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Research Points to Hope For Polar Bears

December 17th, 2010 | By | Filed in Current Events, IN THE NEWS posted an article bringing together information on new research into polar ice formation patterns which suggest a less dire future for the arctic area in the coming century.
Steven Amstrup of the US Geological Survey in Anchorage, Alaska, and his colleagues looked at models of future sea ice circulation and found no evidence of a 'tipping point' of warming beyond which the ice will disappear irreversibly. So bringing greenhouse-gas emissions under control, they write, should help to preserve polar-bear habitat and Arctic ecosystems at large.
Certain aspects of this research ties directly to the goal of protecting areas from oil exploration and drilling, a point of view both the Canadian and American governments have taken direct action to support in recent months.
Some spots in the Arctic are predicted to stay ice-covered for longer than their surroundings. Melanie Smith, a landscape ecologist with conservation group Audubon Alaska in Anchorage who has compiled an atlas of Arctic waters but was not at this week's meeting, says that there are two areas of shallow water in the Chukchi Sea between Siberia and Alaska that are protected from melting until late summer each year: Hanna Shoal in US waters and Herald Shoal in Russian waters. Warm currents from the south are diverted around these 10,000-square-kilometre shoals, making them 1–2 ºC cooler than their surrounding waters.
Smith notes that the oil company Shell, based in The Hague, The Netherlands, applied for a permit to drill in the Hanna Shoal area in 2010, although the project has stopped moving forwards since the US government clamped down on offshore oil drilling after the Gulf of Mexico spill in April. Smith doesn't know whether a rig itself would have an impact on wildlife seeking refuge on ice in a shoal, but says that it would be disastrous for an oil spill to occur in the only remaining suitable patch of habitat for local animals such as walruses.

Shedd Aquarium’s Baby Beluga Celebrates His First Year

December 16th, 2010 | By | Filed in Current Events, IN THE NEWS

Via zooborns (a blog tirelessly dedicated to the documentation of adorable baby animals) we learn that Shedd Aquarium recently celebrating the one year birthday of their baby Beluga calf, Nunavik. This 'little' guy weighs in at 450 lbs and is healthy, despite some initial issues upon his birth.

Photo Copyright - Shedd Aquarium

To see more photos of Nunavik, you can find Shedd Aquarium online at their website, on facebook, and youtube. They've also shared this video of Nunavik's birth - it's a touch graphic but fascinating to watch! YouTube Preview Image

Webinar – Bowhead Whales, Walrus and Polar Bears of the Foxe Basin

December 15th, 2010 | By | Filed in Current Trips, Webinar

The bowhead highway you won't mind being stuck on. Imagine seeing the largest whales of the Arctic Ocean, breaching, spyhopping, and finning (waving their fins while on their side) - from within meters away. Add in herds of walrus, surrounded by lands steeped in Inuit history and culture - all within arms reach...literally. Join Arctic Kingdom expedition director Thomas Lennartz for a virtual tour of one of the best locations to view bowhead whales as they wait for the floe edge near Igloolik/Hall Beach to break up. In addition there will be at times hundreds of walrus floating on pans of ice. On this webinar:
  • LEARN of the beauty of the Foxe Basin region on the Melville Peninsula 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
  • DISCOVER - how and why this region is excellent to get you up close to these giants of the Arctic and give you unparalled photographic opportunities
  • GET A SENSE - of the daily activities while on this trip, from daily boat excursions, to photography opportunities, hiking and kayaking
  • For related trip details visit: Bowhead Whales, Walrus and Polar Bears of the Foxe Basin

    The Ten Weirdest New Animals of 2010

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

    The editors at National Geographic voted this purple little octopus one of the 'Ten Weirdest New Animals' of 2010. It's one of 11 potential new species discovered off Canada's Atlantic coast by researchers doing deep-sea exploration. You can check out the researcher's blog here, and view more great photos of recent deep sea discoveries from the same area on National Geographic's website. I personally find this cute octopus way less weird than some of their other choices, which include a very odd looking bat and a shudder-worthy three-inch long leech.

    Reminder – Webinar Dec 15th

    December 12th, 2010 | By | Filed in AK NEWS, AK PRODUCTS & SERVICES, Upcoming Trip

    Don't forget to register to participate in our free upcoming webinar on December 15, Thomas will be discussing our Bowhead Whales, Walrus and Polar Bears of the Foxe Basin adventure. This trip is incredible! You'll see the largest whales of the Arctic Ocean in their natural habitat, breaching, finning - from within a distance of mere meters.  Also, herds of walrus, the chance to experience Inuit history and culture, all under the guidance of our knowledgeable and experienced team. Ask your questions during the webinar, or email them ahead of time to [email protected] We look forward to talking to you!

    The Polar Circle Marathon

    December 11th, 2010 | By | Filed in Current Events, IN THE NEWS

    The Guardian UK posted this great first-person article from writer Nick Mead on his experience participating in the 2010 Polar Circle Marathon -
    My race plan was to try to keep up with the leaders on the steep climb to the ice cap and over the ice, gambling that I could recover on the downhill section, and see what happened after that. This worked well enough until we came to run down a slope of solid ice, my feet disappeared from under me and my teeth jarred together as my left thigh connected with the ice. I could do nothing to stop myself sliding another 30 ft downhill and off course. Adrenaline helped me pick myself up and gingerly make my way back to the marked path and off the ice cap – but I had a feeling I would pay for it later. The sweeping views of the jagged blue-grey cliff of the Russell glacier went on for miles, and as the track crossed a stretch of Arctic desert, the ice crystals glistened in the low sun like millions of diamonds. The temperature can reach 40C here in the summer, with -57C the lowest recorded in winter, and it's one of the driest places on Earth, so I was grateful for the frequent water stations (although I wish I hadn't decided not to carry my own water supply in a fit of 5am race-plan tinkering on the day of the run).
    For many visitors, a trip to the arctic is primarily to view wildlife, experience Inuit culture, or participate in ice diving. You know, experience the grandeur of the area at a slightly different pace.  Mead's article is a reminder that marathons are a goal unto themselves for folks passionate about the sport.
    The race attracted runners from around the world, with 18 countries represented this year. Many had run extreme and exotic marathons, like the retired South African lecturer who had already knocked off seven marathons in seven continents, and is now well on the way to completing his next goal of running 26 marathons in 26 countries. Others were tackling their first 26.2-mile race. Oxfordshire businessmen Tony Jones and Simon Biltcliffe were having a change from their usual sports of mountaineering and cycling, as part of their plan to do "one stupid thing a year". When I crossed the finish line after 3 hours and 31 minutes it had warmed up to a balmy -6C and I found myself in a creditable 6th place.
    Personally, you don't catch me running very often. Not even through breathtakingly beautiful landscapes. A nice ride on our Airboat to view some Polar Bears is more my style. Although, if I was going to take up a new sport, perhaps the half marathon would be a good place to start.

    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!
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