Sailing into the sunset

(Another blog that didn't make it through during the expedition...)

Saturday 2015-08-29 evening

It seems strange to say that we are sailing into the sunset since we are just beginning our expedition!  We just pulled away from the dock in Longyearbyen and photographers and cameras are warming up for many photogenic moments to come with the soft glow of the setting sun.  Plenty more to come!

Photo credit: James Stone

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It's like we ask for an animal and they just turn up

(A blog post that didn't made it through the satellite connection while we were on the trip!)

Monday 2015-08-31 afternoon

Walrus wrestling!!! Puffins in full flight!!! Arctic terns hunting fish!!! It's like we ask for an animal and they just turn up. A visit to Amsterdamoya, an island to the west, proved to be such a highlight despite the snow and windy conditions. The early wake-ups are worth it.  Fortified with a fulfilling breakfast, the diving team joined the ground team for a guided hike and those partaking were treated to an impromptu talk from Dr. Sylvia Earle about the smaller less obvious wildlife living on the shoreline. Her birthday gift to us!

All the time the crew, armed with rifles, kept lookout for any polar bears. This arctic predator is actually not white but a shade of yellow and under that hides their skin that is black like the pads of their feet (and their nose!). The on-board competition to guess where and when we would first sight a polar bear was well and truly underway with a prize pool of cash awaiting the winner!

We haven’t seen any sea ice yet and the land is quite barren. The most likely spot the crew knew, where they had seen the polar bears before, was devoid of any signs or evidence of them. There is lots of talk about this amazing marine mammal and its future. There is no simple answer, but all agree there is trouble ahead for the existence of the polar bear. To lighten the mood, two of the girls donned Polar bear masks and posed for photos around the ship.  At least it’s a start! The laughter and lollygagging was interrupted by the return of the snorkelers from their amazing interaction with harbor seals - it just blew them away, their excited banter heard across the ice. Nature just keeps delivering today.

Artic Tern with a fish and Smeerenburg landscape, photo credit: James Stone

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In-Reach Update

(Sorry, this post didn't make it through the satellite conneciton to the blog during the trip.)

Thursday 2015-09-10
In-Reach update

“What are the effects of global warming that you have noticed? What can we do to stop climate change? Would you mind coming to our school to show us this film?”

The effects of climate change are all around us no matter where in the world we live. Extreme droughts, violent storms, unprecedented floods, ocean acidification, coral bleaching, all of these occurrences are fueled by climate change. It is always important to differentiate between natural fluctuations in weather and global changes in climate, and our polar regions are currently changing on a large scale faster than anywhere else on Earth. We are losing sea ice every year and this loss fuels itself on a positive feedback loop. As ocean water warms it melts sea ice, which is naturally very reflective, exposing dark ocean water that absorbs sunlight instead of reflecting it. Ice normally covers the water and keeps the sun from heating it up, but with sea ice loss, the dark water absorbs heat and continues getting warmer and melting more ice which exposes more water, etc.

Loss of sea ice is also a problem because all the animals in the Arctic ranging from ice algae to krill to seals to polar bears have evolved to live in, on, and around the ice. Without it, they cannot survive. For example, little auks (an endangered arctic bird species) feed on copepods, which eat ice algae, and without the ice, the entire food chain falls apart from the bottom up. This scenario is sadly already happening to many species of arctic wildlife.

Since climate change is directly linked to our carbon emissions, we need to rein in our use of dirty energy sources. While much of this has to do with the setting and enforcing of policy, each one of us can make a difference. Taking a bike or using public transportation instead of a car, turning off lights when you leave the room, and using low energy lighting like LEDs, are all things that help to drastically reduce our personal carbon footprint when accumulated over time.

And we’d love to come show our film at your school!

a SUCCESSFUL expedition

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We are back...from a successful Ocean Geographic Elysium Artists for the Arctic expedition - we have seen the splendour of our planet in its immense glory, breathless phenomenon of snow and ancient ice calving away in this time of warming climate. We have seen rain in a supposedly dry environment. We have seen animals struggling to survive in vanishing ice. We have seen global warming in motion. The task ahead is to interpret our vision to inspire change, to preserve the Arctic, to preserve our very own existence.