November 29th, 2010 | By Thomas Lennartz | 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.
November 29th, 2010 | By Thomas Lennartz | 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 Observer.com -
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)
November 28th, 2010 | By Thomas Lennartz | 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.
November 27th, 2010 | By Thomas Lennartz | 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.
November 26th, 2010 | By Thomas Lennartz | Filed in TRIPS, Webinar
Why settle for 5 stars when you can have millions!
Join Arctic Kingdom expedition director Thomas Lennartz for a virtual tour of this new polar bear and majestic northern lights viewing location set to depart in March/April.
One of Arctic Kingdom’s newest trip locations set in the sub-Arctic region of Nunavik, this trip combines helicopter flight seeing, new luxury Igloo dome Base camps, set in the foothills of eastern Canada’s highest mountain range – the Torngat mountains. This region is remote, not easy to access, and sees virtually no tourists – hence, polar bears thrive, and we are the only operator offering such an experience. This is definitely another road less travelled, and an amazing one at that. Come see for yourself on this webinar.
For complete trip details visit: Polar Bears and Northern Lights of the Torngat Mountains
On this webinar:
- Discover the beauty of the Torngat region out of the Inuit town of Kangiqsualujjuaq (also known as George River) and the value of high-end expedition travel in extremely small group, land-based trips with an expert team AK expedition leaders in close partnership with Inuit guides
- See expedition highlights— polar bears, northern lights, the Torngat caribou herd, and our new luxury Igloo domes – complete with king size beds, linens, lounge with fireplace and more.
- Get a sense of daily activities – from the journey by snowmobile caravan to the base camp, helicopter sightseeing, and up close polar bear encounters.
November 23rd, 2010 | By Thomas Lennartz | Filed in ACTIVITIES, AK PRODUCTS & SERVICES, Dive Training, Diving
In the last few days, a number of articles online have mentioned that actor Jake Gyllenhaal, star of films such as Donnie Darko and Brokeback Mountain has decided to embark on an arctic ice diving trip for his 30th birthday.
According to the New York Daily News, Gyllenhall explains -
“The only reason I’m doing it is I wanted to do something that absolutely terrified me — killer whales and walruses and freezing cold water? That seems absolutely terrifying.”
Terrifying? Not if you take part in ice dive training, and travel with an experienced company well prepared for any contingency.
AK expedition member Ice Diving in Arctic Bay. Photo by Louise Murray
Ice diving is thrilling, beautiful, and a deeply memorable experience. If you have experience diving elsewhere and are advanced certified, you might consider taking our four day ice diving training. Taught as a mini-expedition, and with group numbers limited to 8 people, you’ll travel by airboat to a range of sites for as many dives as can be safely completed.
As we’ve mentioned before, the airboat is a simply amazing piece of equipment. We’re able to travel across all sorts of ice conditions, including areas off limits to snowmobiles and boats. This makes both our training dives and ice diving expeditions even more exciting, providing greater access to terrific locations.
A team prepares to dive.
Mr. Gyllenhaal will no doubt return from the arctic with not only memories, but a little less nervous about this unique activity. If you are considering a dive yourself, contact us with any questions, but also sign up for the upcoming webinar on the topic of Arctic Diving, December 2nd, 1-2pm EST. Thomas will be answering questions live and explaining what you can expect to experience while diving with Arctic Kingdom.
Want to see more?
Photos from an AK driving trip by Joe Canepari
Thomas Lennartz’s account of ‘dancing’ with Belugas while on a dive.
November 18th, 2010 | By Thomas Lennartz | Filed in ACTIVITIES, AK NEWS, AK PRODUCTS & SERVICES, Team Interviews, Webinar
Our last webinar, a virtual floe-edge expedition was so successful, we’re continuing the series with more opportunities to learn more about our adventures direct from the source – our team leaders.
Sure, we’ll be recording these and posting them online, but do consider signing up and tuning in live for a fun, collaborative experience. You’ll see incredible images, hear first hand stories, and come away with a complete understanding of what any of our land-based animal or dive adventures are all about.
From expedition leader, Thomas Lennartz -
Many people that consider heading to the Arctic believe that the Arctic (and Antarctica) is only accessible via cruise ship or maybe a Tundra bus, but not true! Flying up to an Arctic community, and heading out on the land with AK leaders and Inuit guides is the only way to see the authentic Arctic, how the Inuit live here, and also bring you to the land where the animals such as narwhal and polar bears roam. I promise you, an Arctic Kingdom trip will leave you with lasting memories…and I would like to show you personally what you can expect on one of our adventures and aside from visiting everyone of you in person, the best way to do this is to show you ‘virtually’ complete with images, sound and where you can ask questions in real time.
Here’s the schedule – Click on the title to register today -
Nov 24 – 1:00-2:00PM EST
Polar Bears and Northern Lights of the Torngat Mountains
One of the remotest sub-Arctic regions, least visited, wild frontiers left. An AK Exclusive Trip.
LEARN – about how you can view polar bears via helicopter, on the ground, all based from our newest Arctic Igloo Domes – the ultimate in remote Arctic luxury accommodations.
Dec 2 – 1:00-2:00PM EST
Tired of finding Nemo or another starfish? Enter another world! A true adventure on all frontiers – dive with whales, amongst cathedral spires of ice, on the ocean sea floor and more.
LEARN – about the types of dives, equipment required and what to expect on an Arctic dive trip.
Dec 8 – 1:00-2:00PM EST
Bowhead Whales, Walrus, and Polar Bears of Foxe Basin
The bowhead highway…one highway you won’t mind being stuck on!
LEARN – about what why the floe edge of Foxe Basin is so special to see bowhead whales. Why are there so many walrus here?
Jan 12 – 1:00-2:00PM EST
Bowhead Whales, Polar Bears and Glaciers of Baffin Island
Summer in the Arctic doesn’t get any better than in the stunning fiords of Baffin Island near Qikiqtarjuaq. Find out why!
LEARN – about land-based Arctic travel to the Arctic Circle in the summer.
SEE – gorgeous photos of the Penny Ice Cap glacier and polar bears taken on previous expeditions and hear stories from AK Expedition Leaders
Reminder! We’re still running our special for this month, book a trip by Nov 25 and you’ll receive a free Canada Goose Expedition Parka.
November 15th, 2010 | By Thomas Lennartz | Filed in Community News, INUIT, Inuit Culture/Art
Zacharias Kunuk, Inuit producer and director of ‘Atanarjuat, The Fast Runner’, recently premiered a new feature film, a documentary titled ‘Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change’.
The documentary contains five Inuktitut dialects, recorded as its two directors followed Inuit elders to document their perspectives on global warming. While we read a great deal about climate change from a scientific point of view, this film provides a first-person perspective from the people most directly affected by the changes occurring.
From an examiner.com review by Cendrine Marrouat -
“Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change” is a remarkable piece of work that invites us to reconnect with ourselves and the world around us, as well as take responsibilities for our actions. As a result, it makes us better citizens of the world, citizens that cannot accept the status quo anymore.
The Edmonton Journal has published a very moving editorial written by Mr. Kunuk, discussing his motivations for this film and for becoming a film maker -
Besides stressing the key relationship people have with their environment, Inuit values recognize the importance of working together for a common purpose, avoiding conflict and finding consensus and, especially, what we call Qanuqtuurungnarniq, the concept of being resourceful, demonstrating adaptability and flexibility in response to a rapidly changing world.
Inuit approach climate change not only as a crisis, but as an opportunity to adapt, to find new techniques for living sustainably within the natural world. One after another, elders in our film tell us that hope lies in our capacity to be intelligent, resilient and well adapted to our environment.
Having survived and thrived through past climate changes, and the daily challenge of depending on weather and animals, Inuit experience tells us that the only constant is change itself, and adaptation is the key to a successful human future. To Inuit, climate change is a human rights issue — how people adapt to change and still respect the rights of others.
‘Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change’ can be screened online, as well as downloaded from Isuma TV.
November 12th, 2010 | By Thomas Lennartz | Filed in ACTIVITIES, Photographers, TRIPS
Polar Bears are curious, inquisitive creatures, as you can see in this video – one is taking notice of a group of Arctic Kingdom observers.
We’ve discussed cold weather photography before, I thought it’d be interesting to do a survey of tips from some top wildlife photographers about photographing Polar Bears. Clearly this advice is applicable to the other arctic animals you may encounter on a trip with us.
From Wildlife Photography Tips.com -
When photographing the bears you will usually be photographing a white bear in the snow. This means that your camera will tend to underexpose, resulting in a gray bear. You will need to compensate for this by overexposing by 1 to 1 1/3 stops depending on the whiteness of the bear (some are a light cream)
Note – the issue of ‘buggy tracks’ discussed in this article won’t apply when you travel with Arctic Kingdom!
Wildlife photographer Greg Harvey has a list of eleven very useful tips on his website -
Bring the longest lens and the most high end camera that you can afford….. you will need a long lens and a camera that can withstand cold up to -50. I was using a 600mm with a 1.4 teleconverter and a full frame camera body. We were out on the tundra 100 meters away from the bears. At that distance several people were using 800 mm lenses.
If some of this technical jargon leaves you shaking your head in frustration, don’t abandon hope! There are a number of very helpful tutorials online which discuss how to get the best photos of your camera, using manual settings, describing how aperture (f stop) on lenses works, and of course, never underestimate the importance of actually reading your camera’s ‘how to use’ manual.
Good luck! We’re always happy to share photography from our adventurers on here, contact us if you’ve been on a trip and want to share your favorite images.
A few more photography links well worth investigating -
Digital Photography School
Photofocus – A terrific site covering gear, technology, with plenty of advice for improving your photography.
mansurovs.com – Another great round up of advice for beginners in digital photography.
November 10th, 2010 | By Thomas Lennartz | Filed in AK NEWS, Films, Recent Trips, TRIPS, Uncategorized
This un-edited footage is from an Arctic Kingdom polar bear viewing expedition in the high arctic in May 2010.
Filmed from base camp at one in the morning, we had just finished dinner when one of our Inuit guides spotted the polar bear in the process of stalking and hunting a seal under the ice. The bear was completely unaware of (or didn’t care about) our presence only a few hundred meters away. This video really gives a sense of the scale of the arctic; the sweeping landscape, the silence of the surroundings, and the unhurried observation of polar bears in their natural environment made possible by our trip logistics.
Speaking of incredible views, don’t miss this other update from our youtube channel, featuring a ballooning adventure over Baffin Island!