It was seven years in the making, and now it’s just seven days away: Oceans opens in North America this Earth Day, April 22!
We’re very excited to have been involved in the making of this film, which uses the latest technology — including a camera called the Thetys after the sea nymph of Greek myth — to capture unprecedented shots of underwater life.
On Monday, I blogged about the ice breakup the Catlin Arctic Survey team experienced at their camp the previous week.
The video above, filmed previous to the ice breakup at camp, shows the extreme conditions the team has been experiencing this year. It starts with some fast-moving ice, and goes on to show the difficult conditions the team traverses in the course of attaining water and ice samples.
I have to admit a weakness for hot air balloon travel — there’s something so elegant, so magical about it, it really takes air travel away from mere utilitarian transport and into a realm of wonder.
Of course, up at the North Pole, this is more than just a balloon ride. Of his 3,130 km trip from Spitzbergen to Siberia, 65-year old French explorer Jean-Louis Etienne notes,
It was much harder than I imagined it to be. Yesterday I made contact with France and for a press conference, they asked me, if it took me five days. I would say I wouldn’t know. It was constant and non-stop… It was an extremely grueling voyage with sleep hours, well, that doesn’t exist- sleep hours, more like with some minutes of sleep. It was very very grueling.
Still, the video that balloon soaring over the snow is gorgeous. It reminds me of one of my favorite sets on our Flickr page, of a 2004 expedition utilizing a hot air balloon for filming!
The photo above was captured by the Catlin Arctic Survey team. It shows the break up of the ice pad where they had made their camp — the culmination of the extreme shifting ice the team has encountered over the past few weeks.
Charlie Paton describes the event, which happened during breakfast, as sudden and unexpected: “We heard a crack, a few bangs and then suddenly the ice started to break apart. It all happened very quickly and was unlike anything I’ve experienced before.”
The team scrambled to rescue equipment and sledges, managing to escape the breakup unscathed. Still, the situation highlights the danger presented by “chaotic” ice conditions, and the literal thin ice the team traverses as they collect water samples for research.
Despite the dangers the team faces, the folks at Catlin report that they remain “upbeat” following their recent resupply. Check out the team’s audio updates for more observations and stories from the ice!
Earthquakes have been in the news a lot lately, with large seismic events happening all over the globe. A friend asked the other day whether the Arctic ever experiences quakes. It does, of course: the Arctic, like any region of the globe, can experience tiny, usually imperceptible quakes, or even larger ones: the Fox Islands in Alaska, for example, experienced a magnitude 6.5 quake in October 2009. And then, of course, there’s the more recent seismic activity in Iceland:
Iceland is located on the mid-ocean ridge, which marks the border between two continental plates. The island is home to more than 200 volcanoes, which are formed as the plates slowly drift apart. Over time, fissures form, allowing molten lava to surface, creating the dramatic scene you see above.
Iceland’s location is no coincidence — the island is made up of the cooled lava, known as basalt. Starting about seventy million years ago, lava surfacing along the ridge has formed Iceland’s present day landscape.
I’m sending this update from the field using a BGAN inmarsat satellite internet modem. We are currently in the middle of an exploratory expedition to the north east side of Ungava Bay of Nunavik, Quebec in search of polar bears via snowmobiles and helicopter. Below are pictures of our new camp design – rigid dome polar bear proof structures as well as some of the wildlife we have seen. It has been nothing short of spectacular with over 28 polar bears seen in 2 days – some cubs as young as only a few months old, and some yearling cubs. In addition, we also flew over 14 or so Torngat Caribou – one of the only caribou herds that do not migrate;. Finally, we witnessed a stunning display of the shimmering northern lights for hours on end last night. It’s been a great few days with still a few more to go. Stay tuned… but in the meantime, enjoy the pictures!
AT TORNGAT BASECAMP WITH FIRST GROUP OF FOUR. A RAINY DAY BUT SPIRITS ARE HIGH. TOMORROW A DAY OF LOOKING FOR POLAR BEAR!
This expedition is new for this year, timed to coincide with polar bear mothers leaving their dens. The group is also hoping for some fantastic northern light displays, and sure of some amazing scenery among Eastern Canada’s highest mountain peaks!
We hope to get some field photos soon, and expect to hear more from Thomas via Twitter in the coming days!
(Edited to add: that image above is from Google Maps, and shows the area during the summer. Right now, a more current aerial image would look a lot whiter!)
California is a long way off from the Arctic, but I thought I’d pass this along to any readers who might be in the neighborhood: The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (located in downtown San Francisco) will be showcasing independent Inuit films this April, with showings of Marie-Hélène Cousineau & Madeline Piujuq Ivalu’s Before Tomorrow, Zacharias Kunuk’s The Fast Runner, and Zacharias Kunuk & Norman Cohn’s The Journals of Knud Rasmussen. Here’s the blurb from the YBCA’s website:
Igloolik is a community of 1,200 people located on a small island in the north Baffin region of the Canadian Arctic with archeological evidence of 4,000 years of continuous habitation. Throughout these millennia, with no written language, untold numbers of nomadic Inuit renewed their culture and traditional knowledge for every generation entirely through storytelling. These three brilliantly original films express the dramatic history of one of the world’s oldest oral cultures from its own point of view.