Friday, 6 April 2012

2013 Arctic Expedition - The Ice Floe

I have had a few people email me and ask me why we are travelling to the “floe edge” while we are in the arctic. The short answer is that from April to July, the floe edge is the most dramatic, dynamic place to be.

This is where the sea meets the retreating ice edge. Whales swim meters from shore. Walrus and seals haul themselves out to bask in the sunlight and Polar bears hunt for seals and their cubs enjoy an ocean dip.

In the past the edge of the ice appeared well off shore while more recently it seems to form closer and closer to land as climate change warms the arctic waters. Regardless of its position, the floe edge is a crucial place where local hunters gather to socialize and share bannock, tea and fresh meat while patiently waiting for seal, walrus or whales to surface. It also forms an important habitat for countless of marine organisms who depend on the open waters and ice for their survival.

These organisms congregate here in huge quantities thanks to the rays of the spring sun that penetrates through the icy surface of the water. Suddenly, billions upon billions of microscopic plankton burst to life. This influx of energy triggers a chain of events that many naturalists describe as one of the greatest spectacles in the Arctic. A seemingly endless array of migratory seabirds and ducks join seal, bowhead whales and large pods of narwhal and beluga to feed in these nutrientrich waters. Following close by are also Polar Bear and Arctic fox who closely track these marine animals from the ice.

This is the place where the winter will end and the cycle of life in the arctic will again begin… and this is where we will spend a lot of our time. For those of you that wish we will be able to communicate with you all through our twitter accounts and our blogs. You will be able to ask questions about what we are seeing, have us describe the day and share with you some of the photos we took.

I can hardly wait, and I am envious that John E Marriott has spent so much time there already. His experieince in the arctic will help ensure we are safe, come back with the information we need... but more importantly come back with some fantastic photos.

I hope everyone has a great Easter Weekend.