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"Missing Link" in Seal Evolution Lived on Devon Island

June 1st, 2010 | By | Filed in Arctic Animals

In Oceans, narrator Pierce Brosnan notes that, while all life on earth began in the sea, there are a few creatures that returned, abandoning legs and feet for flippers and underwater grace.

This is true, for example, of seals, who, like other Pinnipeds, evolved from “bear like” land mammals some 23 million years ago. In 2007, researchers working in the arctic found the remains of Puijila darwini, a semi-aquatic carnivore with webbed feet and a seal-like skull. This early ancestor of the modern day seal gives researchers insight into how Pinnipeds returned to the sea, in what was then a temperate forest with moderate winters.

Unlike modern-day seals, the “walking seal” was most likely comfortable hunting on land, only occasionally venturing into shallower waters.

Read more: Puijila: A Prehistoric Walking Seal Home Page.

Ice Diving Pond Inlet

May 31st, 2010 | By | Filed in ACTIVITIES, Diving

Over on the AK Expeditions Twitter Feed, Thomas reports that the expedition has just done their first dive at the Pond Inlet Floe Edge, and is enjoying amazing visibility. I hope some photos will be forthcoming soon, but til then, here are some from years past:

Diverse marine life makes the waters surrounding pond inlet ideal for diving.

The scenery's pretty spectacular, too.

For the latest expedition updates, follow Arctic Kingdom Field akexpeditions on Twitter.

Throatsinger Tanya Tagaq Redefines Tradition

May 26th, 2010 | By | Filed in Inuit Culture/Art

I ran across some great videos today of Tanya Tagaq, a throatsinger out of Yellowknife whose reinterpretation of Inuit traditions has brought her international acclaim.

This isn’t the first time I’ve posted videos of throatsinging, but Tagaq does something simultaneously ancient and new, capturing something essential of both her culture and the landscape that has fostered it for generations.

Tanya Tagaq @ YBCA

Tanya Tagaq MySpace Music Videos

She’s sung with many prominent artists, including Bjork, Faith No More’s Mike Patton, and the Kronos Quartet.

Tagaq is on tour right now, with an appearance tonight in Quebec and upcoming concerts in Ontario, British Columbia, Ireland, the UK and Portugal. You can check out the tour schedule on her website for more information.

Arctic Entertainment.

NNSL Online Music

Tanya Tagaq Official Website

Far-flying Birds' Feats of Endurance Surprise Researchers

May 25th, 2010 | By | Filed in Arctic Animals, Current Events

Earlier this year, we looked at the migration of the arctic tern, which commutes more than 50,000 miles in a year as it migrates from pole to pole.

An article in yesterday’s New York times reveals that terns aren’t the only long-distance flyers. And the bar-tailed godwit, which makes an annual pilgrimage south from Alaska to New Zealand, makes non-stop flights of unprecedented length.

In 2006, Biologist Robert E. Gill, curious about why the godwits fattened themselves up for what scientist believed was a migration along food-rich shores, tagged the godwits with transmitters.

The transmitters sent their location to Mr. Gill’s computer, and he sometimes stayed up until 2 in the morning to see the latest signal appear on the Google Earth program running on his laptop. Just as he had suspected, the bar-tailed godwits headed out over the open ocean and flew south through the Pacific. They did not stop at islands along the way. Instead, they traveled up to 7,100 miles in nine days — the longest nonstop flight ever recorded. “I was speechless,” Mr. Gill said.

Since then, scientists have been tagging other migrating birds, revealing feats of endurance no one had expected. Turns out, these birds are biologically adapted to last for long stretches without rest or food.

via Birds That Migrate Thousands of Miles With Nary a Stop –

New Site:

May 21st, 2010 | By | Filed in AK NEWS, Gear

In our photos from George River, you might have noticed some distinctive silver cases cropping up again and again.

These Zarges Cases are rugged and secure, standing up to the extraordinary trails we regularly face on our expeditions to the Arctic. We’ve relied on these products for over a decade, so we’re proud to be able to bring these cases to other adventurers as an authorized reseller. Visit the site today, and find out how we can outfit your expedition with some of the most lightweight, durable, and corrosion-resistant customizable cases on the market.

This Week on Flickr: George River Expedition

May 20th, 2010 | By | Filed in AK NEWS, Current Trips

There’s nothing cozier than a warm campsite on a cold night. Here are some shots from our base camp along the George River:

Of course, it’s not all sitting cozy inside a tent — there are bears out there (and, if Thomas’s tweets are any indication, a lot of ‘em!)

Check out our Flickr page for more great shots, updated (almost) every week! And visit the Expedition Twitter Feed for updates from Arctic Kingdom expeditions currently in the field.

Arctic Art

May 19th, 2010 | By | Filed in Current Events, Global Warming, IN THE NEWS

A group of Dutch artists has installed sculptures on icebergs. They are now tracking the movement of the icebergs as they break free and move throughout the Arctic.

The pieces are already in motion, travelling from Uummannaq toward Baffin Bay. Here’s a video from last month:

YouTube Preview Image

Read more:

Statue built on a glacier spotted drifting through the Arctic ocean – Art – io9.

cool (E) motion

Grise Fiord Follow-Up

May 14th, 2010 | By | Filed in Recent Trips, Team Interviews

Last month, Thomas was expedition leader exploratory expedition up to Grise Ford, where Arctic Kingdom hopes to offer expeditions in the very near future.

The Northern News Service Online has a story up about Oolateeteh Iqaluk, the Resolute resident who served as lead guide on the expedition.

Iqaluk was the last guide to lead a group from Resolute to Grise ford, six years ago, making him the best person to lead our expedition.

“The most challenging part of the trip was the weather,” said Iqaluk, who said the first three days of the trip were very windy with whiteouts.

For three days, the group was weathered in and covered little ground. Iqaluk said the weather did not clear until they reached the end of Ellesmere Island. The whiteouts made the animal tracks hard to see on the snow and Iqaluk said it was hard to tell where the animals were and they were lucky to see some polar bears and muskox. On April 20, they arrived in Grise Fiord after travelling 720 kilometres.

Following a few days rest, the group, along with Iqaluk’s 22-year-old nephew Harry Iqaluk and several of the company’s clients, left Grise Fiord for Resolute on April 24. For the five days Lennartz said they had beautiful weather. The group was fortunate enough to see many polar bears and muskox daily.

By using local knowledge from their guides and hunters in Grise Fiord, the group made it back to Resolute on April 28 after traveling 600 kilometres

For more on the expedition, including some great photos, check out Thomas’s account of the trip!

via Tour company explores eco-tourism trips.

Catlin Arctic Survey Team Reaches Pole

May 13th, 2010 | By | Filed in Conservation, Current Events, Global Warming, SCIENCE

From the press release in my inbox this morning:

A team of three British explorers described as ‘the world’s toughest’ reached the North Geographic Pole today ending a gruelling 60 day scientific survey across the floating sea ice of the Arctic Ocean.

The Catlin Arctic Survey’s headquarters in London was contacted at 2050 hours (BST) by team leader Ann Daniels and her colleagues Martin Hartley and Charlie Paton to say they had completed their survey work as they reached the Pole.

The team has been collecting water and marine life samples from beneath the floating sea ice as part of the expedition’s leading edge science programme which is assessing the impact of CO² absorbtion on the ocean and its marine life – a process known as ocean acidification.

At the North Pole, the taking some final samples took priority over celebration.

“We called it our Hole at the Pole” said Ann Daniels. “Getting the science work done has always been our top priority, but it is absolutely fantastic to reach the Pole as well. We’re ecstatic.”

Speaking from Catlin Arctic Survey’s headquarters in London, the Survey Director and explorer Pen Hadow described the team’s achievement as extraordinary. “It’s not possible to imagine what this team has had to do to pull off this extreme survey. I consider them to be the world’s toughest to have done this. Together they’re the face of modern exploration helping to advance the understanding of scientists and the public alike about how the natural world works.”

The three explorers have travelled over 483 miles (777 kilometres) since March 14th but to reach the Pole have had to increase the amount of trekking time each day. They made it with only hours to spare before a Twin Otter plane was scheduled to land on the ice to collect them.

Commenting on the harsh conditions Ann Daniels said: “It has been an unbelievably hard journey over the ice. Conditions have been unusually tough and at times very frustrating with a frequent southerly drift pushing us backwards every time we camped for the night. On top of that we’ve had to battle into head-winds and swim across large areas of dangerously thin ice and open water.”

Congratulations to the team on making this extraordinary journey!

Catlin Arctic Survey on CNN

May 7th, 2010 | By | Filed in IN THE NEWS

The photo-essay above was recorded by Martin Hartley for CNN. It’s got some great still and moving images of the Catlin team at work!

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