Nunatsiavut Wildlife Manager Optimistic on Polar Bears

Mom and two 2 -year old polar bear cubs

Polar bear sow and two 2-year-old cubs. Brad Josephs photo.

Despite frequent heart-wrenching images of starving polar bears in the news recently, populations of polar bears are apparently thriving in the Nunatsiavut region of northern Labrador. This is some welcome good news on the status of polar bears in the Arctic.

Based on a quota of 12 polar bears from licenses granted this year by the Nunatsiavut government, wildlife manager Jim Goudie reported that the Inuit quota was filled within the initial seven days of the season.

“There are lots of signs of bears,” he told CBC Radio’s Labrador Morning. “Lots of bears and a continuation of what we’ve seen over the last three or four years.”

According to Goudie, a 2007 survey showed there were around 880 polar bears in the northern Quebec and Labrador regions while the revised numbers recorded show 2,152. This increase is a dramatic rise in the population. Researchers are involved in a two – year study that is indicating even more positive numbers.

“You can go wherever you want to within Nunatsiavut or the Labrador Inuit settlement area to harvest your polar bear,” he said. “Anywhere outside of Nunatsiavut boundaries, the harvest would be illegal.”

To keep track of polar bear pelts that are often sold to wealthy suitors from Asia to Canada, the furs are embedded with a computer chip validating when and where it was taken as well as proof it was acquired through a legal hunt and not poached. Any meat that is not used by the hunters must be donated.

“I think our polar bear population is very, very healthy,” he said. “The Davis Strait polar bear population is probably one of the most healthy in Canada, and certainly in the world.”

With regards to other populations in general, Goudie says most are in good standing and only a few are declining. Still, the fear propaganda is in the news and can be misleading.

Goudie highlights a  National Geographic post showing it first look a starving polar bear, but in reality, the polar bear was sick and not long for life.

“It’s an easy story to put out there, that polar bears are in massive trouble. Sometimes I have to bite my tongue or keep my fingers off the keyboard when I see those social media posts,” he said.

Hopes are high that all polar bear populations in the Arctic will continue to thrive and adapt to a warmer climate in the coming years.

A Christmas Tree for the Arctic

Anyone ever wonder how Arctic towns above the tree – line get their Christmas tree for holidays? Well, we just discovered the secret…is Santa flying that helicopter? Everything that happens in the Arctic is unique. Let’s hope we can protect this amazing land for future generations.

The tiny green dot descended upon the community of Kuujjuaq, Quebec in time for this year’s holiday season. Over 14 meters tall, this is the fifth year the community has had a community Christmas tree delivered from the heavens.

Mayor Tunu Napartuk has a vivid memory of that first occasion.

“I was there, and I remember exactly the moment and the feeling — the euphoria basically — of seeing from a distance a helicopter coming in, slinging a large tree,” said Napartuk.

“If you were there with me, you would’ve been seeing a grown man jumping up and down like a little boy, being all excited.”

Councillor George Berthe, of the newly formed town council, suggested in 2012 the town have the biggest tree it could find flown into the remote town.

“It wasn’t so far-fetched,” said the mayor.

“Kuujjuaq is one of the few [Nunavik] communities that has trees readily available not too far to the south,” said Napartuk.

A couple of men from the town went on a scouting trip to find the perfect tree.

“They found it right away. And a couple of days later, we asked the helicopter to go pick it up.The only way to access it was to pick it up by helicopter. We don’t have a big enough sled to pull by skidoo. “

“Of course, we don’t have access to it by road, by truck, so the only option was to get it by helicopter,” said Napartuk.

The annual Christmas tree drop is becoming a tradition.  After the tree is secured in its resting spot next to the town hall, city staff decorate the tree utilizing equipment, then an angel is placed on top of the tree.

An individual who’s made a contribution to the community is selected by town council, and the honoree has the prestige of lighting the tree.— and people are “just mesmerized by it,” says Napartuk.

Arctic Tiny Houses Will Conserve Energy

A concept image of new prototype housing, designed specifically for northern climates and Inuit culture.

Concept design of northern Arctic housing. Fournier, Gesrovitz, Moss, Drolet and Assoc. Architects image.

Traditional high Arctic home building designs have been similar in structure and layout to those found in the south. However, as with the tiny house movement in the lower lattitudes, architects in Quebec are rethinking the design process for buildings that will be constructed above the 60th parallel. These new highly efficient structures will be more aptly suited for the climate and lifestyle of Inuit residents of the region. The Societe D’habitation du Quebec the chief housing authority for the province is working on new designs for the Arctic.

Since 2012 the agency has been working on the design in collaboration with a Montreal architectural firm as well as regional housing bureau agencies which have provided key input related to design needs and cultural traditions of Cree and Inuit inhabitants, especially relating to interior layout.

Initially, two prototypes will be constructed this year in Quaqtaq on the Diana Bay shore along the Hudson Strait. It is unclear how the inhabitants of these first two homes will be selected or what they will be required to pay for the units.

Nunavik, Quebec site of Arctic housing unit

Quuaqtak in Nunavik, Northern Quebec is site of prototype design of housing unit. Google maps image..

The structural design will be highly energy efficient with walls, roof and floor insulated above standard levels as well as a heat exchange heating system generated from the water heater. Steel piles will anchor the homes in the Precambrian shield and adjust for melting of permafrost in many areas.

Nunavik , Quebec housing construction site.

Pilings being driven into housing location in Nunuvik, Quebec. Societe d’habitation du Quebec photo.

Storage for the unit will be maximized with innovative spacial concepts for the attic, laundry room and kitchen that provides a movable large island for additional space. Securely locked storage cabinets will be built in for hunting firearm and ammunition. Both a cold and warm porch will be features that specifically cater to the traditional Inuit lifestyle. In all this new design will be highly efficient and desired by Inuit families.

HMS Erebus Dive Just Scratches Surface

The winter dive on the HMS Erebus, Sir john Franklin’s long lost but now found ship, went well but is only “scratching the surface” according to senior researchers on the expedition.

Divers were literally scratching the surface of the sunken ship. Removing the kelp that covered the old wooden hull was the first task to be able to get a better look at the wreck in relation to the overall site. Rather than strip it all away from the entire ship they cut it off only along the port side of the 34-meter long wooden vessel.

Although the Erebus has not disclosed much information about its fate as of yet, clearing the hull and mapping the site has provided more of a story.

HMS Erebus diving operation

Jonathan Moore drilling the ice for a dive hole at Erebus Dive Camp. Parks Canada photo.

Parcs Canada senior underwater archeologist Ryan Harris says the artifacts recovered so far “can help capture what life was like inside Erebus, as well as perhaps on the still-missing second ship of the Franklin expedition, HMS Terror.” Brass buttons, a cannon and ceramic dinner plates have all been discovered and are currently on display with a dozen other items in Gatineau, Quebec.

Tunic buttons from HMS Erebus wreck

Brass buttons discovered can be narrowed down to only four crewmen. Parks Canada photo.

Erebus dinner plates

Ceramic dinner plates found at the Erebus wreck site. Parcs Canada photo.

In another mysterious and intriguing twist to the expedition, glass prisms were placed inside the upper deck which focused a very small amount light streaming through a skylight, and allowed that daylight to pass through, into the dark spaces below.

“It looks like something out of Jules Verne,” Harris says. “At this point in time, we’re absolutely just scratching the surface of what we might learn from this shipwreck,”

Erebus canon ice recovery Franklin expedition

A cannon from the HMS Erebus is pulled to the surface through one of the dive holes cut in two-meter thick ice. Jonathan Moore/ Parcs Canada photo.

Hudson Bay Quest: And the Winner Is…

All the gee’s and haw’s have drifted across the tundra upwards to the northern lights have ceased for another year as the 2015 Hudson Bay Quest has finished in Churchill. This year’s champion is Martin Massicotte from Trois Rivieres, Quebec.

Martin Massicotte

2015 Hudson Bay Quest champion Martin Massicotte. Courtesy Hudson Bay Quest.

Martin runs a paving contracting business in Quebec and dreamed of being a dog musher since age eight when he trained the family St. Bernard. In 2003 martin placed 6th in the Yukon Quest, a race that runs 1000 miles from Yukon to Alaska. He has aspired to run the Hudson Bay Quest and the Iditarod in a few years. he can now check off the Quest in a big way…with a first place prize and trophy!

His passion for the sport of dog mushing is summed up succinctly by this quote: “In leisure time, I run dogs, I think about dogs and I talk about dogs!!!”

Congratulations to Martin and all the other hearty mushers that competed in this year’s race. See you all next year!

2015 Hudson Bay Quest winner Martin Massicotte.

2015 Hudson Bay Quest winner Martin Massicotte. Courtesy Hudson Bay Quest.

Canadian Rangers from Lamprey checkpoint.

Canadian Rangers from the Lamprey checkpoint won best checkpoint. Courtesy Hudson Bay Quest.

2015 Hudson Bay Quest mushers.

2015 Hudson Bay Quest mushers. Courtesy Hudson Bay Quest.

Come to Churchill for the start of the 2016 Hudson Bay Quest!

 

 

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