Polar bears feasting on a beluga whale carcass in Churchill. Alex De Vries – Magnifico photo.
This polar bear shot from Churchill photographer Alex De Vries – Magnifico shows how polar bears are evolving in a time when global warming is limiting their ability to hunt seals in the winter season on the Hudson Bay ice. Seals closer to land in summer and beluga whales have become prey when they used to have no fears of being hunted in summer. Evolution at its finest!
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.
Russian scientists were held captive on a small island off eastern Russia after they exhausted all their non – lethal flares and air horns. The group of five researchers had to endure two weeks of captivity in their compound on Troynoy Island inside the Arctic Circle.
Troynoy Island in the Kara Sea.
On August 31, a polar bear killed one of the watch dogs at the meteorological station and then lingered at the site. Nine other adult polar bears and four cubs then set up camp and at one point an adult female bear was sleeping under the station. Vadim Plotnikov, a scientist at the station described the situation; “A female bear has been sleeping under the station’s windows since Saturday night. It’s dangerous to go out as we have run short of any means to scare off the predators,” Plotnikov said. “We had to stop some of the meteorological observations.”
Global warming and the resulting early sea – ice melt is being blamed by the research group.
“The bears usually go to other islands, but this year they didn’t. The ice receded quickly and the bears didn’t have time to swim to other islands,” stated a spokesperson for the team. “There’s no food … so they came up to the station.”
Acclaimed Italian composer and pianist Ludovico Einaudi performed “Elegy for the Arctic” near the Wahlenbergbreen glacier in Svalbard, Norway to bring attention to the pressing global warming issue. Einaudi played on a baby grand piano on a floating platform as a glacier crumbled into the water around him. Greenpeace shipped the piano to the region from Norway on their ship the Arctic Sunrise.
Greenpeace sponsored the event in conjunction with OSPAR Commission meeting in Tenerife, Spain this week to make crucial decisions toward preserving the Arctic regions. A proposal to protect 10% of the Arctic ocean will foremost on the agenda. – OSPAR is so named from the original Oslo and Paris Conventions -“OS” for Oslo and “PAR” for Paris- that initiated the movement of protecting the Arctic.
“Being here has been a great experience. I could see the purity and fragility of this area with my own eyes and interpret a song I wrote to be played upon the best stage in the world,” Einaudi expressed via news release from Greenpeace. “It is important that we understand the importance of the Arctic, stop the process of destruction and protect it.”
Voicesforthearctic.org, is the website built by Greenpeace dedicated to the issue. Please help in protecting this fragile and pristine ecosytem and environment.
In guiding 10 years of exciting Churchill Arctic Summer adventures in Churchill, there was only one year that we had orca or killer whales appear in the Hudson Bay. Unfortunately, we were not out on the water for the brief encounter and had to be satisfied, or more aptly phrased, frustrated and dismayed to see the incredible photos later on.
Orca’s in the Hudson Bay. Dwight Allen photo.
It seems that with the global warming discussion there have been some noticeable environmental changes that the politicians and analysts don’t see from such a personal perspective. Orca whales have been surfacing more routinely in the Arctic waters of the Hudson Bay and people have been able to document their presence. The shift in territorial presence perhaps is a sign that the weather patterns are changing and new species are able to adapt to a new region more easily. Traditionally, killer whales have had a hard time infiltrating the ice – packed Arctic waters due to their large dorsal fin. As ice is receding and lasting shorter periods in the north, orcas are broadening their range and becoming even more of a predator of seals and other Arctic whales like belugas and narwhals. It is pretty impressive to see these beautiful creatures in the wild.