August 23rd, 2015 | By Prisca Campbell | Filed in Uncategorized
The plural of walrus is walruses or walrus. Either is acceptable, although walruses appears to be the more common use. The word was first referenced in 1728. Despite the “us” ending, the origin is Dutch or Norwegian, not Latin.
Walrus, A keystone species
Take a guess at the favourite month of a walrus. Given their mustached appearance, it’s safe to assume it’s Movember! Aside from their bristly appearance, walruses are also part of the exclusive club of animals that have tusks. They are considered a ‘keystone species’ in the Arctic marine regions, meaning they play a critical role in maintaining the structure of the ecosystem.
Walruses are an extremely social animal and are typically observed near the Arctic Circle lying on the ice and congregating with their many companions. Adult walruses are distinguished not only by their elongated canines but also their blubbery body and their prominent whiskers. Walruses like to bellow and snort and can also turn aggressive during mating season, using their tusks in self defense and to demonstrate dominance. As expected, the bigger the tusks, the more dominant the male. The male with the largest tusks is typically the leader of social groups and holds the most power.
Because walruses have limited diving abilities, it means that they depend on shallow water and ice floes to access their food supply. Their tusks are also practical when forming holes in the Arctic ice, acting as an aid to help walruses haul out of the water.
The Arctic air is frigid and the water is just as chilling but luckily for walruses, they are insulated from the cold because of the blubber stored beneath their skin. Walruses are also capable of slowing down their heartbeats in order to endure the temperature, thus allowing them to live comfortably and continue to be a prevalent presence in the Arctic.
- Walruses live 20- 30 years in the wild
- Orcas and polar bears are the walrus’ only two natural predators
- Tusks are present in both male and female walruses and can reach a length of over three feet
- Males can weigh up to 3700 lbs while females can weigh up to 2700 lbs
- The walrus population was severely reduced due to hunting but has since rebounded -The worldwide walrus population is roughly 250,000
Check Them Out!
Interested in checking out the walruses? Arctic Kingdom offers various trips that allow you to see these stunning creatures including: Kings of the Arctic where you can observe walruses sunning themselves on ice floes!
Author: Mandy Ams
August 17th, 2015 | By Prisca Campbell | Filed in Featured Trip
Unlike other parts of Canada that celebrate their civic holiday on the first Monday in August, Yukon’s Discovery Day is on the third Monday in August, falling on August 17, 2015 this year. Discovery Day is a public holiday commemorating the anniversary of the discovery of gold in Bonanza Creek in the 19th century.
Discovery Day activities are held throughout the territory in places such as Watson Lake and Dawson City. Watson Lake is known as the ‘gateway to Yukon recreation’ while Dawson City is considered the heart of the Klondike gold rush. Discovery Day serves as the main theme behind various events, such as family days, fun runs, golf tournaments and festivals while Dawson City plays host to historical street theatre.
The history of Yukon’s Discovery Day can be traced back to George Carmack, Dawson Charlie and Skookum Jim discovering gold at Bonanza Creek on August 17, 1896. This discovery triggered a gold rush in North America with nearly 100,000 would-be prospectors visiting the Klondike region in the following years. However, due to companies using mechanical mining techniques in the early 20th century, many miners were replaced and out of work. By 1903, when the gold rush ended, nearly 95 million dollars had been extracted from Yukon’s rivers.
After the gold rush concluded, the Yukon Order of Pioneers persuaded Yukon’s Territorial Council to celebrate Discovery Day as a public holiday in 1911. In 1912, Discovery Day was a big event that was celebrated with many activities like parades, speeches, a football game and a dance.
Dawson City, Yukon, Today
Today, Dawson City is a lively place boasting many heritage sites and attractions. Still evident in this authentic frontier town are the days of perseverance, heartache and dreams coming true during the legendary Klondike Gold Rush.
To learn more about the gold rush, Yukon’s Discovery Day and if there’s a chance that you could strike it rich today, visit Travel Yukon.
Ice Grizzlies of the Yukon is available as a custom adventure.
August 15th, 2015 | By Prisca Campbell | Filed in Uncategorized, Wildlife
Native to the Arctic region in North America and Eurasia, Snowy Owls have thick plumage, heavily-feathered, taloned feet and light colouration making them well-adapted for life in the chilly Arctic. Although Snowy Owls are thought to be completely white to blend into their surroundings, it is actually the males that are white while females and young owls have more flecks of grey.
Snowy Owls are opportunistic hunters
Snowy owls are classified as opportunistic hunters. Based on the climate, their prey may vary considerably, feeding on just about anything they can get their talons from deer mice to muskrats. Unlike most owls, Harry Potter’s owl is diurnal, using daylight and dark nights to search for prey. Their keen eyesight and excellent hearing serves as an asset since they are able to identify their kill beneath the snow and vegetation. The Snowy Owls’ tactic is a patient ‘sit and wait’ approach in contrast to predators that seek and follow their prey until the ideal time to attack. Once their efforts have paid off, like many other birds, these owls will swallow their small prey whole.
Both males and females are very protective of their nests during nesting season. Although Snowy Owls have few predators, the males are constantly on guard while the female incubates the eggs. Approaching predators can expect to be attacked by both sexes. Snowy Owls will dive-bomb in an attempt to distract the unwelcome predator away from their offspring. It is in part because of the Snowy Owls’ protective instincts that they are considered in least concern of becoming an endangered species.
- Snowy owls are one of the largest species of owl and the heaviest in North America
- Their wingspan is 1.4 to 1.7 meters (4.5 to 5.5 feet)
- Female snowy owls can lay a clutch of anywhere from 3 to 11 eggs
- Lifespan in the wild is just over nine years
- Longest lifespan in captivity is 28 years
Check Them Out!
Interested in checking out Snowy Owls? Arctic Kingdom offers various trips that allow you to see these stunning creatures including: Hiking in the Auyuittuq National Park where you can get a firsthand view of Snowy Owls and their nests during the summer months! [There is no chance of seeing Harry Potter, however.]
Author: Mandy Ams
August 13th, 2015 | By Prisca Campbell | Filed in Sports, Trips
August 13, 2015 marks the 22nd Anniversary of International Left-Handers Day. This day is a way to honour all the lefties out there and the everyday struggles they face living in a right-handed world.
Most ordinary products are created and aimed to support right-handed people, as that is the dominant hand of 87% of the world. So what do all the lefties do? Right-handed kayak paddles, for instance, are more common than those geared for left-handed kayakers. Just like a right-handed paddler controls most movements with their right-hand, a left-handed paddler controls most movements with their left. The blades of the paddle are set dependent upon the neutral position of the dominant hand and the paddle would then naturally face the kayaker. The difference is visible in which hand you grip and rotate with.
Kayaking is just one example of the struggles lefties face living in a right-handed world. Paddles and other sports equipment for left-handed athletes aren’t as available as they are for right-handed ones. This results in discomfort and a handicap that has an effect on the athlete enjoying their sport. Though, fortunately enough, there are kayak paddles specifically designed for left-handed enthusiasts, a lot of sports discourage participation and limit the athlete’s ability unless they are right-handed.
Interesting Facts about Lefties:
- About 13% of the population around the world are left-handed and it is thought to be genetic
- There is a high tendency in twins for one to be left-handed
- Stuttering and dyslexia occur more often in left-handers (particularly if they are forced to change their writing hand as a child)
- Left-handers adjust more readily to seeing underwater
To mark International left-handers day, if you are a rightie, try using your left hand for the day!
Looking for kayaking inspiration? Try this >
Author: Mandy Ams
July 31st, 2015 | By Prisca Campbell | Filed in Uncategorized, Wildlife
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.
- 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
July 29th, 2015 | By Prisca Campbell | Filed in Wildlife
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.
- 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
July 27th, 2015 | By Prisca Campbell | Filed in Wildlife
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
July 24th, 2015 | By Prisca Campbell | Filed in AK NEWS
One 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 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.
July 21st, 2015 | By Prisca Campbell | Filed in Landscape
Everyone 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.
The 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.
July 15th, 2015 | By Prisca Campbell | Filed in Featured Trip
I 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.