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Speaking of Satellites…

September 16th, 2010 | By | Filed in Current Events, Global Warming, IN THE NEWS, SCIENCE

A Snapshot of Sea Ice, via NASA's Aqua satellite on Sept. 3, 2010

This image, credited to Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio, shows a snapshot of the Arctic Ice as of Sept 3 of this year.

Check out their video of last year -

Flickr Video

Researchers will undoubtedly reference data of this kind while continuing to broaden our understanding of climate change.

In fall 2009, Arctic sea ice reached its minimum extent on about Sept. 12, and was the third lowest since satellite microwave measurements were first made in 1979. Researchers are interested in year-to-year changes, which can be highly variable, so that scientists need many years, even decades, of data to examine long-term trends. Notably, all of the major minimums have occurred in the last decade, consistent with other NASA research, which shows January 2000 to December 2009 was the warmest decade on record.

Featured Trip – Arviat Fly-in Polar Bear & Northern Lights

September 15th, 2010 | By | Filed in AK PRODUCTS & SERVICES, Featured Trip

Northern Lights over an Arctic Kingdom camp

Our current featured trip offers unmatched opportunities to view and photograph polar bears. This is a five day trip offering an immersive experience of the bears, living alongside them while observing their behavior from the safety and comfort of our cabins. Along with these daytime activities, the chance to view the Northern Lights is an extra treat. Most people are aware that the Aurora are caused by solar particles interacting with Earth’s atmosphere, and according to Wikipedia, colors vary according to the element of these particles, oxygen causing green or brownish red colors, and nitrogen creating blue or red. Whereas polar bears are pretty much always white, regardless of atmospheric influence.

For more examples of the scenery you will experience in Hudson Bay as part of this excursion, check out our inspiration gallery. And here’s a few tips from on how to photograph the lights effectively.

Sailor’s log from 1912 expedition discovered

September 13th, 2010 | By | Filed in Current Events, IN THE NEWS

I’ve been delving into the history of arctic exploration, an undertaking with a seemingly endless supply of stories of determination. Sadly, a number of past expeditions have ended tragically. Worse, occasionally the fates of explorers who set out without GPS and telephone satellites, laptops, modern cold-weather gear, and appropriate accommodations have remained a mystery.

Captain Brusilov and the ill-fated St. Anna. Public domain image from Russia

One such expedition was that of adventurer Georgy Brusilov, captain of a Russian crew aboard the brig Santa Anna seeking the Arctic trade route from Asia to the west. The expedition was a failure, and until very recently the fate of the team’s remains was unknown. This summer their bodies and a journal dated to May 1913 were found on the shores of Franz Josef Land, Europe’s northernmost land mass. reports -

“There is no doubt that the skeletons and notebook pages we found at the end of July on Franz Josef Land are the remains of Georgy Brusilov’s expedition — which were thought forever lost,” Oleg Prodan, who led the mission in the expedition’s footsteps, said.

Midway into its epic journey along the Siberian coast, after navigating the perilous Vilkitsky Strait into the Kara Sea, the expedition ran aground on thick ice floes.

One of its only two survivors, navigator Valerian Albanov, described in his memoirs two grueling winters clinging to the doomed ship and floating ever closer to the North Pole.

Untangling the history of early explorers gives perspective on how far we have come in terms of safety and security! Arctic Kingdom has extensive safety plans and strategies in place, utilizing our highly trained team members, Inuit guides, and the most updated equipment to be prepared for any possible scenario. Tragedies, like the story Brusilov’s expedition, are thankfully a thing of the past.

NASA satellite crash lands in the arctic

September 10th, 2010 | By | Filed in Current Events, IN THE NEWS, SCIENCE, Uncategorized

Accident? Disaster? Prank?

None of the above. Arctic Focus reports on the dramatic decommissioning of NASA’s Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite, or ICESat.

Rather than a posse of delinquent space hacker youths pranging satellites for lolz, however, the undergraduates in question were actually supposed to be in charge of the ICESat. They had been given a go on the controls as part of the ongoing operations of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado. LASP operates various science satellites for NASA from its space command centre on campus in Boulder, Colorado.

Nor was the ICESat’s fiery dive into the Arctic a cockup by enthusiastic but inexperienced youngsters, perhaps rashly left at the controls while their full-time supervisors nipped out for a crafty cig. The ICESat had been returning data from space successfully for seven years, well outlasting its targeted design life, before its primary sensor – a laser device intended for measuring ice thickness, forest cover and suchlike on the Earth below – failed last year.

Having got all that could be got from the now largely purposeless spacecraft in terms of engineering tests etc, NASA decided to decommission the ICESat and use its remaining manoeuvring fuel to send it down into the atmosphere.

The students spent ‘seven days a week’ calculating and tracking the location of the satellite in orbit, before carefully helping it re-emerge into Earth’s atmosphere. Physical debris primarily burns up upon re-entries of this kind, but tracking the trajectory is still extremely important.

“It’s amazing for an undergraduate like me to get hands-on experience controlling multimillion-dollar NASA satellites,” enthuses third-year aerospace engineering sciences student Katelynn Finn.

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t get to crash a spacecraft as part of my undergrad degree!

Photo from NASA of the Delta II rocket launch, which carried the ICESat into space.

Rocket carrying NASA ICESat Launch

Scientists turn to Inuit weather prediction knowledge

September 9th, 2010 | By | Filed in Current Events, Inuit Culture/Art

An accurate weather prediction is of critical importance in an environment where a mistaken report can create safety issues. In this story from Futurity, scientists discuss their new model of working closely with the Inuit to describe and predict the weather.

Using skills passed down through generations, Inuit forecasters living in the Canadian Arctic look to the sky to tell by the way the wind scatters a cloud whether a storm is on the horizon or if it’s safe to go on a hunt.

But in the past 20 years, something has run amok with Inuit forecasting. Old weather signals don’t seem to mean what they used to. The cloud that scatters could signal a storm that comes in an hour instead of a day.

“It’s interesting how the western approach is often trying to understand things without necessarily experiencing them,” says Elizabeth Weatherhead, a research scientist with the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.

“With the Inuit, it’s much more of an experiential issue, and I think that fundamental difference brings a completely different emphasis both in defining what the important scientific questions are, and discerning how to address them.”

Shari Gearhead is a scientist with CU-Boulder’s National Snow and Ice Data Center who has spent ten years living at Clyde River, Nunavut, Canada, an Inuit community on eastern Baffin Island while recording climate information observation directly from the elders and hunters.

“When we first started talking about this, indigenous knowledge didn’t have the place it does now in research,” Gearheard says. “It’s growing. People are becoming more familiar with it, more respectful of it.”

Research like this is critical, not only to help document indigenous knowledge which may someday be lost, but to further science in areas it may be lacking.

“What was incredibly helpful was Shari’s detailed description of what they were experiencing on what sort of timescales,” says Weatherhead.

“That really allowed us to start focusing on our statistical tests and try to find exactly what matched their observations.

Auction of rare polar expedition artifacts

September 9th, 2010 | By | Filed in Arctic History, Current Events

The Toronto Star covers this story regarding an upcoming auction of artifacts from the collection of Sir Charles Seymour Wright, a Toronto native who was a member of an unfortunate British South Pole attempt in 1910-1913

A gold watch presented in 1913 to their local hero by the city of Toronto is part of the Sept. 22 auction trove. Wright seldom used the finicky watch — “the cost of new springs was so high I used my old dollar watch,” he said — “but he never threw it out, so he must have liked it,” Nick Lambourn, director of Exploration and Travel collections at Christie’s, tells the Star.

The collection came by way of Wright’s grandson, Adrian Raeside, whom also wrote a book and filmed a documentary about his grandfather’s incredible experience attempting the pole with Robert Scott. The auction catalog is online as well, and is worth taking a peek at.

YouTube Preview Image

Photography in extreme conditions and protecting your gear

September 7th, 2010 | By | Filed in Uncategorized

Arctic Kingdom supplies the accomodations and transportation, but unless you are a pro photographer with access to specialized gear, how to best protect your cameras from the elements and ensure your trip remains well documented?

I highly approve of Scott Bourne’s first tip, posted over at his informative Photofocus site,

Get out there. Weather is the photographer’s friend. Don’t let the cold or snow or ice or whatever stop you. It can add beauty and visual elements to your photography that make the difference between good and great photos..

Scott follows up with practical tips on protecting your lenses, dealing with batteries in variable conditions, and keeping moisture out of your camera.

You don’t want to get moisture or condensation inside your camera or your lens. You really don’t. Also be careful when bringing your camera indoors to a warm house from a cold outside. Put your camera/lenses in plastic bags that you can seal before you bring them in. That way the condensation forms on the bag not the gear.

Professional wildlife photographer Carolyn E. Wrigh offers up some advice on how to dress yourself for the cold,

In the most severe conditions, add face protection with a face mask, a baklava, or a neck gaiter. And never forget the sunscreen. Snow reflecting the sun’s rays will intensify your UV exposure, even on cloudy days.

As always, you can check out our store for a great selection of cold-weather clothing. Now that you’ve taken care of how to keep you and your camera warm and dry, you can focus on perfecting your wildlife photography shooting and processing skills.

The Beyond Megapixels blog also has a few helpful suggestions on the technical side of exposing potentially challenging subjects properly, for example, photographing polar bears with a backdrop of snow or ice.

Mother and cubs sleeping on an iceberg

The personal side of throat singing

September 6th, 2010 | By | Filed in Inuit Culture/Art

Throat singing is widely recognized as an important facet of Inuit cultural arts, represented by artists such as Tanya Tagaq whom recently toured both Canada and the United States.

The Guardian posted this terrific interview with two singers from divergent backgrounds, discussing their own relationships with the practice as well as how it relates to their experiences as modern native women.

Taqralik Partridge shares,

When I was a kid, we used to see throat singing on TV. Although I lived in Nunavik, an Inuit region in northern Quebec, there was nobody in the community who still knew how to throat sing and it was not widely practiced. So, we children used to pretend to throat sing and make weird sounds because there was nobody to teach us how to do it. Then, when I was at university in Montreal, I was lucky enough to have a friend who knew how to do it and I just thought I would give it a try.

For Nina Segalowitz, learning to throat sing was directly associated with reclaiming her heritage, as she was adopted to a family of very different background at very young age.

As much as my adoptive family loved me, I couldn’t see my reflection in the people around me. There was always something missing. Around 1995 or 1996, I started looking for my biological family. I met my biological family after I started throat singing. I felt it was a natural progression of discovering who I was.

Nina says that for her, throat singing is a way to bridge two worlds.

It’s also a way for us to show the contemporary and traditional sides of our lives, that we can do traditional activities and have traditional knowledge and language and yet also be contemporary in our lifestyle, where we live, what we eat and how we see the world.

The Quest to Swim in all 5 Oceans is almost Complete!

August 24th, 2010 | By | Filed in Current Trips, TRIPS

I just returned from a truly amazing trip to Qikiqtarjuaq, NU, a small community located on the east coast of Baffin Island. One of favourite moments was shared with one of our youngest clients, a 12-year old who is on a mission swim in all five of the world’s oceans. At the beginning of the trip, he had already swum in the Pacific, the Atlantic, and the Southern Oceans, no small feat for a person his age. So here we are camped mere feet from the Arctic Ocean at high tide and on our last day, the sun has come out and it is a scorching hot Arctic summer day – at least 18 degrees Celsius – while the water temperature still hovers around 0 degrees. Today is the day to bring the total oceans to four. Check out the video…

Big Think: Linguist To Document Dying Greenlandic Dialect

August 18th, 2010 | By | Filed in Current Events, Inuit Culture/Art

Over on the Big Think blog, Tobin Hack has posted a link to a Public Radio International piece on Stephen Pax Leonard, a Cambridge University professor who will be spending the next year learning and documenting Inuktun, the local dialect of Quaanaaag, Greenland.

But this is about more than just language. The Inughuit language is in danger because their way of life is changing, as climate change endangers the animals they hunt and the environment in which they and those animals live. As Leonard explains,

“It’s a community that’s dependent on the hunting of sea mammals. Because of global warming there are fewer animals to kill and it’s increasingly dangerous to do so using these ancient traditional techniques that they use [dogsled and kayak] and so it looks like now this entire community could be moved further south within 10-15 years. And if that happens, the language, culture, the way of life will all go, will all disappear.”
“If their language dies,” says Leonard, “their heritage and identity will die with it.” Leonard has a head start on the communication front; he’ll be able to get by in his new adopted community by speaking Danish, until he gets the hang of Inukun. But he’ll be rushing toward fluency in his first few months, because all of the good stuff – all of the Inughuit’s most important songs, stories, myths, and spiritual beliefs – live in Inuktun.

via Endangered People: Linguist To Document Dying Greenlandic Dialect | Brave Green World | Big Think.

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