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Arctic char – a Northern delicacy

March 4th, 2015 | By | Filed in Arctic Animals, Sports

Freshly caught Arctic charThe Latin name for Arctic char is Salvelinus alpinus, a fish by any other name would taste as delicious. [Shakespeare, please forgive me.] I prefer it to salmon. Have you tried some? I like it grilled in butter and served with freshly ground black pepper.

If you have a great Arctic char recipe, please share it in the comments

This species of fish is an excellent source of protein and Omega-3. You can substitute it for salmon in your favourite recipe. Arctic char are members of the salmonidae family that includes salmon, trout, graylings and freshwater whitefishes. They spawn in freshwater, some spend most of their lives at sea, yet some are landlocked their entire lives. Arctic char are the most northerly distributed freshwater fish. Much of the Arctic char available in your local supermarket is farm raised. To truly appreciate the unique taste you should try wild Arctic char.

Are polar bears dangerous?

February 19th, 2015 | By | Filed in Arctic Animals, Current Trips

Polar bear and cubThomas Lennartz is an experienced expedition leader who has been an important part of the Arctic Kingdom family for a very long time. We were chatting the other day about the reputation of polar bears as dangerous creatures. An undeserved reputation according to Tom. On the islands of Svalbard, where Norway's polar bear population resides there is a precautionary principle: Keep your distance. Norwegians take seriously their stewardship of the Svalbard polar bear population. So seriously that they have published a how-to manual for visiting their polar bear territory.

Human behaviour toward polar bears can be dangerous

The answer to the question "are polar bears dangerous" lies somewhere in between Svalbard's "Polar bears are potentially dangerous animals" and Tom's belief that their reputation is undeserved. The key is found in our behaviour as travellers through polar bear habitat. Baiting, pursuing or approaching polar bears feeding are three behaviours that will bring out the beast in the bears. Quietly observing polar bears in a non-threatening manner as they go about their normal activities will keep a bear calm. So calm in fact that the polar bear may ignore you completely. That is the perfect opportunity to take the money shot, like the one that illustrates this post. The smell of breakfast cooking that drifts from a camp can draw a polar bear. The smell of bacon brings me into the kitchen from wherever I've been. So we shouldn't be surprised that a polar bear reacts just like us! When you travel with us on any of our polar bear trips, you'll be in the hands of experts who know how to behave in polar bear country.

Narwhal or Narwhals? 5 things you may not know about the Arctic whale

January 6th, 2015 | By | Filed in Arctic Animals

A pair of narwhal

A pair of narwhal

What is the plural of narwhal?

The answer to that trick question is narwhal and narwhals are equally correct. What you choose to use is up to you.

What is a tusk made of?

The tusk is a tooth that grows from the upper jaw of the male of the species. Every tusk has as many as 10 million nerve endings inside it. On rare occasion one has been seen with two tusks.

What color is the Arctic whale?

That depends on its age. Blue-gray is the colour of a newborn, with juveniles turning blue-blac. Adults are mottled. Narwhal that live to an old age turn almost all white.

What is the Inuktituk name for narwhal?

Qilalugaq tugaalik is the traditional name. Scientists refer to the whale as monodon monoceros. Linguists claim that the English name comes from the Old Norse: Nar (corpse) and hvalr (whale).

Where can you see them in the wild?

We are glad you asked! The greatest number  summer in the Canadian Arctic at the north end of Baffin Island and Prince Regent Inlet. Baffin Island is the narwhal capital of the world. Our adventure - Narwhal and Polar Bear Safari - occurs when the narwhal migrate from Baffin Bay where they spend the winter months.

@ArcticKingdom – polar bear names

September 24th, 2014 | By | Filed in Arctic Animals, SCIENCE

What's in a polar bear name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." My apologies to Shakespeare.
Polar bear and cub

Polar bear and cub

Because the big white bears are found every Arctic country in the world, there are many polar bear names. Master of helping spirits is the translation of the Greenlandic name tornassuk. The Sami people of Scandinavia's Arctic do not speak the bear's name. Instead, they refer to polar bears as God's dog or old man in the fur cloak. Russians call polar bears beliy medved - the white bear. Norwegians tell it like it is - they simply call the polar bear - isbjorn - ice bear. In March of 2014, the Toronto Zoo unveiled the name of its new polar bear cub - Humphrey. You can read about Humphrey here. There are two opposing views about keeping polar bears in zoos - zoos protect biodiversity and save endangered species from extinction vs. the belief that zoos are inhumane places to keep migratory animals. Understandably, Arctic Kingdom believes that the best place to see polar bears are in the wild. German researchers have done DNA studies that indicate polar bears became a distinct species about 600,000 years ago. About 40 different indigenous peoples call the Arctic home, each with their own tales - and names - for polar bears. Polar bears pre-date human beings. I wonder what they call us?

Polar Bear Trips in Canada: Tips for #Bargain Hunters

September 12th, 2014 | By | Filed in Arctic Animals, Current Trips, Featured Trip

Polar Bear Mother and Cub

Polar Bear Travel in 2014

The height of 2014 polar bear travel season is approaching. As you know, prime time usually means prime dollars. There are some bargains to be had. Read about our 2014 savings. Polar Bear Migration Fly-in Photo Safari Get 6 days for the price of 5! No haggling. Join the October 19, 24 or November 14, 2014 departures and you'll get an extra day of polar bear watching without paying one cent more! That is a savings of $1596 per person. Yes you read that right - $1596 per person based on the per day rate for the 5 day trip. Sometimes math does come in handy. You will get one more day on the land to encounter polar bears, Arctic foxes and may be, if the conditions are just right, Northern Lights! No Single Supplement for Solo Travellers on Polar Bear Trips I travel alone more often than I travel with companions. There is nothing more than I dislike is paying the ransom travel companies charge for solo travel. The rate for a solo traveller on our Polar Bear Migration Fly-in Photo Safari is 1.7 times the per person rate. Don't hiss or boo. We aren't the villains you might think we are, because in 2014 only, we have a few solo travellers who want to share a cabin so they don't have to pay the single supplement of $5,586. They have asked us to find them cabin mates. We're matching women with women and men with men. More importantly, you'll be meeting new people that share your passion for polar bears and the Arctic! Call us toll free 1-888-737-6816 to inquire about dates and availability. If you snooze, you will lose this travel bargain.    

Walk with Grizzly Bears in your wildlife #film

September 6th, 2014 | By | Filed in Arctic Animals, Featured Trip, Filmmakers, Films, Northern Lights - Aurora Borealis, Trips

Walking with Grizzlies

Walking with Grizzlies

Have you seen Disneynature's Bears? Filmed in Alaska, it follows a mother and her two cubs from the time they emerge from the den until they return to that den a year later. Alastair Fothergill co-directed and co-wrote the documentary. His pedigree as a wildlife documentary is long and distinguished. He began in the renowned BBC Natural History department working with Sir David Attenborough. So you don't have to take my word that Bears is worth spending an afternoon on the couch with the family and a bowl of popcorn. Make your own documentary - about Grizzly Bears You are right to be skeptical about your ability to equal the quality of Bears, but that doesn't mean you can't make a wildlife documentary. Digital cameras - and smartphones - shoot HD video. You can edit your footage on your home computer. You can even add soundtrack music and titles. If you are shouting at your tablet screen, "Yes I can do that, but there's no way I can get as close to bears as professional documentary makers," desist. Because you can! Really. The picture to above is proof. The video we shot at the grizzly bear camp is further proof. Watch the grizzly bears here. Make your own documentary - about Polar Bears Now that I have convinced you that you can make your own wildlife documentaries, let me amp the excitement up a notch. Make a documentary about polar bears. Yes, you can get close enough to shoot polar bears and live. We can make it happen for you. We have the video to prove it. Watch the polar bears here.  

New Bowhead Whale Molting Location Found

April 29th, 2013 | By | Filed in Arctic Animals, Recent Trips, Scientists, Upcoming Trip

“There must be over 20 bowhead whales!” Exclaimed Graham Dickson, Chief Expedition Officer for Arctic Kingdom Expeditions. It was August 2012, and while scouting a new area just south of Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut by boat with a couple of photographers on Arctic Kingdom’s trip “Polar Bears and Glaciers of Baffin Island” Dickson, and the photographers were witnessing the act of bowhead whales rubbing their 60’ long bodies on the rocks at the bottom of the ocean floor to scrape off their skin – a process also known as ‘molting’.
Bowheads rubbing in the shallow waters of the coast of Baffin Island with snorkeler Todd Mintz approaching

Bowheads rubbing in the shallow waters of the coast of Baffin Island allowed with snorkeler Todd Mintz approaching

One of the photographers, Todd Mintz, a Canadian photographer who has travelled with Arctic Kingdom to photograph polar bears, muskox and narwhal since 2010 couldn’t resist putting on his drysuit and floating in the water to witness the behavior underwater. He took this video with a GoPro camera mounted on his camera. When asked what is was like to have a 100 ton whale approach to within 5 feet of him, Mintz replied, “That was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had. I had no idea what he was going to do. I was frozen on the spot, and only remembered to take some pictures at the last second. That never happens.”
bowhead, arctic kingdom, swim with bowhead

View from the boat when the bowhead whale surfaced

Mintz also managed to retrieve some bowhead whale skin that was floating in the water. At the time Dickson and the photographers on board knew they were witnessing something special. The fact that there were such a high concentration of bowhead whales in 30’ of shallow water is very rare as bowhead whales are known to be pelagic or deep water whales. Second, the water clarity was crystal clear and to our knowledge there has never before been such clear underwater photographs taken of bowhead whales. Third, the pieces of bowhead whale skin in the water, also to our recollection had not been seen before. To verify what we saw, we consulted with the Canadian expert in bowhead whales - retired bowhead whale ecologist and researcher Kerry Finley. Finley has studied the Baffin Island bowhead whales since 1983 along the coast of Baffin Island mainly a few hundred kilometers to the north in Isabella Bay. He had not been to the location where we saw the rubbing activity.
"The place where whales go" according to local Inuit elders

"The place where whales go" according to local Inuit elders

After discussing the behavior of the bowhead whales with Finley and reviewing photos and video taken on the trip he commented, “Your photographers captured just the sort of image that we tried so many years to obtain…I had hoped to document the rubbing behaviour that I suspected was taking place but to no avail. It is interesting that you actually saw pieces of skin which I never saw. It is definitely molting behavior that you saw”. Finley went on to say, “What you have found, could very well be a very special place for bowhead whale observation”
The bowhead whales were finning, logging (resting on the surface), tail slapping, and rubbing on the rocks in the shallow waters

The bowhead whales were finning, logging (resting on the surface), tail slapping, and rubbing on the rocks in the shallow waters

Upon returning to the Arctic Kingdom base camp that evening one of the local Inuit elders came to our camp. We described to him where we went and what we saw. His response was simple – “Yes, you went to the place where the bowhead whales go”. Apparently we are not the first ones to have ‘discovered’ the bowhead whales and where they go to molt. The Inuit people have known about them all along. Arctic Kingdom is planning on returning Aug 2 to 6, 2015 and Aug 6 to 18 2015 to the “place where the bowhead whales go” along with our Inuit friends and we hope to repeat the encounter. 2016 dates are also planned around the same timeframe. EDIT 2014: Arctic Kingdom returned in 2014 and observed the bowhead whale molting behavior with an excited group of guests. There are still a few limited spaces left for interested persons who would like to join. For more details visit this page: “Polar Bears and Glaciers of Baffin Island” Or Contact: Thomas Lennartz – [email protected]

So…what’s it really like?

August 27th, 2012 | By | Filed in AK NEWS, AK PRODUCTS & SERVICES, Arctic Animals, Client Reports, FEATURED, Featured Trip, INUIT, Inuit Culture/Art, Recent Trips, SCIENCE, TRIPS, Trips

Travel journalist Liz Fleming joined the Arctic Kingdom team for the polar bear and narwhal safari north of Pond Inlet in Sirmilik National Park in June.  Her blog posts give a day-by-day look at life on the ice, 80 kilometers from anywhere. Day 1 The day began with flights, from Ottawa to Iqaluit, then north to Pond Inlet. Though First Air proved to be a happy surprise – I’d been expecting only very basic service and a potentially bumpy ride.  It’s hard to believe a small airline like First Air provides the kind of service they do – hot meals, friendly attendants, blanket and pillows.  Air Canada – take a lesson! In the Iqaluit airport, I spotted some other members of our group and introduced myself to Cornelius, Justin and Jens.  I’m not gifted with great detective skills – they were easy to spot and so was I. Grinning from ear to ear, wearing coats way too bulky for the airport and wheeling duffel bags straining their zippers – we were stoked and it was obvious! We boarded the plane and filled most of the seats.  I sat next to a petite Inuit woman named Martha on her way home to Pond Inlet after having been in Ottawa for surgery.  After a bit of where-are-you-from-and-what-do-you-do conversation, I learned Martha – four years my junior - was already the grandmother of three.  She was sorry to hear that my young sons haven’t yet given me any grandchildren.  “Maybe soon,” she smiled, while I fervently hoped they’d take their time! After a moment’s silence, Martha asked, “You’re a southerner.  Do you think seal hunting’s wrong?” Before I could even process the idea that I’m a ‘southerner’ (my Florida friends would think that was a riot, I’m sure) Martha continued. “I read an article in the newspaper in Ottawa about Inuit ‘slaughtering’ seals. That’s not right. We don’t slaughter them. We take only what we need and we use everything.  We have to hunt to feed our families.” She paused and gestured to the vast frozen landscape below. “Look out there.  I can’t grow anything on that land and the food in the stores in Pond Inlet is too expensive to buy much.  If southerners don’t want us to hunt – what should we feed our families?” I didn’t have any answers but could sense my worldview was in for a good shakeup. We arrived at the airport in Pond Inlet to be greeted by Mike Beedell who’d come to collect us, and our mountain of luggage. Mike’s a bearded ball of craziness – alternately cracking jokes, singing snatches of old rock and roll, sharing fascinating nature factoids, and telling the kind of stories of his travels in the wild that make you realize that you’ve found a latter day Daniel Boone. Having stuffed the little hotel bus to bursting, we made the five-minute trek to our lodge.  After sorting out room keys in the lobby, Mike announced that we’d meet for dinner at 6pm so we hustled to toss bags into rooms and wrestled with the sketchy wifi to send messages home.  We’d arrived. The evening included a walk to the local cultural association building for an evening of dancing, singing and displays of strength by some truly talented local Inuit performers.  Throat-singers explained the jokingly competitive aspect of their eerie performance while young athletes kicked and wrestled, showing incredible strength. Throughout the performance, the overriding theme was the hunt – whether for seals or walrus or caribou.  Dance steps, drumming, even the sounds made by the throat singers – everything was linked and I could hear Martha’s words in my mind, “If southerners don’t want us to hunt – what should we feed our families?” Though the cultural performances were fascinating, perhaps the most important moments of the night happened at dinner.  After introducing himself, and his colleague Tom Lennartz who would be with us for our great adventure, Mike Beedell asked the group members to share their reasons for coming on the Arctic Kingdom trip.  Why were we there?  People talked about their love of wildlife and of years of longing to see the Arctic – clearly, we were a wildly varied collection of backgrounds and personalities but we shared this one important passion. Mike listened carefully to each comment and then added his own, “I think we’re all looking for some magic in our lives,” he said.  “And I think you’re going to find it here.”       Author: Liz Fleming

Field Update, Narwhal and Beluga

June 20th, 2011 | By | Filed in AK PRODUCTS & SERVICES, Arctic Animals, Photographers

Our team is currently at the floe edge in Arctic Bay through the rest of this month, and have been posting incredible images of the Beluga and Narwhal they're observing!  Follow us on Facebook for even more photos and updates direct from the source. Travelling over the sea ice from the floe edge to the AK base camp 10km back from the edge Previously - Thomas Lennartz writes on the allure of the Arctic and why he keeps going back.
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