September 24th, 2014 | By Prisca Campbell | Filed in Arctic Animals, SCIENCE
What’s in a polar bear name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” My apologies to Shakespeare.
Polar bear and cub
Because the big white bears are found every Arctic country in the world, there are many polar bear names. Master of helping spirits is the translation of the Greenlandic name tornassuk. The Sami people of Scandinavia’s Arctic do not speak the bear’s name. Instead, they refer to polar bears as God’s dog or old man in the fur cloak. Russians call polar bears beliy medved – the white bear. Norwegians tell it like it is – they simply call the polar bear – isbjorn – ice bear.
In March of 2014, the Toronto Zoo unveiled the name of its new polar bear cub – Humphrey. You can read about Humphrey here. There are two opposing views about keeping polar bears in zoos – zoos protect biodiversity and save endangered species from extinction vs. the belief that zoos are inhumane places to keep migratory animals. Understandably, Arctic Kingdom believes that the best place to see polar bears are in the wild.
German researchers have done DNA studies that indicate polar bears became a distinct species about 600,000 years ago. About 40 different indigenous peoples call the Arctic home, each with their own tales – and names – for polar bears. Polar bears pre-date human beings. I wonder what they call us?
September 17th, 2014 | By Prisca Campbell | Filed in AK PRODUCTS & SERVICES, Uncategorized
Polar Bear by Jane Whitney
The people of the Far North have legends they have handed down for generations, particularly about polar bears interacting with human beings. One polar bear legend tells of an Inuit family that lived next door to a family that looked like humans but were actually polar bears. The story claimed that when polar bears shift into people their fur is left on the on the ground.
Another Inuit legend revolves around an old woman who had no family to hunt for her. She discovers an abandoned polar bear cub and adopts it. She names the cub Kunik. As he grows up under her care, Kunik’s hunting skills surpass those of the men in the community, who become jealous and threaten to kill the bear. His adopted mother encourages Kunik to run away to protect himself from the hunters. The polar bear leaves but continues to hunt for his mother.
Polar bear legends that tell of bears with the characteristics of people are a natural extension of a fundamental Inuit belief. Explorer Knud Rasmusssen noted while living with the Inuit that they believe that all living creatures have souls. The diet of humans, then, consisted entirely of souls. Thus hunting rituals were adopted to demonstrate respect for the souls of the animals they hunted.
September 12th, 2014 | By Prisca Campbell | Filed in Arctic Animals, Current Trips, Featured Trip
Polar Bear Travel in 2014
The height of 2014 polar bear travel season is approaching. As you know, prime time usually means prime dollars. There are some bargains to be had. Read about our 2014 savings.
Polar Bear Migration Fly-in Photo Safari
Get 6 days for the price of 5! No haggling. Join the October 19, 24 or November 14, 2014 departures and you’ll get an extra day of polar bear watching without paying one cent more! That is a savings of $1596 per person. Yes you read that right – $1596 per person based on the per day rate for the 5 day trip. Sometimes math does come in handy. You will get one more day on the land to encounter polar bears, Arctic foxes and may be, if the conditions are just right, Northern Lights!
No Single Supplement for Solo Travellers on Polar Bear Trips
I travel alone more often than I travel with companions. There is nothing more than I dislike is paying the ransom travel companies charge for solo travel. The rate for a solo traveller on our Polar Bear Migration Fly-in Photo Safari is 1.7 times the per person rate. Don’t hiss or boo. We aren’t the villains you might think we are, because in 2014 only, we have a few solo travellers who want to share a cabin so they don’t have to pay the single supplement of $5,586. They have asked us to find them cabin mates. We’re matching women with women and men with men. More importantly, you’ll be meeting new people that share your passion for polar bears and the Arctic! Call us toll free 1-888-737-6816 to inquire about dates and availability. If you snooze, you will lose this travel bargain.
September 6th, 2014 | By Prisca Campbell | Filed in Arctic Animals, Featured Trip, Filmmakers, Films, Northern Lights - Aurora Borealis, Trips
Walking with Grizzlies
Have you seen Disneynature’s Bears? Filmed in Alaska, it follows a mother and her two cubs from the time they emerge from the den until they return to that den a year later. Alastair Fothergill co-directed and co-wrote the documentary. His pedigree as a wildlife documentary is long and distinguished. He began in the renowned BBC Natural History department working with Sir David Attenborough. So you don’t have to take my word that Bears is worth spending an afternoon on the couch with the family and a bowl of popcorn.
Make your own documentary – about Grizzly Bears
You are right to be skeptical about your ability to equal the quality of Bears, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a wildlife documentary. Digital cameras – and smartphones – shoot HD video. You can edit your footage on your home computer. You can even add soundtrack music and titles. If you are shouting at your tablet screen, “Yes I can do that, but there’s no way I can get as close to bears as professional documentary makers,” desist. Because you can! Really.
The picture to above is proof. The video we shot at the grizzly bear camp is further proof. Watch the grizzly bears here.
Make your own documentary – about Polar Bears
Now that I have convinced you that you can make your own wildlife documentaries, let me amp the excitement up a notch. Make a documentary about polar bears. Yes, you can get close enough to shoot polar bears and live. We can make it happen for you. We have the video to prove it. Watch the polar bears here.
September 4th, 2014 | By Prisca Campbell | Filed in AK NEWS, Current Trips
Our best seller – Narwhal and Polar Bear Safari just got better. For a limited time, if you book and deposit before December 31, 2014, you will receive a hard copy of Huw Lewis-Jones‘ best seller – Face to Face: Polar Portraits. This $50 collectible will be autographed by Arctic Kingdom founder, Graham Dickson. His biography is featured in this collection of historic photographs from the Scott Polar Research Institute, the world’s leading archive of polar history. There are a limited number of copies, so book early.
The elusive narwhal is unique to the Arctic. Although the tusked whale is circumpolar, the world capital of narwhal viewing is Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic.
Polar bears are also unique to the Arctic, and, like the narwhal, are circumpolar. For North Americans, however, the Canadian Arctic is the most readily accessible viewing locale. Arctic Kingdom provides the widest range of polar bear trips. Polar bear viewing is not limited to November and December. You can choose from trips in March and from June through to November.
Terms and Conditions
There are some conditions. You are eligible to receive the book if you book and deposit before December 31, 2014 on a Narwhal and Polar Bear Safari. The book will be sent to you upon full payment for the trip. Should you choose to cancel, you forfeit your right to the book.
August 12th, 2014 | By Prisca Campbell | Filed in Uncategorized
Story and Photo by Jane Whitney
A light wind blew from the north. A few thick-billed murres and northern fulmers flew silently by. We had been waiting all day for narwhal to appear out of the mercurial waters. By 3 pm, the group wanted to return to camp and give the floe edge another chance after dinner. I asked if anyone wanted to stay. A lone woman admitted she’d love to. By the time the group left, there were 5 of us: Rita from Taiwan, Huang and Sun from China, our local guide Andrew and me. After the group left, the silence settled in, much like the local fog. We got up to take a walk along the jumbled ice at the water’s edge. Within 10 minutes of the group’s departure, Andrew signalled softly and there it was. Our first bear walking soundlessly toward us. Its black nose searching, its little ears perked forward. We had seen the fresh bear tracks with its pigeon towed front print followed by the larger rear track due to the heel imprint. The narrow groves on the snow came from the hair which makes the bear so quiet as it walks across the crunch of the snow.
We are all quiet, the three others sitting on their stools, long lenses poised, shutters clicking. The north wind brings our scent to the bear, its black nose waving in the air. Its survival instinct sends the bear into the ice chunks along the water’s edge. Several times the bear takes to the water. We watch the yellow white head move along as the legs and paws swim forward. I hear the clicking of photos as the photographers move their stools silently. The bear comes out on some ice and shakes itself. Water droplets flying. Click. The bear is still trying to sniff out who we are, at times so loud it sounds almost like a funny bark. It comes up directly east of us, perhaps 50 metres away. Again it shakes itself free of water as it emerges from the water. A huge arc of water droplets. The bear turns to its right, hurrying. Not because of us, but because it has finally located the scent of the whale carcass. The bear’s gait is perfect. The little quick steps that remind me of a caterpillar cost the bear less energy yet help it move quickly across the landscape. The bear is still in full view, but past us, when everyone stands up to give me a long hug, tears streaming down their face. They are so moved by the intimate experience.
August 11th, 2014 | By Prisca Campbell | Filed in Postcards from the Arctic
Story and Photo by Jane Whitney
We are standing at the margin of the sea ice called the floe edge in northern Baffin Island, 30 km from the nearest point of land. If there is swell in the open water, it will gently rock our snowy platform. We can see thick-billed murres swim underwater to feed underneath the ice where we stand. The high pitched call of the black guillemot reflected in the water blends in with the glorious silence.
We are waiting, watching, hoping to see the narwhal. When they come, it’s like they’re there all at once. Their exhalations explode through the surface of the water followed by sounds of trumpeting, half snores, and squeaky doors before inhaling as they propell forward, their foreheads bulbous-shaped with the spermaceti to echo-locate their prey. Sometimes we’ll catch sight of the tusk from a male or the white of an older narwhal, originally thought to live as old as half a century, but may now be thought to be double that age span. Mothers and calves stop at the surface for the calf to nurse. Once the narwhal raises its heart shaped tail, it too will dive in the dark abyss under the pack ice in these rich feeding grounds off of Baffin Bay. And we know we have to wait another 15 to 25 minutes for them to reappear.
We are spellbound. Jaws left wide open. Natahia, one of the women standing on the icy platform comments, “this is one of the best days of my life. It’s an experience that is hard to describe. It’s the peace of hearing the complete quiet with only narwhal everywhere you look.” Another spectator, Michael replies that he thought seeing 28 blue whales off of South Georgia was the best day of his life, but he changes his mind. “Seeing the narwhal surface from under the ice and stream pass is glorious but it is the setting of where you are that makes it magnificent. The pack ice you stand on can be cold under foot. The breeze off the Arctic open water can chill your hands. This whale takes you to this wild place of the High Arctic: the realm of a big wide open landscape, under a 24 hour sun, back dropped with 4000’ glaciated peaks. And you are kept warm by the genuine hospitality of the staff and the friendship of those you are traveling with.”
August 11th, 2014 | By Prisca Campbell | Filed in Postcards from the Arctic
Story by Jane Whitney
That familiar cry of a red-tailed hawk made me want to turn to see what it was but I had to keep watching the seal that we were approaching. When the seal’s head was up, we’d stop. When the seal put its head down, we’d walk, all in single file. Half way there Steve thwacked me on the back and whispered excitedly “gyr falcon”! I take my eyes off the seal to look. The pair of birds did have a quick wing beat but not fast enough for a falcon. Looking through our binoculars, we see they are rough-legged Hawks. One is carrying nesting material. Their distribution is indicated for southern Baffin Island, and west and north of us, but not for the northern edge of Baffin Island where we are.
Photo credit: Michelle Valberg
We are en route to the floe edge. When we arrive, we hear the cry of the black-legged kittiwake, flying daintily in large numbers right in front of us. We are excited to see large groups of king eider. Northern fulmers glide by, silently. Many flocks of thick-billed murres pass, the sound of their wingbeat reminding me of a tabby cat hungrily lapping up milk. We see groups of 30 or more of pomerine and long-tailed jaeger, brandt, snow and Canadian geese. We see our first narwhal, then 3 more.
The wind is blowing some pan ice down and we watch as the smaller pieces of ice ride over on top of each other, bulldozing blocks of blue ice over the floe edge. The building of waves in the open water rock the pack ice we stand on, occasionally making us find our sea legs for balance. By the end of our first day we count 12 species of birds. As we leave, we look over our shoulder at glaucous gulls reflected in the Bahamian turquoise melt water.
August 8th, 2014 | By Prisca Campbell | Filed in Postcards from the Arctic
Story by Jane Whitney
Sheattie was born in an igloo 64 years ago. He is now one of the most respected hunters and elders in all of Baffin. He is our main guide as we go out across the pack ice to the floe edge. Quaima? Ready? He calls out with a smile.
We will cross leads of open water where 5-foot thick pans of ice break apart. We will travel under cliffs of ancient rock and look across at the spectacular mountains and glaciers of Bylot Island and Sirmiluk National Park. We will pass by a towering iceberg frozen in the pack ice and watch seals lining the leads and individual holes.
Robert Bylot sailed into this area with William Baffin nearly 400 years ago. They set the furthest north record of reaching 77° 45’ North. They named Lancaster Sound, which would eventually become the gateway to the long sought after Northwest Passage, and Smith Sound, the future highway to the North Pole. Two centuries would pass before another exploring ship would sail this far north. And yet Sheattie’s ancestors travelled to the floe edge, as we are doing today, for over a thousand years.
The floe edge is where the ice pack meets the open water. Here, life flourishes, with flocks of thick-billed murres, king eiders, and black-legged kittiwakes. Narwhal travel close to the edge. Polar bear tracks show of their passing. The floe edge will be our home for the next week, in the land of the 24 hour sun.
Photo credit: Stephen A. Smith
June 6th, 2014 | By Prisca Campbell | Filed in Postcards from the Arctic
Story by Jane Whitney
I notice Inuit in the same line up as us as we check in for our flight with First Air in Ottawa. Women wearing brightly coloured amauties (a hooded jacket to carry young). A little boy with a cropped haircut running around in his striped T-shirt and a big green jawbreaker in his mouth. It feels so right to hear them speak in Inuktitut. I see the familiar northern greeting – smiling eyes, friendly conversation. I am excited to return to their land. It is a feeling of deep exhilaration.
The big, open landscape here is very, very quiet, save for the water dripping off the ice and the call of the glaucous gull or raven. There is no constant background noise of either air or vehicle traffic. You can hear children’s laughter as they play outside on the dirt roads or in melt water on the ice. You can hear the dogs howl once a day as they wait next to the qamutiq, a traditional Inuit wooden sled, parked out on the ice.
There is an Inuktitut word to describe being content out on the land in the north: quviannik, “to feel deeply happy”. This is how I am feeling.