arctic foxes are known to nip and tease polar bears. They entertain us every year. Caribou have migrated south from their summer feeding grounds.

Aerial photography is possible

Included in the package price is a charter flight from Churchill to the tundra on which our camp is situated. While air born, if the conditions are good, you are welcome to shoot from the air. Keep an eye open for caribou and polar bear on the ground.

A few spaces are available in 2015

If you want to kick start your wildlife photography career, this is the trip to take. You live in the heart of polar bear alley, in comfortable cabins, with a chef to prepare your meals, while shooting some of the most intimate photos of polar bear behaviour possible. Details are found by clicking here.

Nunavut Day – July 9, 2015

July 8th, 2015 | By | Filed in IN THE NEWS

Experience mushing first hand

Experience mushing first hand

Happy Nunavut Day! July 9th marks the annual celebration of when the Parliament of Canada passed the Nunavut Act and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act in 1993. Nunavut officially split from the Northwest Territories on April 1, 1999, resulting in Nunavut becoming the newest territory in Canada.
This public holiday commemorates the largest and northernmost territory and is celebrated by the organization and participation of many different events. There are communal meals arranged, traditional games and dances, speeches by local leaders, presentations of policies and initiatives and fun competitions to increase the awareness of Nunavut’s history among younger generations.

Did you know: 10 Interesting Facts about Nunavut

- The first people to live in Nunavut were the Inuit - The creation of Nunavut marks the first major change to Canada’s political map since 1949 - Nunavut means ‘our land’ in the Inuit language of Inuktitut - Nunavut’s official languages are Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun, English and French - Nunavut is the largest territory and makes up one fifth of Canada’s land mass - Nunavut is the least populated, yet has the largest surface area in Canada - Species that call Nunavut home are: muskoxen, caribou, polar bears, arctic foxes, whales and seals - The land and the water are frozen most of the year - Nunavut’s resources are diamonds, hunting, fishing, trapping, sealing & arts and crafts - Nunavut was the last province/territory in Canada to have a Tim Hortons, the first one opened in December 2010

Nunavut's Emblems

The official flower is the Purple Saxifrage. The official bird is the Rock Ptarmigan and the official animal is the Canadian Inuit Dog. Author: Mandy Ams

Birders: The Arctic is teeming with #birds

July 8th, 2015 | By | Filed in Uncategorized

MurresBirders, Bylot Island is a Migratory Bird Sanctuary off the northern tip of Baffin Island. Located 25 kilometres (16 miles) north of Pond Inlet, across Eclipse Sound, visits to the Sanctuary are conducted during our Narwhal and Polar Bear Safari. The island is nesting habitat for large numbers of Thick-billed Murres and Black-legged Kittiwakes. Moist lowland tundra on the island welcomes migrating songbirds, shorebirds and waterfowl. Bylot Island has the largest breeding colony of Greater Snow Geese in the Canadian High Arctic. A total of 74 unique species of arctic birds thrive can be seen on the island.

Birders are welcome in the autumn too.

Our Autumn Caribou and Northern Lights Safari is an opportunity to visit the transitional boreal landscape of southern Nunavut. As the caribou migrate so does the Lapland Larkspur, one of the birds you can see on this expedition.

Prime Bird Watching Season

The Snowy Owl, the Raven and the Ptarmigan are the only bird species to winter in the eastern Canadian Arctic. However about 100 species of birds migrate to the region annually. May through August is the prime birding season. Our Arctic Weekend Getaways are affordable options for birders who want to visit the Far North during prime birding season. Iqlauit, on Baffin Island, is a mere 3-hours from Ottawa, by direct flight. Fly from Ottawa Friday morning and you will be birding on the tundra by lunch time. Call us (1 888 737 6818 toll free in North America) to learn more about your birding options in the Canadian Arctic.

Pan Am Games work around when travelling to Baffin Island

July 6th, 2015 | By | Filed in Current Events

Iqaluit Northern LightsFrom June 10 to 26 and from August 7 to 15, , Toronto and the Golden Horseshoe region are hosting the 2015 Pan Am Games. Seven thousand athletes and a quarter million visitors are expected. Needless to say there will be a strain on all transportation systems, including flights.

Ottawa is the gateway to Baffin Island: Toronto is not the only gateway to Ottawa

We recommend that you fly to Ottawa via Montreal, Quebec, if you are planning a visit to Iqaluit and Baffin Island during the dates of the Games. Montreal is a major international gateway with an excellent airport. If you are arriving from Paris, London or San Francisco, you will find convenient connecting flights to Ottawa. There are plenty of hotels surrounding Pierre Elliott Trudeau International (YUL).

Take the Train

There are as many as 12 departures a day between Montreal and Ottawa by VIA Rail, Canada's passenger rail service. The Dorval train station is a short distance from the Montreal airport (YUL). It is a comfortable alternate. Plan to spend a night in Ottawa before catching your northbound flight, if you choose this method.

Add to your Pan Am Games visit a weekend in the Arctic

Plan to extend your stay in Canada by adding a weekend in the Arctic. Iqaluit, the capital of Canada's eastern Arctic is only a 3-hour direct flight from Ottawa. If you catch our 9 AM Friday flight from Ottawa, you'll be in the Arctic by lunch time. Our 2 night, 3 day Arctic Weekend Getaway is an extraordinary value. A return flight from Ottawa to Iqaluit is normally $2,500 a person. Our package includes the flight, 2 nights hotel, a city orientation tour, taxes and airport transfers in Iqaluit at a per person cost of $1,516. Yes. You read that correctly. You'll save $984 per person!
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