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Holiday Shopping, Polar Bear Style

December 10th, 2010 | By | Filed in AK PRODUCTS & SERVICES, Gear

Once more ’tis the season of stalking crowded streets (and exploring far corners of the internet) in search of that perfect gift for family and friends. It’s also a great time to consider supporting non-profit groups working towards causes we feel passionately about, such as animal conservation.

One such group, Polar Bears International offers an ‘adopt a polar bear’ project. With four different levels of support starting at just $25, this is both an affordable and meaningful gift.  You can also become a member of their organization for $50, or make a contribution at any time during the year – now’s a great time as donations are being matched dollar-for-dollar through Dec.

Other non-profit groups you may consider supporting are The Polar Conservation Organization, The Nature Conservatory, the World Wildlife Fund, and Defenders of Wildlife. Some of these organizations also offer all kinds of animal ‘adoptions’ from belugas to snow leopards.

If you prefer a physical gift, but would like to stay away from the larger stores, you could consider looking into Etsy. Etsy’s an online marketplace specializing in hand-made crafts, jewelery, art, and clothing as well as vintage items. I recommend focusing a targeted search for what you’re looking for – otherwise you risk looking up from the computer and realizing you’ve lost hours window shopping through countless stores filled with possibly gifts, ornaments shaped like polar bears and beluga whales, narwhal necklaces,  and illustrated prints of narwhal knitting a sock (a new kind of animal behavior?) as well as shirts featuring our favorite types of whales. Not to mention adorable hand-made bear hats for children.

Arctic Kingdom also maintains our own store online, featuring some very useful  items.  We have brand new 2011 Canada Goose outerwear arriving weekly, very ideal for winter adventures of all kinds. I also can’t recommend more highly the book Face to Face, Arctic Portraits, bringing together pioneering polar photographic images and modern portraiture in a beautiful art coffee table book. It’s a terrific gift for anyone interested in the history of polar exploration and photographic documentary work.

Canadian Government to Protect Lancaster Sound

December 6th, 2010 | By | Filed in Current Events, IN THE NEWS

Great news for environmentalists just keeps coming! Environmental minister John Baird has gone on record saying the government is ready to create a marine sanctuary in Lancaster Sound, off the north coast of Baffin Island.

From the Canadian Press -

The exact boundaries will be defined in consultation with Inuit groups and the government of Nunavut.

“Today’s exciting announcement represents an important step forward in delivering on Canada’s commitment to work with the government of Nunavut and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association toward protecting this incredibly important ecological area,” Baird said.

“This will allow us to set the stage for respectful, transparent consultations with our key partners and the public so that all views can be considered before any boundary is finalized.”

Declaring the region a marine sanctuary would ban oil-and-gas exploration and development, but the sound would still be used for shipping. Baird suggested the government may have to set special rules for sailing through a protected area if ship traffic increases as global warming reduces ice coverage.

This is a major decision, and one which may result in a loss of profits from oil and mineral exploration. I think we all agree that the benefits of conserving this incredible area for future generations cannot be measured in terms of financial reward!

Further remarks from Baird from the Montreal Gazette -

“Our government is sending a clear message to the world that Canada takes responsibility for environmental protection in our Arctic waters,” said Baird, who made the announcement flanked by Nunavut MP and federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq and two other Inuit leaders from the region.

He also acknowledged that while the waters between Baffin Island and Devon Island are home to globally-significant populations of seabirds, polar bears, narwhals and a host of other species, they also represent an important resource for Inuit communities that have hunted in Lancaster Sound for centuries.

Noting that the proposed protection zone is “twice the size of Lake Erie,” Baird repeated a popular description of Lancaster Sound as the “Serengeti of the Arctic,” insisting that its “biological richness” demands “the protection of this extraordinary seascape.”

Group of female walrus with babies on Lancaster Sound pack ice.

Inuit Women's Art Exhibition In Montreal

December 3rd, 2010 | By | Filed in Community News, IN THE NEWS, INUIT, Inuit Culture/Art

Nunatsiaq online reports on a new show at La Centrale Galerie Powerhouse in Montreal. Women of the Arctic is the first in a planned series of exhibitions and events to highlight works by Inuit artists from Nunavik and Nunavut.

The show opened Nov 19 to an audience eager to view the work and enjoy a throat-singing performance by Evie Mark and Taqralik Partridge. The show consists of works on paper in a range of techniques including painting, drawing, and printmaking.

Some of the oldest prints exhibited at La Centrale gallery are those of the late Leah Nuvalinga Qumaluk, the well-known Puvirnituq printmaker, who passed away last August.

Her work has been shown in New York, Paris and in a number of Canadian collections.

Qumaluk created hundreds of prints since the early 1970s, including the eight exhibited.

Her narrative stone prints employ only a few colours but often many characters, like the 1972 “Morse surprenant les chasseurs” (walrus surprising the hunters) which shows a walrus emerge between two kayakers, with a flock of geese overhead.

In another, “Attente de retour des traineaux,” 1978 (waiting for the sleds to return) a group of four, hooded women’s faces seem to peer out of a blizzard.

The show is up until December 19 at Montreal’s La Centrale Galerie Powerhouse at 4296 St. Laurent Boulevard. If you’re in the area, take a moment to stop by and us know how it looks.

Arctic Kingdom Travel Press

December 2nd, 2010 | By | Filed in AK NEWS, AK PRODUCTS & SERVICES, IN THE NEWS

Writer Sarah Rose reports for Travel and Leisure that Baffin Island is one of North America’s best whale watching spots. We couldn’t agree more!

Bowhead Whale Watching

If you’re interested in whale watching, consider participating in our December 8 webinar, covering bowheads, walrus, and polar bears of Foxe Basin,  or the January 12 webinar. Thomas will be discussing Bowhead whales, polar bears, and the glaciers of Baffin Island. A full list of our webinar schedule is here.

Sarah’s also compiled a list of ten daring adventures for, and suggests booking your extended polar exploration with us.  Thanks Sarah, I’ve now had to add white water rafting in Nepal to my ‘to do’ list!

Webinar – Introduction to Diving in the Arctic

December 2nd, 2010 | By | Filed in Diving, Webinar

Join Arctic Kingdom expedition leader Thomas Lennartz for a virtual Arctic Diving expedition to Baffin Island.

Pulling from his experience on Baffin Islands numerous dive trips, Tom will share his insights on traveling in this remarkable trip and what you could expect to see by joining our upcoming floe edge expeditions

- Narwhal and Polar Bear Floe Edge Adventure Dive trip (May/June) and/or the Bowhead, Walrus and Polar Bears of Foxe Basin Dive trip (July).

On this webinar:

  • Discover floe edges and the value of high-end expedition travel in extremely small group, land-based trips with an expert team of AK expedition divers in close partnership with Inuit guides
  • See expedition highlights— diving in pack ice, along icebergs, at the floe edge, watch narwhals feeding, polar bears, soaring glaciers and stunning iceberg, and our safari-style eco-camps.
  • Get a sense of daily activities – from floe edge activities such as types of dives, kayaking, traveling by snowmobile and qamutiks, hiking and more..

For related trip details visit:
Narwhal and Polar Bear Floe Edge DIVE Adventure
Ultimate Floe Edge Experience – Beluga, Narwhal and Polar Bears
Bowhead Whales, Walrus and Polar Bears of the Foxe Basin

Fun Film – The Arctic Circle

November 30th, 2010 | By | Filed in Current Events, IN THE NEWS

The Arctic Circle is a cute, short animated film by artist Kevin Parry. It tells the tale of a solitary man who encounters a mysterious box — one that seems to offer him great wealth. Filmmaker Tim Burton has described it as “a cross between 2001 and Rudolph: The Red-Nosed

Obama Designates Polar Bear Protection Area

November 29th, 2010 | By | Filed in Arctic Animals, Conservation, Current Events, IN THE NEWS, SCIENCE

This is terrific news! President Obama has set aside 187,000 square miles in Alaska as a “critical habitat” for polar bears. The total area, which includes large areas of sea ice, is about 13,000 square miles, or 8.3 million acres. This action could have long reaching consequences towards limiting future offshore drilling for oil and natural gas. Increasingly, oil companies have been putting pressure on governments to open up arctic areas for drilling, actions heavily contested by conservationists.

Tom Strickland, assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks at the Interior Department, as quoted by the Washington Post -

This critical habitat designation enables us to work with federal partners to ensure their actions within its boundaries do not harm polar bear populations,” Strickland said. “We will continue to work toward comprehensive strategies for the long-term survival of this iconic species.”

A number of US Senators have been pushing for this kind of protection for some time, it’s encouraging to see the government taking significant action towards Polar Bear conservation.

Polar Bears in Hudson Bay

Interested in traveling to see the Polar Bears yourself? Learn more about the Arctic Kingdom travel experience with our webinar archive, and read up on our upcoming adventures. You can also check out Polar Bears International for more information on the animals, current conservation efforts, and ways you can directly aid their efforts.

2011 Arctic Regatta

November 29th, 2010 | By | Filed in Arctic History, Current Events, IN THE NEWS

The history of sailing in the arctic is one of adventure – seasoned with just a little danger. And not just the danger of misplacing a few cases of whiskey. Plenty of early explorers found themselves lost, stranded, or were thwarted in their goals. Without the aid of technology indispensable today, some of these stories ended in tragedy.

View over broken ice of steam and sail powered ship 'Maud' with sails set. Eclipse and Maud Voyages 1888-89. Photo Via Scott Polar Research Institute photo archive.

The same drive which led early adventurers to the arctic by sea continues still. This summer, 12 crews from a variety of countries will be participating in the 2011 arctic regatta, enjoying the thrill exploring the northwest passage by sailing vessel (and benefiting from the modern technology we rely upon to ensure a far safer journey than in the past!)

From Barents -

The organizer of the regatta is the captain of the yacht “Peter I”, Daniil Gavrilov. “Peter I” was one of the two boats to first sail around the North Pole in one season. The record was set this summer, when “Peter I” and the Norwegian sailing boat “Northern Passage”, led by the Norwegian explorer Børge Ousland, managed to sail through both the Northeast and Northwest passages in less than three months.

Talk about the spirit of adventure, the captain and crew of the ‘Peter I’ are all between the ages of 21-25 years old!

The brave crew left their home port of Saint Petersburg on the 4th June and sailed around Scandinavia to arrive in the port of Murmansk on the 6th July.  From here they set off on their Arctic passage on the 16th July and 2 months, 4 days later on the 20th September, they successfully completed their challenge.

They have a website, with blogs and photos from their trip (all in Russian, but you can use google translate to get some idea of the content)

Viking Silver Discovered in Arctic Region

November 28th, 2010 | By | Filed in Arctic History, IN THE NEWS, Uncategorized

The vikings keep popping up in Arctic history. Remember this story about possible Viking building remains on Baffin Island? A new cache of silver jewelery has been unearthed in the arctic area of Norway. Now you might think, Norway’s a bit far from Baffin Island, but this demonstrates the incredible range of Viking exploration.  The hoard was discovered in the far north of the country, in a town called Tromsø.

Archaeologist Martin Rundkvist explains -

One of the more charming habits of the day was silver hoarding. Let’s not get into how they got the silver. But Scandinavians at the time clearly felt that for some reason a lot of it should be hidden and left. And so, in some parts of Scandinavia, silver hoards of the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries keep popping out of the ground. On Gotland, the verdant limestone slab in the middle of the Baltic, people are so jaded about this that the local paper will simply say “this year’s hoard has been found, call off the search”.

In northern Norway, though, hoards are extremely rare. So it came as a surprise to everyone last August when two boys in Tromsø found one in a rock cleft under their club house.

Tromsø is unbelievably far north, a small island town with a university and a museum, both of them employing archaeologists. I was there for a few days two years ago to study brooches, and everybody was very friendly.

A Virtual Polar Exploration Timeline

November 27th, 2010 | By | Filed in Arctic History, IN THE NEWS, Uncategorized

I recently discovered this great website from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, featuring a virtual arctic exploration timeline beginning at 330 BC  -

Pytheas of Massalia was a Greek merchant, geographer and explorer who explored Britain and the waters north of Scotland. He described an island six days sailing north of Britain called “Thule.” This may refer to Iceland, but could also have been the coast of Norway, or the Shetland or Faroe Islands. Pytheas was the first person to record a description of the midnight sun, the aurora, and Polar ice.

And of course, touching on most of the slightly more recent explorations we’ve heard of, such as Henry Hudson’s 1607 trip in search of the Northwest Passage -

On his final expedition on board a ship named Discovery, he entered Hudson Bay and he mapped and explored the shoreline. When the ship became trapped in the ice, they moved ashore for the winter. When the ice cleared in spring, Hudson wanted to continue exploring but his crew wanted to return home. They mutinied, and set Hudson, his son, and some crewmen adrift in a small boat with nor food or water. They were never heard from again.

Baron Nordenskiöld, Arctic Explorer. Copyrite - Public Domain

Skipping forward a bit, in 1878 Baron Nordenskiöld completes the first successful navigation of the Northeast Passage.

This he accomplishes sailing on board the Vega, navigating the northern coasts of Europe and Asia for the first time.

I couldn’t resist sharing this portrait. Inspiring, isn’t it?

The timeline continues up through more modern times, unfortunately stopping in 2008. While not entirely up to date, this website is a nice little cache of some of the history of arctic exploration, along with nice public-domain photographs of explorers, ships, and dog sled teams.

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