On board we have three amazing artists

Friday 2015-09-04 afternoon

On board we have three amazing artists – Toby from Monaco, Halla from Iceland and Wyland from the United States. The inspiration they are getting from this journey is producing some amazing work. Toby is drawing sharpie ‘tattoos’ of the animals of the Arctic on the right shoulder of the girls on board. Narwhals, polar bears, belugas, arctic foxes and walruses. The way he works is from sketches so a lot of his finished works will come later on canvas. Halla is primarily a sculptor, sketch artist and fine art artist. Her work encompassed the animals so far in a mural type sketch – the personalities of the different bears were evident in their beautiful faces. Wyland, amongst many things, is known for his ‘big art’ and today was capped off with a sketch in the snow on an ice flow of a huge polar bear we nicknamed the “The Great Ice Bear.” A very big sketch to deliver a very big message in our film on the environment here in the High Arctic. And the work keeps flowing as we move closer to the North Pole – closer than any other commercial expedition ship has gone. Wow what a journey!

Photo credit: Jayne Jenkins                                     Photo credit: Gwen K. Noda                                                       Photo credit: Alex Rose

Jayne Jenkins DSC 3753a   IMG 0521 Toby a  Wyland drawing

No names for where we were

Saturday 2015-09-05 morning

Since there are no names for where we were yesterday, we recorded some GPS points again at various times during the day, so that you can see where we spent our time (in case you haven’t been able to check our In-Reach website).  The GPS points are in decimal degrees, so if you want them in degrees, minutes, and seconds, you can do a web search for a “calculator” that will convert them.

Time, Latitude, Longitude, Note
11:20am, 81°29.524’ N, 17°41.725’ E
12:08pm, 81°31.013’ N, 17°26.257’ E
12:30pm, 81°31.059’ N, 17°19.866’ E
7:14pm, 81°26.876’ N, 17°13.737’ E, spotted a young male bear – coming towards the ship!
8:21pm, 81°26.473’ N, 17°10.471’ E, polar bear had it’s curiosity satisfied and went on his way.
(Notes: We are still on Longyearbyen, Svalbard time zone.)

This morning the air temperature is 2 degrees Celcius and we’ll find a nice place for the dive and snorkel teams to do some snorkeling (no diving) and the dry teams will have a zodiac cruise.  If the ice floes are safe, we will all have a chance to land on one to explore.  Then, all eyes will be on deck looking for polar bears, whales, and birds again this afternoon.

Sailing Through The Pack Ice

Friday 2015-09-04 morning

Sailing through the pack ice has been spectacular – particularly when the sun peeks through the clouds and gives us some light!  After spending 4 hours observing and photographing a polar bear with a seal kill (and the birds who were trying to sneak in for some scraps), everyone is keen to do it again today.

Since there are no names for where we were yesterday, we recorded some GPS points at various times during the day, so that you can see where we spent our time (in case you haven’t been able to check our In-Reach website).  The GPS points are in decimal degrees, so if you want them in degrees, minutes, and seconds, you can do a web search for a “calculator” that will convert them.

Time, Latitude, Longitude, Note
8:29am, 81°24.528’ N, 20°12.319’ E
10:38am, 81°28.362’ N, 19°49,535’ E
11:18am, 81°29.570’ N, 19°42.369’ E
11:55am, 81°30.449’ N, 19°35.046’ E, saw a bunch of harp seals swimming together
12:59pm, 81°32.384’ N, 19°15.262’ E
2:37pm, 81°33.187’ N, 18°44.542’ E, thanks to the eagle eyes of the staff a polar bear and its kill has been spotted (its really far away!),
4:48pm, 81°33.643’ N, 18°33.129’ E, close enough to the polar bear to take great photos and a great number of photos!
5:19pm, 81°33.490’ N, 18°34.111’ E
(Notes: We are still on Longyearbyen, Svalbard time zone.)

This morning the air temperature is -3 degrees Celcius and the ship resumed its northerly course around 0630.  All eyes will be on deck looking for polar bears, whales, and birds again today.  If we can find some stable ice this afternoon, we may be able to land a few people and do some filming.
 
Sailing through the pack ice, photo credit: Wendy McIlroy
20150903 Wendy McIlroy 02a

About those bears......

Thursday 2015-09-03 evening

After spending the last several hours photographing a polar bear eating a seal on the pack ice, it seemed appropriate to talk a bit about these huge arctic predators.

Polar bears, Ursus maritimus, are uniquely adapted to life on the ice. Their water-repellant fur camouflages them against a snowy backdrop making it easier for them to hunt, while they have a thick layer of subcutaneous fat that helps insulate them against the frigid waters and the bitter cold of arctic winters. Their particularly large size actually reduces the overall surface area to body mass ratio, effectively minimizing exposure to the elements and consequently minimizing energy (heat) loss. These huge carnivores can weigh up to 770kg in the case of adult males, while large females don’t get much bigger than 450kg. The typical diet of a polar bear consists almost exclusively of ringed and bearded seals, supplemented by the occasional walrus, beluga whale, and other seal species. This is where loss of arctic sea ice poses the greatest threat.

The Arctic region is warming faster than anywhere else in the world and the animals that live there have little choice but to adapt or perish. Due to the increasingly ice-free summers, polar bears are losing the seals that are their main source of food. Polar bears hunt seals from the ice, and with sea ice cover at record lows, the bears are being forced to turn to alternative prey items on land. They expend too much energy trying to capture seals in the water, so they have begun eating huge quantities of bird eggs in an effort to supplement their diets enough to survive the warming Arctic summer until the ice returns in winter. This has had a devastating impact on the populations of certain species of Arctic birds, most notably the common eider (Somateria mollissima), a ground-nesting duck, and the thick-billed murre (Uria lomvia), a cliff-nesting bird, whose colonies are declining rapidly in close association with shrinking summer sea ice.

These are just some of the many changes occurring in our polar north that has been set in motion by our warming climate.

https://explore.delorme.com/textmessage/viewmsg?mo=e57341789df745b5b4a222df385dbb0c39870047

Polar bear with seal kill, photo credit: Virginia Bria

DSC 2890 Polar bear vbriaa