High Arctic

The High Arctic is the region of the planet north of the Arctic Circle and includes the most northern parts of the European, Asian, and North American continents.  Also, north of the Arctic Circle represents an area that has both 24 daylight and darkness at various parts of the year.  The Canadian region of the Arctic is made up of many islands including Ellesmere and Baffin in the province of Nunavut.  Just south of Baffin Island, which is in the East, lies Foxe basin, a prosperous Arctic region, which contains prolific wildlife and culture.  In the Northern part of the Basin is Igloolik, a small settlement on an island with the same name.

We stayed in a small tented camp, several miles from the town.  It was on a large rocky beach crawling with fossils and bones.  We went out every day on the waters surrounding the island, searching for seals, whales, bears, and birds.  The climate and wind conditions can change very quickly and one day there can be the glassiest waters on Earth and the next it can be very rough.  On our first day, when the waters were as smooth and reflective as a mirror, we saw several groups of walrus climaxing with a pod of about twenty.  This pod had many babies with their mothers and only one patriarch, the norm in walrus culture.  The walrus is the world’s largest pinniped, a family including seals and sea lions, and males are known to tip the scales at 4,000 pounds and grow to more than 15 feet long.  We saw other wildlife including seals, terns, and loons, nesting for the summer.

Each decade the total extent of Arctic sea ice has declined by 13.3%.  By the year 2040, National Geographic has predicted that one will be able to sail over the North Pole.  Summer sea ice at that time, which historically covered most of the Arctic without exception, will be limited to small areas on the farthest northern coast of Greenland. This is becoming a possibility because the Arctic is warming 12% faster than the equator.  Problems from this melting are abundant, ranging from ocean acidification to unbalanced predator and prey relationships.  The Arctic is a critical ecosystem, and if it fails the repercussions could be disastrous.  To learn more about the Arctic and its problems visit this page from the WWF. Also, check out this video demonstrating what the worst possible sea level rise would do to coastal communities.



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