Posts Tagged ‘polar bears’

Polar Express

I’ve got a thing about polar bears…not the animated googly ones on Coca-Cola holiday commercials, but the real deal. I know they may have a different thing for me if we were ever to meet (like seeing a big, neon, EAT AT JOE’S sign and arrow over my head), but I find them stunning and mysterious…and their plight is devastating. polar

Hurtigruten, an expedition cruising and sailing company, voyages with their clients to some of the most remote destinations in the world like Antarctica (top of my own, personal bucket list), Greenland, and through the Arctic Circle. They’ve just announced a new “Climate Pilgrimage” expedition that takes you to the front lines of climate change research in the Arctic.


The cruise company prioritizes education and exploration and passengers are immersed in culture, geography, history, botany, and wildlife on all of their trips, and this 11-day excursion has a volunteer component as well. You’ll venture to Northern Norway and the Arctic island of Spitsbergen on the state-of-the-art, polar-ready MS Fram, and you’ll visit research stations, track wildlife, participate in field studies, and meet with top researchers. The May 29, 2010 departure is priced from $4,823 to $9,516 per person, double.

The trip description: The first two days are spent in Norway’s Tromso, visiting the Polar Environmental Centre, where climate scientists discuss the task at hand and the status of the research being done.  A stop in Europe’s northernmost cities, Honningsvag, includes a visit to the North Cape Plateau, and a stop at Gjesvaerstappan – a unique bird cliff where the Norwegian Polar Institute has done research on a host of seabirds including puffins, gannets, auks and guillemots.

The remainder of the trip is spent exploring the remote Arctic island of Spitsbergen where polar bears, Svalbard reindeer, Arctic foxes, whales, walruses, and ringed and harp seals and dozens of other animals and migratory birds still roam the stunning landscapes of their natural habitat — a natural classroom to learn about and see the effects of climate changes.  On Bjornoya (Bear Island), participants observe the changes to bird habits at one of the largest concentrations of seabirds in the Northern Hemisphere.  Research in Hornsund, Spitsbergen’s most southern fjord, includes polar bears and the feeding grounds of auks, while in Bellsund, guests learn about the phenomenon call surging glaciers.  Ny Alesund has been the jump off point for several historic attempts to reach the North pole – Amundsen, Ellsworth and Nobile are some examples of explorers.  Guests will explore a large glacier front and possibly enjoy an Arctic beer at one of the world’s northernmost pubs.

The warming of the Arctic now allows vessels to cross the 80th parallel – something not possible less than 20 years ago.  Walruses, whales and polar bears rule this region and the MS Fram will treat guests to a close look at the marginal ice-zone and its large yearly variations.  The final two days are spent exploring Isfjorden, Spitsbergen’s largest fjord system, observing giant bird cliffs, and visits to the University Centre of Svalbard and Svalbard Museum in Spitsbergen’s capital town of Longyearben.

Want to meet me there?


More Ice? (Please)

The World Wildlife Fund has released a new study that points to the evidence that Arctic melting, which will likely change weather patterns and cause coastal flooding, is worse than previously estimated. Warming in the Arctic impacts the ecosystem around the planet, with a sharp increase of greenhouse gases and shifts in weather. Arctic Sea ice is melting more quickly than we thought.

“This is not about the Arctic, it’s what the Arctic means to the rest of the world and this study paints a truly sobering picture of the future if it continues to warm and melt,” said Dr. Martin Sommerkorn, “Warming in the Arctic will have negative consequences not just for polar bears, but for people across America and throughout the world. Simply put, if we do not keep the Arctic cold enough, people across the world will suffer the effects.”

It’s a pretty vicious circle. The study analysis says: “The Arctic’s frozen soils and wetlands store twice as much carbon as is held in the atmosphere, as warming trends continue, soils will increasingly thaw and release carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere as, at a significantly faster pace than previously predicted. Levels of atmospheric methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas, have been increasing rapidly for the past two years, and many believe the increase is driven by the thawing Arctic.”

Sea levels will also likely rise at an alarming rate…I’m traveling to the Maldives later this year, one of the most threatened regions that will be underwater with just slight rises (much of the entire land mass of the island nation is less than 7 feet above sea level). That’s pretty damned freaky. Coastal flooding which will affect more than 25% of the world’s population, is now believed to be almost twice as much as was estimated in 2007. That’s only 2 years in which the prediction has grown twice as bleak.