Mario Tama photographed these breathless Arctic photos from a Lockheed P-3 accompanying a NASA crew carrying out Operation Icebridge, an operation initiated to measure Earth’s glaciers and ice sheets. The stillness, colors and textures of the Arctic landscape left Tama speechless.
“It’s such an unexpected landscape,” he says. “It felt like we were flying over a different planet.”
NASA spends 10 weeks each spring in the Arctic when the ice levels are at their highest using a pair of laser altimeters to record ice elevation and three types of radars to measure snow – one of which reaches 300 feet down to bedrock. Flying shifts of up to 12 hours, the crew surveyed hundreds of miles of coastline along Ellesmere Island in Canada and Greenland. While researchers focused on computer screens, Tama focused his camera on a landscape without scale.
“I was looking at shapes and features that I had never seen in my life,” Tama says. “We’d drop through the clouds or take a turn into a valley, and I’d be sitting there trying to process, what am I looking at?”
Last year the National Snow and Ice Data Center NASA and operation IceBridge announced the lowest ice levels for the Arctic and Antarctic in the past 38 years.
“Changes in Arctic sea ice is seen as one of the primary indicators of climate change,” says Nathan Kurtz, project scientist for Operation IceBridge. “It’s been changing so rapidly—the Arctic has been changing and warming. What we’re trying to do is get a sense of what’s driving some of the bigger changes that we’re seeing.”
Tama’s stunning images remind us all of the majestic beauty of the north that is in jeopardy due to global warming!
Ellesmere Island ice field. NASA photo.
Ice pack near Ellesmere Island. NASA photo.
Ice along the Baffin Island coast Greenland. NASA photo.
NASA avionics technician surveys the Arctic landscape. NASA photo.
People on Bell Island of Newfoundland and Labrador have united to rescue a pod of dolphins stuck in thick pack ice since Sunday. In all, the group of islanders successfully rescued four dolphins by Monday.
“It was amazing to see a community come together to help these animals out,” said Jim Bennett, who was one of several people trying to help the stranded mammals.
Dolphins trapped in ice off Bell Island. Christopher Kitchen photo.
The Whale Release and Stranding’s Group initiated their effort at daybreak and worked tirelessly throughout the day. However, as with many stranding’s of this sort, casualties are part of the deal. Five of the dolphins died due to the extreme conditions – four were crushed by the ice and one didn’t survive transport to the release site.
After resident Lisa Gear posted a picture of the dolphins on her Facebook page depicting the dolphins nearly frozen into the ice, rescuers responded and had to work out some logistics and methods for moving the dolphins to safe water. After first using a sled to try and move them, a tarpaulin sling was eventually used for transport of the fragile beings.
An extension ladder was used to save one of the dolphins out farther in the ice. Walking past a few of the already expired dolphins was “surreal” for Jim Bennett. Working their way out to the animal allowed them to get a rope around it and guide it in.
A dolphin gets love and attention from Bell Island rescuers. Christopher Kitchen photo.
“[The dolphin] looked like it was on its last legs and all the community were hanging on to the rope by the shore and they pulled it in,” recalled Bennett, who said he is from Ontario.
“I was completely impressed how people came together in crisis down by the water. This could only happen in Newfoundland. It was really great.”, stated Bennett.
The surviving dolphins were bleeding from their ice – scraped skin layer. While the injured dolphins were attended to some Bell Island citizens brought thawed capelin and herring to feed the animals.
“We were told that to just leave them alone but, as animals ourselves, it just didn’t make sense to just let them perish.” added Bennett. For now the survivors look good and energized.
Recently we reported on the deposit of 50,000 seeds into the “Doomsday Vault” on Svalbard Island in Norway. The vault is buried in the side of a snow packed mountainside and sealed to preserve the precious seeds that produce Earth’s food supply. In case of a catastrophic event jeopardizing our most fruitful plants and vegetables, these seeds are stored safely and can remain usable for nearly two centuries. The consistent cool temperatures resulting from the surrounding permafrost act as a built in refrigeration system.
Now, another similar storage system on the same island, Svalbard, is serving to protect the massive information files for humanity. The new “Digital Doomsday Vault” or Arctic World Archive, managed by Norwegian company Piql as well as a Norwegian coal mining company, will store data transferred to film for 1,000 years or more.
Global Doomsday seed vault on Svalbard Island. Global Crop Diversity Trust photo.
National Archives of Mexico and the National Archives of Brazil have sent data so far to be stored in the vault.The Brazilian constitution was one of the documents sent though the storage facility is open to any and all historic documents states Piql.
All data processed by Piql will be formatted to photosensitive film which is impossible to delete or manipulate and is able to resist heavy wear and tear. When data is stored in analog form the contents is protected from remote alteration or cyber attacks of any kind. Considered more future proof than digital, analog requires no special updates or codecs to read the information if some rest of catastrophic degree were to occur. As long as internet servers are functional all data will remain accessible online and digitally delivered or shipped by request of a user.
These film reels will be stored deep inside a permafrost encased abandoned mine with a consistent temperature of 0 degrees Celsius.
Photographers stationed outside the “Doomsday” seed vault in Svalbard at its opening in 2008. (AP Photo/John McConnico)
Having both the “Doomsday” seed vault and now, the “Doomsday” data vault on the same island, Svalbard, opens up discussion from critics on ease of terrorism or natural disaster implications. With the widespread and multi – level destabilization in our world today, these precious archives will help humans piece together a cultural puzzle should a catastrophe of mass proportions destroy large amounts of data.
Resting polar bear waiting for the ice to return on the Hudson Bay., Katie de Meulles photo.
International Polar Bear Day directs our focus to the magnificent polar bear and the pristine Arctic. The urgency to raise global awareness of the threats facing the region and polar bears as well as the other wildlife of the north is upon us. If we all band together and stay strong we can protect the wild land and creatures that make the Arctic the last frontier of nature.
Take the quiz below to find out how much you know about polar bears, then share your results with your friends and family on social media!
The “Arctic Doomsday” seed vault just took in a hefty deposit of some of the world’s most varied and treasured plant seeds to store in case of a world catastrophe.
Arctic “doomsday” seed vault in Svalbard. @christophorus photo
The recent deposit to the Global Seed Vault consisted of 50,000 seeds from several countries around the world including the US, Britain, and Pakistan.15,000 of those seeds derived from the International Center for Agricultural Research (ICARDA), restoring some of the seeds they borrowed three years ago. The vault has been the go – to storage facility as ICARDA’s other facility is inaccessible in Aleppo, Syria due to sustained conflict. The organization, which strives to improve agricultural production in dry zones such as the Middle East and Africa, borrowed potato, rice, barley, lentil, wheat and sorghum seeds previously and has since relocated its operations to Morocco and Lebanon.
“Together, the nations that have deposited their seed collections account for over a quarter of the world’s population,” Marie Haga, Executive Director of Crop Trust, the organization behind the vault, said in a statement.
The vault, located on the remote Arctic isle of Spitsbergen is buried 425 feet inside a mountain and covered with snow. The consistent cool temperatures from permafrost levels and low seismic activity are crucial factors in its location and ability to sustain seeds for hundreds of years.
Schematic of the Doomsday Vault in Spitsbergen.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault currently hold just under a million seeds and has a full capacity of 4.5 million. The Seeds would be a backup for key agricultural staples in the case of a global catastrophic incident.
Polarsteam during a research expedition in 2015. Mario Hoppmann photo.
Sir John Franklin and a few other early Arctic explorers would have been shocked at this announcement. Scientists are organizing one of the biggest research expeditions ever planned and the challenge is somewhat unconventional. Tentatively scheduled to sail in the summer of 2019, the 120 meter research vessel Polarsteam will spend a year drifting across the North Pole locked in sea ice. During the drift the crew of researchers from 50 institutions and 14 countries will try and discover trends leading to the dramatic climate changes we have been experiencing recently.
Camps will be set up on the ice surface and measurements and analysis data from expeditions will be taken in places not previously possible.
“The decline of Arctic sea ice is much faster than the climate models can reproduce and we need better climate models to make better predictions for the future,” said MOSAiC expedition co-leader Professor Markus Rex, at a recent American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) meeting. “There is a potential that in a few decades the Arctic will be ice-free in summer. That would be a different world and we need to know about that in advance; we need to know is that going to happen or will that not happen?”
Arctic research sailing ship Fram in 1894.
There was one 19th century expedition that attempted this same lofty goal of drifting across the north Pole. In 1893, the Fram, lead by Norwegian explorer Fridtjo Nansen, attempted to “naturally” drift across the pole while locked in sea ice. Nansen armed with a generous budget raised by the Christiana Geographical Society as well as a personal contribution from King Oscar of Norway commissioned construction of a stout ship designed with a rounded hull to resist the crushing affects of the ice pack. Nansen left the ship after nearly a year and attempted to reach the North Pole on foot with another crew member. The story ends well and will,be covered in a subsequent post.
The Polarsteam will have no risk being trapped in ice as the technology of the day allows fro a sturdy hull unable to be crushed by the pressure of the Arctic ice. Polar bears will be the only danger for researchers on the ice and armed alert guards will be stationed at each camp along the journey.
The total cost of the German expedition is expected to cost $67 million to form a full view of the polar ice cap through the utilization of the most modern technology. Partner institutions from China, UK, Russia and the United States,will all take part in the endeavor.